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Roles

Faye McIlroy

 

Frigging hell! Why is there only ever one?
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‘Maddy! Where’s your other sock?’
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‘What?’ Maddy strained her neck to see me from the sofa.
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I made the effort to speak slowly and clearly. ‘Where did you put your other sock? There’s only one sock in your bag. Did you leave the other one at daycare?’
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‘What, mummy?’ Maddy’s face was pained with the effort of trying to understand my gabbling.
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‘Nothing. Forget it.’
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Why did I even bother asking – of course she didn’t remember where she’d put her sock; she didn’t know where the toilet was half the time. The time… shit – three o’clock already!
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‘Maddy, get your shoes on, we have to get Olly from school.’
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‘What, mummy?’ Again the pained expression – annoyance now from having her screen time interrupted.
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‘You: shoes, car, now.’
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Maddy slipped off the sofa and reluctantly picked up her shoes.
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I scooped the laundry powder out of the box and dumped it onto the dirty clothes, slamming the lid down and depressing the start button. Then I grabbed my phone, bag, keys and Maddy’s shoes and together we darted out the door.
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Everything except Maddy was thrown onto the driver seat before I strapped her in. Everything was then scooped back up and dumped again on the front passenger seat so that I could get in.
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Keys?
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On the floor.
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Sunglasses?
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On the kitchen bench where I’d put them after carrying the shopping in. No time to go back and get them.
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Bugger… forgot to buy wet wipes.
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I turned the engine over and reversed out of the driveway.
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Did I put the washing machine on?
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Yes.
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‘Mummy?’
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‘Yes darling?’ My phone started ringing.
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‘I want Momo.’
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‘I don’t have Momo but I’ll bet I’ve got something else…’ I began foraging in my bag for something edible and placed my hand on a packet of cashews. I opened them carefully and the moment I turned around to give them to Maddy the car behind me tooted.
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I waved an apology and turned back to see a green light and lane clear of traffic. By the time I got to the front however, the light had proceeded to amber. I considered flooring it but decided not to. I glanced at the driver behind me in my rear view mirror and saw her muttering.
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The phone stopped ringing.
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I caught sight of Maddy making monster sounds as she ate and thought how utterly beautiful she was.
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I breathed deeply and felt the space between my eyebrows melt.
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I picked the phone up out of curiosity to see who had called but saw it was an unknown number. It wasn’t important – they hadn’t left a message. I put it back down and pulled away as soon as the light was green.
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When I got to school, Olly was standing by the gates with his friend Fletcher. The two of them were focused on something small that Olly was holding. I tooted the horn and watched as he threw it carelessly into the gutter. My phone beeped to notify me of a new text.
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It was impossible to stop because of all the traffic around me so when I caught Olly’s attention I pointed frantically at the bus stop.
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Olly and Fletcher ran towards the car with their backpacks thumping them both.
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Pulling in, I noticed the billboard was displaying an ad for the company I’d worked for in my previous life. A life much less stressful. No, that wasn’t strictly true – there had always been plenty of time constraints there too but it was much less reactionary; people waited weeks for work from me, project outcomes that would affect large groups of people I didn’t know but who were nonetheless significant. Work that affected the company’s profit and therefore, in a small way, the national economy. Now the decisions I made rarely affected more than four people, and two of those were minors. Everything I did now, as a stay-at-home mum, was relatively trivial, domestic and of very little consequence to the world. I had diminished powers of authority, yet arguably greater responsibility. And I no longer received either payment or perks, discounting the kisses.
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Olly flung the door open wide and threw his pack on the floor. ‘Can Fletcher come home for tea?’
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Fletcher was already climbing into the back seat. A bus was bearing down on me from behind.
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‘Yes get in,’ I yelled. The bus tooted aggressively and I veered back into the traffic, forcing Olly’s door to swing open. Luckily he had the strength to pull it shut before it hit something or forced him out.
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The boys smartly put their seatbelts on.
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‘Text your mother please Fletcher. Olly can you take those cashews off Maddy before she makes herself sick.’
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Later, after making the boys beans on toast and reheating an abandoned cup of tea, I sat down on the floor with Maddy to help her with a nine-piece jigsaw puzzle. Immediately the phone started ringing. I didn’t get to it in time to answer but I saw who it was from. I also read the text I’d received: from Laura.
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I returned my husband’s call: ‘Hey.’
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‘Hey. How’s it going?’
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‘Ok. Olly’s got a friend over. You?’
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‘Good. Slow day.’
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‘Hmm. I was just about to play with Maddy. I was meant to be going out with Laura for dinner tonight.’
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‘Oh yeah, right. Well I’ll be home normal time. When do you need to leave?’
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‘I don’t think I’ll go actually.’
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‘Why not? You’ll have fun.’
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‘No I won’t, I’ll be bored.’
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‘You’re always bored,’ he said but there was mirth in his tone.
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‘Yeah but I’d rather be bored at home. With you and the kids. I’ll make lasagne.’
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‘Ok, if that’s what you want.’
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I paused to retrieve the sock hanging out the back of Maddy’s trousers. ‘Yeah, it is.’

 

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