She shut the door.
“What’s he doing now? He’s gone back in. Jesus.”
She pushed the button to get the window down.
“What are you doing,” she shouted,” for god’s sake?”
“What are you doing?” imitated Jack.
“Getting something, checking something, going back for something,” said his brother Evan.
“I can’t do this” she said, looking in the rear view mirror. She took out lipstick. Applied it. Breathed out loudly.
“Okay Mum?” asked Evan, a counsellor at 9.
She said nothing.
Evan, his brother and their mother watched their father as he came out of his house, shut the door, walked towards the car. Reaching the car door, his hand nearly on the handle, he stopped and retreated to the front door he had just closed. He looked to see if it was shut. It was. He pushed it for good measure, just to check. It did not give way. He walked back to the car and sat down in the seat.
“Are we all ok?” he said.
She pulled up the car. She put on sunglasses.
“Are we late?” asked Evan.
“Not really” said his father.
“Yes we are late. Let’s try and be honest shall we?” said his mother
“I am not being dishonest,” said his father, “ just trying not to let your incipient panic transfer itself unnecessarily to our children.”
“Let’s just go in,” she said.
“We are late …but I am going to talk to you about this later. I am not doing this any more.”
“Not doing what any more?” said his father.
“Do we get out?” said Evan.
“Yes get out.” said his father.
“I’ll get Jack out of his seat, you get the present.”
“I don’t have the present, you had it.” said his mother.
“No, I gave it to you. I had it. I put it on the stairs; I said you bring the present”
“I am not going in there without a present.”
Jack was crying.
“Jesus Jack, just wait a minute- I will get you out now,” said his father.
“No he’s…” said Evan, but his father talked louder
“Jesus Jack stop that noise, I am coming.”
“I am staying in the car. I am not going in without a present.” said his mother.
“He’s hurt his hand. He has cut it on the seat.” said Evan
“How can he…”said his father.
His father turned rapidly to see his three year old holding a hand in the air, wailing. There was blood.
“Jesus Jack how did you…?”
“He cut it trying to undo the child lock,” said Evan,
“I told you the metal bit was showing.”
“I fixed that,” said his father. “I put gaffer on it.”
His mother and father were out of the car and in the rear door, administering.
“Jesus that is deep. It’s…we need something to…”
There was a deep cut across the knuckles of his brother’s hand. And a lot of blood.
“Give me something. I need that top there,” said his father
“That’s my hoodie,” said Evan
“It’s ok, it will wash,” said his father.
“If you had just got out instead of talking this would not have happened. You are a nightmare at anything to do with your family. I am not doing this any more,” said his mother.
“Your son has a serious injury here. I suggest you… not doing what any more for god’s sake?”
“Just get out of the way.”
“It’s ok Jack, it’s ok. You will be ok.” She was in next to him. Holding him. Soothing.
“We are late,” said Evan. “We will miss it.”
“And there is no more wondrous or joyous occasion in the life of a family than the birth of a child, and we are honoured to have shared in the joy of that moment with Gary and Martha today as they welcome Ruby into the family of the church as well as into the wider family and indeed the large number of friends congregated here today. May they offer you the love and protection you need all your days on this earth. Thank you all and may the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you all.”
“Is that it?” whispered Evan
“I believe it is,” said his father
Upstairs at the pub afterwards there was a moment of clarity.
An hour in, Evan and his Father sat alone near the chocolate fountain.
“Dad?” said Evan
“What does mum mean when she says she can’t do this any more?”
“Here she is kid, maybe you should ask her.”
His Mother had arrived. She was holding a baby.
“Nice picture,” said his father. “Like the old days. Our old days that is.”
“I think we have to leave.”
“Really. Jack is miserable and his hand. I want to get his hand looked at.”
“Where? It’s a Sunday.”
“Of course it would be difficult.” said his mother
“It’s not that, I just. It’s a Sunday. Don’t panic, I will take him in the morning. This is my family, when do I see my family?”
Evan got up and left them to it. He walked over to the chocolate fountain and took a strawberry and let the chocolate spray off the sides of it for a while. He moved to a window and looked down at the traffic. Swaying right next to the window were the earliest spring leaves of a tree. Evan looked for a long time at the leaves gently ruffled by breeze. They were extremely green. And he felt a sense of something new to him. An awareness perhaps that whatever happened next would happen anyway. It was just the leaves and him and his thoughts for a bit. Then he walked over to where his Uncle and Auntie were talking to some people he did not know. His Auntie gave him a big hug, then said
“And look at this big boy. This is my nephew. He is the oldest of all the cousins. He was the first. And now he has our new bundle of joy to play with.”
Evan let them talk and thought about the car journey home. Once in Spain was the one he remembered. The worst. It started about maps and then just got louder and louder. Both of them said the F word a lot. His father’s sunglasses were smashed on the gearstick. Jack was screaming and so was he. Jack was just screaming because his brother was. But he was screaming because of fear. He did not want his parents to break up. It got better and they went to a café and then it got much worse than it had been before. And when they got back to Britain they tried to make it all right in the service station by giving him McDonald’s and anything he wanted really. But they knew it was bruised. He was bruised and they were bruised. Bruised by words said, not actually bruised. But that in Evan’s mind was very much still real bruising.
All the way home he wanted to ask about being an adult. What is it like to be a grown up? Sometimes it seems quite hard, he thought. The opportunity did not arise. No-one spoke all the way. Jack was asleep. And Evan stared out of the window, hopeful.