“You got home quite late last night.” The Turners were all sat at the breakfast table; mum dishing out some eggs and beans for Pete and leaving his dad to fend for himself.
“Can I get a hold of one of them eggs?” Pete’s dad, Mr Turner, looked disappointingly at the bowl of porridge on his side of the table with his red-rimmed eyes, while his wife took the last fried egg. After thirteen years of married life, Mrs Turner had perfected the art of passive aggression.
“So, last night then,” she said without making eye contact. She carried on feeding Poppy spoonfuls of an orange coloured purée that dribbled down her chin much more often than it stayed in her mouth. Mrs Turner hadn’t really noticed. I think she was far too busy concentrating on not looking at Mr Turner more than giving any thought to the task at hand.
“Oh sorry about that, hun. Graham had to be taken home again,” he finally responded.
“Why do you boys always have to drink so much when you are watching a game, huh?” She turned round to him now leaving the bowl of food in front of Poppy, who took the opportunity to make a mess of things straight away. Pete would be meeting Michael soon to walk to school. On the phone this morning Michael had said he would bring Pete a strawberry lace for the trip. He takes Suzie sometimes to go into town for a few supplies before school, which improve Pete’s mornings a lot too. It seemed a little pointless to Pete at the time, as most of the people who walk to town are getting the bus but Michael and Mallory liked to walk to school. It would have been much easier to get some sweets after school.
“Well the rest of us just had a pint. Graham goes a bit overboard when he gets competitive,” Mr Turner said while he opened up the sports section of The Times over his bowl.
“He is always going bloody overboard!” She whipped her head round to face Pete with guilty eyes. “Pete, don’t even dare repeat that word. Mummies are allowed to say it when daddies have been pain in the…” She mumbled the next few words. “But if I ever hear you use any of them then I will take away that air blaster of yours, ok! And don’t think you can get past me because I hear you with your friends.”
Pete slumped down in his chair, desperately waiting for the clock to reach ten to eight. Dad murmured to himself as he put the newspaper to the side and started to play with his porridge, letting it drip off the spoon then picking it up again over and over, hoping it might turn into eggs and sausages.
“You better not have woken up those kids when you took him in. I’m sure he was bellowing around the house as usual. Michael has a long day at school with Pete today too, you know. If I see Michael or Mallory with even a hint of a bag under their eyes then I am blaming you.”
“Me? What did I do? If anything I should be awarded for my Samaritan-ness, Samaritanism… Samaritan-esque… Listen, I helped out, ok.”
“You did not help out! You probably made things worse taking him back there!” Her voice became louder as she locked eyes with Mr Turner.
“Oh, he’s fine.” Mr Turner said, still facing the table. He tried to change topic with some chatter about what he had read about Crystal Palace’s recent winning streak. Mrs Turner didn’t respond but continued to stare at him until he finished speaking.
“He is not fine, George. How do you think this effects Sarah when every time the doctor visits, he goes out for another night on the town. And don’t you think I don’t know what else he has been taking. I see him around town swallowing them back like sweets. You think it isn’t very much but you don’t see him when you’re at work. I am the one who sees him at the grocery store and the petrol station and going into the pharmacy. You miss it all. God, he is anything but fine. I know you two are friends but Sarah is my friend and I will not stand it if you involve yourself with his behaviour,” she said, almost standing out of her seat.
“They are calming. You know for his health. Probably just herbal stuff anyway. It is stressful looking after Sarah and the kids while working.”
Mrs Turner let out a snort. They both shuffled in their seats as they realised that Pete and Poppy were still in the room.
“Oh god Poppy what have you done!” Mrs Turner finally noticed. Poppy let out a shrill laugh as she tried to clean her up, releasing some of the tension from the room. Even Mr Turner let the corners of his mouth fold up a bit. Pete, uninterested, went to go get his shoes on at the door. He could still hear Mrs Turner’s, now calmer, voice joking around about Mr Turner’s team losing the finals.
Spoons banging on the counter beat out of rhythm in the background: probably Poppy. Mr Turner always said she would make a great rock and roll star one day but Mrs Turner would usually brush her hair behind her ears, saying that if she became a musician then she certainly would not be one covered in tattoos with bright blue hair. Pete began to think that she wouldn’t like any music when she’s older. He had tried playing her some of his Elvis albums but it always ended in tears or her awkwardly running towards the kitchen; she had only recently started to walk. He thought about Poppy with cerulean streaks intertwining with her ginger hair on a much older version of herself, getting excited at the thought. Maybe then she would be fun to take to town for ice cream. Last time they went to town, Mrs Turner left them at the ice cream truck and within a few minutes she had ruined her Sunday dress with chocolate ice cream and sprinkles. Pete still gets annoyed that he got the scolding for it.