Frigging hell! Why is there only ever one?
‘Maddy! Where’s your other sock?’
‘What?’ Maddy strained her neck to see me from the sofa.
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?’
‘What, mummy?’ Maddy’s face was pained with the effort of trying to understand my gabbling.
‘Nothing. Forget it.’
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!
‘Maddy, get your shoes on, we have to get Olly from school.’
‘What, mummy?’ Again the pained expression – annoyance now from having her screen time interrupted.
‘You: shoes, car, now.’
Maddy slipped off the sofa and reluctantly picked up her shoes.
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.
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.
On the floor.
On the kitchen bench where I’d put them after carrying the shopping in. No time to go back and get them.
Bugger… forgot to buy wet wipes.
I turned the engine over and reversed out of the driveway.
Did I put the washing machine on?
‘Yes darling?’ My phone started ringing.
‘I want Momo.’
‘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.
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.
The phone stopped ringing.
I caught sight of Maddy making monster sounds as she ate and thought how utterly beautiful she was.
I breathed deeply and felt the space between my eyebrows melt.
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.
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.
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.
Olly and Fletcher ran towards the car with their backpacks thumping them both.
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.
Olly flung the door open wide and threw his pack on the floor. ‘Can Fletcher come home for tea?’
Fletcher was already climbing into the back seat. A bus was bearing down on me from behind.
‘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.
The boys smartly put their seatbelts on.
‘Text your mother please Fletcher. Olly can you take those cashews off Maddy before she makes herself sick.’
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.
I returned my husband’s call: ‘Hey.’
‘Hey. How’s it going?’
‘Ok. Olly’s got a friend over. You?’
‘Good. Slow day.’
‘Hmm. I was just about to play with Maddy. I was meant to be going out with Laura for dinner tonight.’
‘Oh yeah, right. Well I’ll be home normal time. When do you need to leave?’
‘I don’t think I’ll go actually.’
‘Why not? You’ll have fun.’
‘No I won’t, I’ll be bored.’
‘You’re always bored,’ he said but there was mirth in his tone.
‘Yeah but I’d rather be bored at home. With you and the kids. I’ll make lasagne.’
‘Ok, if that’s what you want.’
I paused to retrieve the sock hanging out the back of Maddy’s trousers. ‘Yeah, it is.’