Short story by Michael Botur
We have this routine, me and my man (well, he’s more of a boy than a man). Sam takes the car in the morning and drops JP at daycare, cause I don’t have my licence and couldn’t drive even if I did. Then he jumps on the motorway and hoons over to work; they usually stick him on demolition somewhere out south. Sammy only gets told by 0800Labour where he’s working at 6.15 every morning. The phone call’s what gets him out of bed, because Sammy stays up so late gaming that he’s always tired. Well, there are a couple extra steps – he tries to bang me after I’m already asleep, and I kick him out of bed, then he gets in a huff and plays games all night.
He gets the call and hauls his jacket and boots on in the dark, thudding his 110 kilo tower of muscle and blubber across the floorboards, then does a lap of the house, kissing JP’s cheek and the baby’s cheek and my cheek. The kids never wake up, but I do. I can’t sleep when we owe money, and we always owe money.
I wake and I have ten minutes to smoke on the patio in my nightshirt and knickers before Bubs wakes up. I think about our vacation to Timaru that’s coming up. Not the fanciest place, but all my rellies are down there, comfortable, chubby white people the shape of dog roll who have these lifelong jobs that give them money to spend on shit that doesn’t even need replacing, like new kitchens and new lounge suites. Every June when I take us down to Timaru, I tell everyone it’s to let the kids see snow. But it’s not that. I take us to Timaru so I can get free stuff. Into my suitcase, my rellies will sneak books, silverware, posters, vouchers, perfume, pantyhose, bras, essential oils – you name it. They buy new stuff they don’t need; they give away stuff they don’t have to give away. I have to pay an excess baggage fee at the airport, but I get like $1000 bucks of stuff and my flight’s only $250.
I wish I could stay in their comfortable large Timaru homes. It’s not as if Auckland notices us gone. Lose your gap in the rat race up here, the gap seals straight away.
So anyway, Sammy drives all morning and all evening to get his sixteen bucks an hour and JP goes to his creepy free daycare at Church Unlimited. All the driving, all the churchy shit, it sucks arse, but without it we wouldn’t eat. Me? I stay home and look after bubs. Occasionally on Dole Day, if there’s gas in the car, I can go to K-Mart after the kids are asleep and slowly cruise the aisles, stroking the shelves, dreaming. Samzy always leaves me ten bucks on the bank card and says I can buy whatever I want. I buy applesauce baby food with the cash so I can distract Bubs while I enjoy a simple sweet cigarette.
So we have our routine and life is going alright until Sammy comes home early and announces after dinner that he’s “going to take the train for a while.”
I drill him with my eyes til I’ve got to the core of the lie and the truth spurts out: he’s taking the train because the dumbarse shithead has lost his driver licence.
I begin by throwing the remote control at his face. His big fat hand darts out and catches it. I grab one of his graphic novels off the kitchen table and rip that up instead. It doesn’t cost as much to replace as the remote. He watches as I detach vintage Captain America’s head from his body and dump the paper guts on the floor.
After I’ve machine-gunned him with swear words and had an angry smoke Sam offers me a sesh and I roll my eyes and accept one, wiping the mouthpiece of the pipe extra hard to let him know his saliva isn’t gonna be touching mine for a while. Here’s what went down, Sam explains: he got pulled over on the motorway and instantly disqualified from driving on account of his demerit points – which he’s been racking up for a while, not that he told me. He won’t be able to drive for six months unless a lawyer gets the court to give him an exemption – and a lawyer costs $500, minimum. He was late for work because he stayed up late gaming – plus he got hooked on infomercials, the one about the lady who gets your driver licence back from court; the Spray & Walk Away one; the one for SingNet, that stupid irritating internet service provider run by Warren Singh, who we went to school with who became a bigshot in software, rubbing his success in our faces through the TV. After the infomercial, Sam found it even harder than before to sleep. He couldn’t stop scrolling Warren Singh’s timeline on Facebook – Warren at the Grand Prix in Dubai, Warren mountain biking in Hawaii, jetskiing in Monaco. Sammy – stoned, jealous, depressed – finally got to sleep at 3.30am.
The way his hands and lips hover, I can tell he’s about to add that he had to go to the couch because I wouldn’t put out, but he sees my face and stops.
I cry so hard the lounge goes all blurry. Then I lock myself in the bedroom for the night.
He shakes me awake some time later, at some deep spot in our blackness. The bed creaks as he sits. He’s lighting himself with his cellphone. A streak of white grin splits his face. His pink eyes are shining with excitement.
‘Staycation, that’s the answer,’ Sammy goes, shaking my shoulder. ‘Screw Timaru. A holiday in our heads. I’m honestly saving us a tonne of money.’
‘Til you get work closer to home.’
‘Work I don’t need to drive for. Correct.’
I roll over and squeeze the pillow around my head. Sammy plants his bum on the bed. I can tell he’s waiting for sex. He thinks he deserves a reward for his genius idea.
Next day, I wake a whole hour later than usual. Sammy is jiggling Bubs on his shoulder. JP is playing Minecraft on the X-Box 360. Sammy is proud of himself, baby in one hand, coffee in the other – a coffee he’s apparently been waiting to deliver me all morning.
I haul myself up, back against the wall. ‘I take it you’re not busing to work.’
‘Let the Staycation begin,’ he says, and winks, then returns to the lounge, where I can hear the couch cushions being pulled out and whumpf-ing on the floor. He’s building a fort.
I’m sitting on the deck swirling my toes in buckets of warm water, trying to enjoy my budget spa. I’m in the shadow of the towering pylon in our yard. Sparrows play on the power lines. I can’t stop thinking how urgent it is to call Timaru and tell them we’re not coming.
‘We’re taking a holiday in our heads,’ I explain to my Aunty Fay when I get on the phone. ‘It’s like, you stay home and do some meditating, you think hard about all the good salads you’ve had in the past, the Mai Thais, I dunno… You meditate. Youuu… appreciate the sparrows in the trees, I spose. Going for walks to the river and that.’
‘Kay, babe,’ she tells me. I can hear coins rattling behind her. Aunty Fay’s at the Christchurch Casino, of course. She has so much money, she gets to risk it. Me and Sammy can barely risk an Instant Kiwi. ‘You know they have rivers in Tahiti, right Nessie?’
‘Timaru,’ I correct her, ‘Tahiti’ll never happen.’
‘Shoulda married that little tryhard you went to school with. You’d be living the high life on the Gold Coast by now. What was his name, the computer nerd… Wally?’
‘Warren. Warren Singh.’ I light a smoke and swirl my toes. ‘I gotta go, anyway, Aunty Fay.’
I hear people whooping around her like money doesn’t matter.
Sam comes onto the deck with a vodka-and-water. Vodka’s the cheapest stuff in the universe. It makes me forget about Save My Bacon, Home Direct, Bartercard. Mr De La Cruz, the landlord. It’s 10.30 in the morning and if we’re pretending to be on holiday, we may as well get loaded.
‘We could pretend we’re in Goa?’ he suggests. ‘Everyone around here speaks Malayalam anyway.’
I snort at his dumb joke, get up and go inside and catch up with Bubs. He’s been gnawing on a rubber teething ring my rellies gave me, a ring I had to clean with disinfectant cause one of my baby cousins had half-used it already. JP is scribbling in a colouring book with some other kid’s name in it. He’ll colour, he’ll play blocks, he’ll do a little Nintendo, a little X-Box.
I can breathe a little – actually, I can breathe a lot, because I don’t have to wear my bra-that’s-too-tight. Going braless is okay so long as I don’t have to go outside. I make a point of not checking the mail for catalogues. This Staycation thing has its pluses.
I crawl into the blanket-fort the boys have made under the table. Sam is inside the blanket-fort resting his fat back against the wall, eyes sealed, his lips twitching with contentment. Sam will be thinking back to that time he worked two jobs to afford a one-way ticket to ComicCon, where he got to shake Harrison Ford’s hand. He’ll be remembering himself at 15,000 feet over the Pacific, tilting his champagne flute towards a pretty air hostess smiling down on him, her face bathed in sunlight. I doubt a grumpy wife and whining baby are part of his bliss-dream.
Cosy in the dark cave, I close my eyes. I can feel my dressing gown falling open, my nips and belly button showing. Where should I go to find happiness? My last birthday, when the highlight was three breakfast roses which pricked my thumbs cause Sammy had stolen them from the RSA and sprinted away and hadn’t remembered to take the thorns off? Was I happy the last time I woke up with no bills or worries or pressure or wishing-I-was-someone-else? God… yesterday I had ten notifications on Facebook. I was a minor celeb. I linger on that sensation for a moment.
Cheesecake: I linger on cheesecake.
It was two days ago Sam brought home the slice of black forest cheesecake. Somebody had been leaving work and Sammy resisted eating his slice. He drove it 55 minutes through rush hour traffic, carefully stored in a Chinese takeaway tray so he could present the twentieth-of-a-cake to me. I munched my $3.80 worth of cake; Sam watched like a dog. A crumb of white chocolate fell on the carpet and he asked permission to eat it.
I furrow my eyelids, squint, mash my face, block out the reality of South Auckland til the trance takes me.
I’m unpackaging the certificate for my Diploma in Aromatherapy that’s arrived in the mail. It’s 2011 and I’m going to set up a home office with a special reclining seat for clients. I just need to complete a business course. My tummy is tight, my boobs are pointy, the skin on my face is as firm and moist as clay.
It’s 2010. I’m… I’m up north. There are palm trees up here. I pull over at a bay to wee and there are dolphins out in the water, six little fins, streaks of grey. I don’t have any money – just enough for a tank of petrol to get back. I’m two hours past the Bay of Islands. I’m going to work half the year here. I’m interviewing for a job at the Carrington Estate golf course overlooking Cloudy Bay’s warm waves. All money and cocktails and bowties. Everyone’s from Shanghai or Macao or Singapore. Maybe I’ll learn a new language. I’m on the road by myself in the car. Sammy is over the horizon.
The interview is exciting enough – except it’s a zero hour contract, and there will be long stretches without pay. The guy at Carrington keeps licking his lips, staring at my tits. I don’t kid myself that I’m some beauty. I just have on my slutty sparkly clubbing top and eyeshadow. It’s me who says, “Well, thanks for today’s opportunity.” I’m the first to stand up and stick my hand out. The car thunks and groans as I’m leaving the resort. There are two miles of private palms and fountains before I’m back on the highway. There’s a pub in this little tin-shuttered town called Moerewa that hasn’t had a do-up since the 80s. I’m speeding and laughing and crying and hoping I crash so being broke doesn’t last any longer. It’s impossible to get a job. It’s impossible to study. It’s impossible to be careless. Fuck everything. I park in a pothole and walk through a puddle into the grotty Moerewa pub-place. I’m the only white girl there. These two Maori guys with long black hair and bad skin put their arms around me, usher me to their corner. There are some old Maori ladies and they tut and shake their heads. The Maori guys buy me jug after jug of beer. Suddenly karaoke is erupting and my mouth is excited. I’m amazing at reggae – I belt out Red Red Wine and Buffalo Sol-jaaah and some duet where one of the Maori guys does the Shaggy words and I play the girl.
It’s midnight, now. There’s no way I can drive back to Auckland this pissed. People are coupling together and trudging across the gravel to finish the night. Some of them are tilting back the passenger seats of their cars and shagging.
I tell the gross old men I have to get something from my car. Sammy’s car, actually. God I miss him, his big fat throat, his boobs, his belly, the pit he makes in the bed. I’m desperate to wee but I start the engine instead and drive and drive, and wake to find the headlights of a truck stabbing my eyes and veer off the road and branches scratch the windscreen. I wake with the birds, reverse, spattering mud, drive all the way home, over the bridge, charging into Auckland til I see headscarves, billboards, overpasses, Dom Road, safe from danger. I leave the car in the driveway, rush inside, kiss my babies and tug Sammy towards the– .
‘Fuck!’ I attempt to stand. The underside of the table wallops my skull. The fort is collapsing, cut open with light. I stagger to the baby’s room; Sam has reached it just before me and he’s jiggling Bubs.
He hands her to me with shrivelled-up lips and leaves. I shush my little Bubba-ly Girl. I don’t hear any noise from the other room except an occasional snort. I know he’s crawled inside his mind. There’s no screaming baby, there.
We wake at noon, trudge to the table, crawl under and holiday in our heads. Rain tickles the windows. Wind tries to find a hole to slide its fingers through. JP prods us occasionally, prying our eyelids open, but not too often. He mostly plays with a box of Duplo Sammy found on a treasuretrash mission in Epsom, or Sammy scribbles in his colouring book, or plays his Nintendo. He’s a good boy. If we really were in Tahiti, he’d be doing the same shit anyway, I figure. Baby would still scream every hour. Me and Sammy? It’d still three meals a day, ten trips to the toilet whether Surfer’s or Sandringham. This Staycation thing’s not bad. More importantly, it’s affordable.
We don’t interrupt each other’s memories to ask where we’re each going. That’s rude, invasive, like reading someone’s journal. We only find out who’s remembering what the next day, when we fight.
Every memory means a fight.
Sam revisits this stag party him and his boys had two years ago. It was on Lake Taupo and there was waterskiing and a sand sculpture competition and flirting with German skanks. Inside his mind, Sam enjoys Brazilian barbecued kebabs, gateau, margaritas, Kahlua shots, a backpacker in a purple thong sitting on his lap, his friends clutching their guts with laughter. Sam is dancing, chanting, drinking, laughing, kissing the groom. He hikes up a mountain in the morning with his best buds. There is champagne and ice-air at the top. A crowd of thousands watching the rugby. More tears and hugs. Whitewater rafting. Sam shouting at his mates that he loves them. Crowdsurfing. Chanting Chumbawumba. Wrestling on a river bank. Shots of Jäger and Sambuca and, finally, Sam running out of a Cessna plane, tumbling over a green earth, just him and his mates.
I notice he’s twisting the wedding ring on his chubby finger.
He opens his eyes and looks at me like he’s never seen me before.
‘Bubs is crying. My turn.’
Sam takes the kids onto the lawn to gather a sack of pinecones for the fire. I tell him to get the kids to take out the recycling, and hang the laundry, and do those dishes, please. Plus JP’s got his immunisation at 2. I get comfy, back against the wall, close my eyes and think deep.
My friend Ash wants to go to the Nines in Sydney. I don’t follow league, it’s apparently some kind of two-day thing where 80,000 people pack a stadium and you get dressed up. Sounds wild. Sounds unpredictable. YEAH BITCH, SYDNEY BABY WOOOO!
We each spend an hour on the Kiwibank website til we’ve got fresh credit cards approved then ring each other up and scream some more. We are seriously doing this. It’s about girlpower. Me and Sam have only been together a couple of years. Marriage is bullshit. Sam doesn’t own me.
Sydney, though, fuck yeah!
Bored in the stands at the league, me and Ash chat up this Arabian noble dude in a silver suit. Soon me and Ash are up in a corporate box. Guys are eating us with their eyes. This rich Egyptian guy, Hamid, says he’ll give us a ride in his convertible. This isn’t part of the plan. This isn’t a sad taxi to the airport.
We zigzag through traffic, standing half-out the sunroof, holding onto our glasses, guzzling champagne from the bottle.
Hamid’s mansion is on the edge of a cliff. There is a spa pool embedded in the rocks. We kick our high heels into the foaming ocean. We pash and giggle. I lie on top of his grand piano, crooning and laughing, while Ash fingers the keys and Hamid smokes a cigar, leaning against the door frame. Me and Ash crash out on a fluffy tigerskin rug, cuddling each other. At dawn we leave all our stuff behind on Hamid’s breakfast bar, escape to the beach, walk three miles around the rocks, emerge in some cafe with cut-up feet, no handbags, no passports, no cellphones, but wincing with excitement. We jump into a vanload of hippies. Over two weeks, we drive to some festival called Dragon Dreaming and back. We drink kava. We wash amongst the lillypads in Lake George. We eat damper bread cooked between gum trees deep in some national park. I get a urinary tract infection. It’s 200 kays before we find a gas station that sells cranberry juice. Ash gets crabs. She has to crush them with her fingernails. My cran juice reminds the driver that there’s money picking berries down in the Snowy Mountains, where the tourists are, if we want it. We spend a day mucking out a barn, two days on the berries. Ash goes for a drive with some farmer boy for an hour and comes back with three hundred bucks and bruises on her neck. It is terrifying and exhilarating. Me and Ash work in a cowboy bar for two weeks. Every night we ride the bucking bronco and sleep cuddling each other in some boy’s bed. We have less money and more joy than ever. We shoplift from the local store, smuggle eyeliner between our butt cheeks, bottles of shampoo under our belts. Some nights we dance on the bar. I let men pash me, buy me drinks and chicken wings. It is three weeks before we pay off the advance wages we got. I wake up desperate, one morning. I have almost forgotten my old life. Sam must be missing me. There is only one person I can think of who can help me get back home.
Warren Singh arrives at the speed of light. He has one of the fastest cars in the country, he tells me as he picks me up from Thredbo and drives over the border in his Ferrari. He’s come from Melbourne today, but he has a chalet round here somewhere, he explains, looking across at me. This man with his gelled hair and black leather seats and ridiculous gloves, this was the boy who took me to Prom.
Warren has a private jet parked outside Thredbo. We are in Melbourne an hour later, up in his penthouse apartment 25 minutes after that. I try to talk to him like a normal friend, try tell him that in my real life I ended up with Samuel MacDonald, from school – remember him, Warren? He was in your little dorky investors club, where you all printed your own business cards? I tell Warren I cater weddings for a job. I don’t tell him sometimes I make fake accounts to sell phantom Playstations on TradeMe. Sam is finishing his Masters in Legal Studies, I explain, plus he’s got an LL.B., not that either of those gets you anywhere unless you know a practising lawyer personally. He’s a labourer day to day, sure, but that doesn’t define him. Sam could do a lot of amazing things in this world if he applied himself. Warren is nodding, but his eyes are on my lips, my hips.
Warren parks in a black basement three levels underground. We ride the elevator into a heaven of glass, 40 floors up. Warren invites me to watch while he opens his internet banking. I start to tell him he doesn’t really have to give me money, I can get by okay, but my sentence is floppy, limp. The words dribble into my drink. He transfers $5000 into my bank account. Straight away my Mastercard, the Save My Bacon little loan that got me through Thredbo: all balanced. Warren leaves me with $1500 in my bank account. He even logs into the Air New Zealand website and buys me a ticket home. By now I’m wet with gratitude. I keep clenching my thighs. Warren’s hair gel and foundation can’t hide his pockmarks and dandruff, he’s disgusting and spindly but I owe him something. I would have been trapped in Australia forever. Of course I have to let my body sleep with him. We already half-did it on prom night, anyway.
I let Warren go down on me on the balcony overlooking the river, the glittering towers, the palm trees, the cafes, the millionaires. I buck my hips. I bite my finger. I try to enjoy it. Warren can’t hold a rhythm. He rubs my clit clockwise, then counter-clockwise, messy as a kid fingerpainting. He keeps using clichés it sounds like he’s copied from a porno movie. I try pretend I haven’t noticed the How To Make Her Cum instructions he printed and magneted to his fridge and forgot to take down. I pretend I’m not lost at 24-and-a-half, hoping I’m not pregnant from all the stuff that’s happened since I got on a plane to go party with my best friend.
Warren chews my pussy but I’m dry and wriggly and my legs are starting to cramp. I nervously ask for a lift to the airport and Warren says, ‘That was the deal,’ as if he’s just completed some business transaction.
I limp into Auckland Airport swooning with exhaustion. Sammy picks me up. The car smells safe. When we turn the lights out, Sammy rolls on top of me. He’s gotten fat while I’ve been away, like he’s planned to weigh me down. I let him come in me with no condom. A month later, my tummy hurts and I’m too anxious to do the math in my head so I have to write down my sex-dates on the back of a bus timetable in the waiting room and the nurse-slash-counsellor says I’m having a baby.
Except I can’t be tied down with a baby, cause I haven’t had a chance to figure out what I’m doing with my life. I can’t get pregnant now, especially not to Samuel Macdonald, who got his name legally changed from Samuel to Samwell as a reference to some Lord of the Thrones geek shit he’s into.
This can’t be where my ride ends. God, give me more time.
I’m climbing through Coromandel’s rainforest today on school camp so I sellotape a sign to the outside of the blanket-fort that says DO NOT DISTURB.
Rain rakes the windows. Sammy reminds me he’s taken the kids to the library and the gardens and the playground and the mall (all free) and now it’s his turn in the fort. It’s freezing cause we’re trying to keep the power bill down and we’re out of pinecones and his words come with a cloud of warm breath.
I remind him to read the sign.
JP touches the oven (that I’ve left on for too long) and shrieks. I get Sammy to take care of cooling JP’s burned fingers. I feel bad Sam keeps having to give Bubs her formula. I wince whenever my nipples brush my singlet. They’re hard and crusty, but I can’t waste time breastfeeding. I have to revisit good times before the memory swirls down the plughole. I can be happy if I just concentrate and hide in my dark place. Appreciate the opportunities I once had. Go back in time and eat slower. Savour every smoke, every snort. My wrinkle-free skin, my taut throat. Hair without a single silver strand. Big gums, white teeth, bird legs. Huge blue eyes, natural lashes, my cheekbones bursting. I was a SIZE EIGHT. GOD.
It’s prom night: the pinnacle of my life. I have chosen Warren Singh over Samwell MacDonald because Sammy is about a 5 out of 10 in terms of school reputation, pretty much a nobody, but Warren is president of the Youth in Business Society and he is a 6 out of 10 on account of all the awards he won in assembly. A 6 beats a 5. It’s nothing personal.
Sammy finds me on MySpace and sends me a message that simply says, ‘I trust he’ll treat you well,’ without any explanation. Urgh. I’ve only ever exchanged like ten words with Sam. He’s cute enough, a little bit like a polar bear, it’s just he’s too nice. Nice isn’t an ambition. Nice isn’t exciting.
As for Warren: he’s messaging me too, sending me love poems from his fancy email address email@example.com. I’ve never even seen a TV show about someone my age running a business, let alone come across it in real life. Nobody thinks it’s cool to register his company when he turns 18, to buy bandwidth super-cheap, to lowball the competitors, walking door to door with his lame little briefcase, telling people SinghNet can give them internet for half the price they’re currently paying.
By the time Warren takes what is now SingNet public at 21 and his stock becomes worth one point three mil, then we start to think he is cool. Sam has been in the Young Investors Club with Warren. Warren holds onto some of Sam’s Magic cards; Sam holds onto $200 of Warren’s shares. So long as SingNet keeps soaring, Sam’s stock will triple in value then go beyond.
October 1 2008 is prom night. It becomes obvious Warren has paid a shitload for ballroom dancing lessons. Paid with dividends from the Young Investors Club, undoubtedly. He makes a big deal of out twirling me, catching my back, brushing his cheek against mine. Going through some routine he’s seen on a movie. My friends are jealous as fuck. Warren rises to a 7 out of 10 that night. In the limo on the way to the after party, without asking, he puts his hand up my dress and slides a finger into me, then two. I slacken my tense muscles and let him do his thing. May as well collect a story for the girls.
Sammy shows up at the after party, surprisingly, wearing a Warcraft t-shirt with a corsage on it. He approaches me, just once in the night, looking serious, as if he has a death to announce. ‘Is he respecting you?’ Sammy asks in a worried voice, like I’m his child. Not, Did you score? Did you get laid, girl? Did he show you his credit card?
Just, Is he respecting you?
But that memory’s not the most vacation-y. I delve further back.
It’s 2007 and I sweep crumbs off a bakery floor and take home free cinnamon rolls on Saturday afternoons. I spend all my babysitting money on petrol. Fill a boy’s tank, he’ll drive all night and let you sit up front. Sundays, I sleep.
My crow’s feet fill. My chest is hard and jiggles just a little. My eyes go bright and wide. My hair reaches down to my bum.
It’s 2006 and I’ve saved up to buy my first phone. I keep the box in a drawer and even the little plastic bags and twistie ties and instruction booklet. I lie on my belly on my bed. Every time my phone dings with a message, joyous little fish tumble in my tummy.
It’s 2000-something and we’ve got our midyear exams back and that computer club cocksucker Warren Singh has made a website listing everyone’s results cause he hacked into the school server and everyone in the hallway knows I got 39% in English.
It’s 2014 and we could reeeeally use some fucking money right now and I’m biffing PakNSave buns at Sammy’s head cause I’m sick of living off bread cause Sammy’s just told me he sold his shares in SingNet to pay the debt on that case of valerian oil and our kindergarten bill and yes, Sammy says, he acknowledges that the value of the stock was going up and up and up, and yes he acknowledges he’s a fucking idiot, but he says he couldn’t stand the idea of profiting from somebody who doesn’t respect me.
Sam quits using before me- quits using staycation trips, that is. He asks why I was groaning, the other day – “cumming,” he says. He can’t find a better word. ‘You were… getting off, on your trip. Not with me, I don’t think. You don’t have to answer that. It’s not a question.’
‘I wasn’t,’ I begin, and give up immediately.
‘You don’t need to even tell me who it was, I don’t care, I’m done,’ Sam’s saying as I lift a flap of the yurt and peek out. ‘We’re off to the park. Then I’ve got a meeting with that lawyer chick from 0508DISQUALIFIED. Should be able to get a temporary licence.’
‘If you pay her five hundred. Which we don’t have.’
He holds the door open while JP steps into his gumboots. ‘Have fun, wherever you’re going today.’
I’m going back where I was happy, that’s where.
It’s 2004 and I’m in Disneyworld, Orlando Florida, with Aunty Fay and she gives me a hundred bucks at nine o’clock in the morning and tells me to meet her in eight hours for dinner. I am completely free, and rich, and so happy I don’t want the day to end.
It’s 2003 and I score my first goal and the girls hoist me onto their sunny shoulders and thrust me up near God.
It’s 2002 and I’m having my first kiss and my heart is a hot exploding engine. Darren Samu’s huge nose pokes my eye and I scream and clutch my eye socket. While I’m screaming and tossing, Darren connects with my surprised lips and I shut up. He rotates 90 degrees, kisses my mouth from the other side. My tongue emerges like an eel, hits the slippery flesh between his gums and tongue. His mouth is blue from the lolly he’s been sucking on. We separate, surprised. I’m flushed with happiness for a week. It’s like a midwinter birthday. A personal Christmas. My Mum asks me why I’m glowing. I’m the queen of my group.
It’s 2018 and I’m surfacing. It’s – God, it’s gone dark. Where’s Bubs?
‘She’s at nana’s,’ Sammy says. I emerge from the fort. He’s sitting on the couch with his Nintendo Switch. He’s in a t-shirt, even though it’s… muggy? ‘I got the car back. And my licence. While you were in La-la-land.’
‘I… I must’ve slept through – ?’
‘You went too far back, I reckon. Just my opinion but if you want to find a place you had it sweet, look back two weeks ago. Got us a heater, too, by the way.’
‘So you going back to work, or… ?’
‘My lawyer? The one who got me my licence back? I’m her assistant, now. She likes my Masters. Says I can work from home. Do daddy stuff with Bub. Hell of a lot better money than 0800Labour.’
I sit on the floor and hug my knees.
Sammy throws the keys at me pretty hard. ‘Look, the car’s in the driveway. Get your licence, already, take it out; do something cool. Start tomorrow.’ He looms over me, then bends down to where my starved, stinking body is crumpled on the floor, almost kisses me then pats my skull like I’m a silly spoiled kid. ‘Just be home for dinner.’