On this particular morning things started going awry quite early. First, Mum rang to say she couldn’t come over to get Toby because Dad has put his back out. She didn’t say how he’d put his back out, but knowing Dad it would have happened while he was doing something or other for her or one of her friends. The Grump was up and about early, hangover and all, because he was going over to Oggy’s to pick up some second hand part for his car that he didn’t really need. Lara was in bed as usual, but judging from the sounds emanating from her room she was awake at least.
While Toby got an extra bowl of honey nut cornflakes and The Grump settled down to read the sports pages, I slipped out to feed the fish and have a chat to Priscilla, Princess of the pond.
Priscilla is a good listener. Being a plastic mermaid probably helps.
‘Well, Priscilla,’ I told her as I sat on the seat by the side of the pond and sprinkled a handful of fish flakes onto the water. ‘Changes are afoot. You’ll think there’s a different woman sitting here talking to you in a few weeks time.’
Priscilla looked at me with her usual blank expression. It didn’t change when I told her about Mark at the retail park.
‘You know, I really think he was interested. In ME! can you believe that?’
Priscilla said nothing and continued to watch over her fish.
‘I would have said yes you know. If he’d asked me out. Aren’t you shocked? I almost walked into an affair without even trying.’
Priscilla had obviously heard worse because she didn’t bat an eyelid.
After my confessional I hung out the washing and went back to the kitchen. The Grump was rifling through the kitchen drawers looking for painkillers.
‘They’re where they’ve always been, in the bathroom cabinet,’ I told him.
‘That’s a stupid place to keep them, anyway they’re not. I just looked.’
‘They were there last week when you needed them,’ I reminded him.
‘Well they aren’t bloody well there now. I don’t know, Isla. You can never find a bloody thing in this house. Why can’t people put things back where they found them?’
The Grump slammed the cutlery drawer shut and stormed out of the kitchen moaning about the severity of his headache.
‘It’s nothing to do with the copious amount of alcohol you drank last night then?’ I called after him.
The lounge door slammed. Toby walked into the kitchen with his empty bowl.
‘Hello, Tiger. How are you this morning?’
‘So so,’ he replied. ‘It feels strange not going to Gran’s on a Sunday.’
I smiled fondly and ruffled his hair. ‘You do love going to see Gran and Granddad don’t you?’
Toby nodded. ‘I can eat ice cream any time I like at Gran’s,’ he confided.
‘Yes, well, she shouldn’t spoil you like that.’
‘And we go to the shops for comics.’
‘You get comics here too.’
‘Granddad always stops at Mrs Walters house to say thanks for the Saturday night entertainment.’
‘Entertainment? I didn’t know they went out on a Saturday night. I’ll have to ask mum what they get up to.’
‘Fun and frolics.’ Toby revealed.
I laughed. ‘Fun and frolics indeed. Your Granddad is teasing you.’
The Grump reappeared with a pack of Paracetamol in his hand.
‘Ah, you found them then?’ I wasn't the slightest bit surprised.
‘I must have left them in my dressing gown pocket last week.’
‘I see. So we weren’t to blame after all?’
The Grump swallowed two tablets, washed them down with a mouthful of water and grumped his way back to the lounge.
‘I’m never going to drink beer when I grow up,’ said Toby. ‘Dad’s always like a bear in a china shop after he’s been to the pub.’
It’s bull,’ I said. ‘Either a bear with a sore head, or a bull in a china shop. The bull smashes things up in a temper. The bear is just grumpy.’
Toby looked at me quizzically. ‘Why did the bull go in the china shop to smash things up in the first place?’‘Because people were asking him too many questions,’ I laughed.
Toby changed the subject. ‘Can I go to Gran’s this afternoon?’
‘I doubt it Toby, I think they like a nap on a Sunday afternoon.’
‘Getting over the fun and frolics, I suppose,’ replied Toby.
When Toby had gone back upstairs to reapply the Mexican Death Grip to his wrestling opponent’s neck, I decided it was time to give a test drive to my new Dyson. I’d only just switched it on when The Grump stormed out of the lounge.
‘Do you have to do that now, Isla?’
‘When would you like me to do it, Gary?’
‘When I’m out, it’s too loud.’
‘It’s not my fault you’re feeling fragile,’ I told him. ‘You’re the one who drinks too much.’
The Grump yanked the plug from the socket. ‘Thank Christ for that. I’m sure it’s louder than our old one.’
‘It probably is, the old one’s motor had just about burnt out.’
‘Can’t you do it later, when I’m at the pub?’
‘Okay, Gary, I’ll do that.’ I began to wind in the lead. ‘You can cook your own Sunday lunch when you come back from the pub. I won’t have time to do both.’
And you’ll have to do your own washing, make the beds, clean up the disgusting mess in the bathroom, take down the curtains for washing, walk the dog and listen to Lara’s two hour lecture on the state of the planet.’
Gary grabbed his coat from the hall and stomped towards the front door. ‘Okay, okay, do the bloody cleaning now. I’m off to Oggy’s.’
‘Enjoy your new, spurgle, or whatever it is you’re buying,’ I said as he slammed the door behind him. For someone with a headache he made a lot of noise.
I had just switched on the Dyson again when Lara came down the stairs. She blew her nose on a tissue and dabbed at her eyes.
‘Lara, are you all right?’
Lara nodded slowly and walked through to the kitchen. I followed her in.
‘Lara, what’s? ...’
‘NOTHING’S WRONG! she screamed. ‘Just leave me alone.’
‘Something’s obviously wrong.’ I said. ‘You don’t cry for nothing, Lara, I know you.’
It was true. Nothing ever seemed to really get to Lara on a personal level. She’s always been able to shrug off disappointment. I don’t know where she gets it from, certainly not me, and Gary lets the whole world know if he’s been wronged. I think she must have inherited the trait from my mother. She’s pretty self assured, and has a very strong temperament.
‘NOTHING IS WRONG!’ Lara repeated, louder this time. ‘Why can’t you just mind your own business?’
‘There’s no need to be rude, Lara. I was only trying to help.’
I collected the Dyson and walked through to the lounge to introduce it to the pet hair covered sofa. I had only just plugged it in when Lara appeared. She looked at the floor, then at me, then threw herself into my arms.
‘Oh, Mum, he’s finished with me. Tommy’s finished with me.’ Sobs racked her body.
‘He’ll come back,’ I soothed. ‘Don’t fret, love.’
‘He won’t come back. He texted me just now. He’s finished with me.’
‘Did you have a row or something?’
Lara shook her head and pushed her face into my chest. ‘No, I just... no.’
‘It will all blow over, Lara. Things will work themselves out,’ I assured her.
Lara pulled away, her face contorted with anger. ‘He’s going to go out with that slut, Britney.’
‘Your friend Britney? Britney Morris?’
‘Ex friend,’ she spat.’He took her home from the youth club last night.’
‘Are you sure? That doesn’t sound right. You were at the youth club last night.’
‘He made an excuse and said he was going home early, so I left early too. But he didn’t go home. He picked up that slag, Britney when I was safely out of the way.’
‘Oh dear,’ I said inadequately.
‘Kylie phoned me this morning to give me the bad news. I rang him but he wouldn’t answer, so I emailed him. Then I got a text saying it was over.’
I tried to avoid the trap of saying 'you’re probably better off without him.' Instead I gave her another hug and told her I knew how she was feeling.
‘A text message? That’s not very fair is it?’
Lara sniffed and shook her head. ‘He hasn’t got the guts to tell me to my face.’
‘I’ve been there myself, Lara.’ I said, softly. ‘It’s hard, love. I didn’t go out for a week. I couldn’t face anyone.’
‘I’m going out,’ said Lara. ‘I’m going round to see that tart Britney, and I’m...’
‘Are you sure that’s a good idea, Lara? It might be best to find out if all the facts are true first.’
‘Of course they’re true. He used to tell me he’d go with her to wind me up when I said I wouldn’t ... wouldn’t do things to him. He said he’d go with her because he knew she would.’
‘Things?’ I asked, as if I didn’t know.
‘Things,’ she replied. ‘Sex things ... things I wasn’t ready to do.’
I hugged her again. ‘Lara, I’m so proud of you. You really are a very sensible girl.’
‘I’m a dumped girl, that’s what I am, and I’ll be the laughing stock of the school, that’s what I’ll be.’
‘No you won’t, surely your friends will understand. You made the right decision, you’re only fourteen.’
‘They think I’ve already done stuff with him.’
‘Why would they think that?’
‘Because he’s told them I have. Oh Mum, I’m so unhappy.’
Lara began to sob again. I did my best to comfort her but with little success. A couple of minutes later the door opened and Gary marched in carrying an oily something or other.
‘What’s wrong? Why is Lara crying?’
Lara looked up at me pleadingly. ‘Don’t,’ she whispered.
‘Women’s problems,’ I said truthfully.
Gary shook his head and retreated. He always avoided any conversation regarding that topic like the plague.
I sat with Lara for another ten minutes, then she decided she might be better off working things through in her room.
‘I’ll bring you some tea and toast up,’ I told her. ‘Go back to bed, love.’
Toby passed Lara on the stairs. ‘What’s up with her?’ he asked.
‘Don’t ask, son,’ said The Grump with feeling. ‘You honestly don’t want to know.’
After lunch, Gary fell asleep in front of the Sunday live match. Toby went to play with his friend next door and I took the opportunity to update this diary. Lara came down about five O’clock seemingly fully recovered.
‘Feeling better love?’ I asked.
Lara shrugged. ‘I don’t know why I let myself get into a state like that. He’s not worth it.’
‘He isn’t,’ I agreed. ‘If he only wants a girl for one thing, then he’s not much of a boyfriend, is he?’
Lara gave me one of her looks. ‘How would you know what he’s like?’
‘But, you said..’
‘I know him, you don’t. He’s not that bad really, he’s just a bloke. They’re all pitiful. Anyway I’ve had my revenge.’
‘I’ve decided to go out with Kurt, his best friend.’
I rang him this afternoon. I’m meeting him at the kids playground in half an hour. He’s really keen on me, always has been.’
‘What about Britney?’
‘She wouldn’t do what he wanted either. So he’s got no one now. He’s going to look such a fool.’
I waited for the rest.
‘Britney told her mum that Tommy tried to get her to do stuff last night on the park. Her mum’s phoned Tommy’s mum and he’s in deep trouble. He’s been grounded for a month. His mum apologised to Britney and said Tommy is just like his bloody father.’
‘Tommy’s father is a bit of a philanderer is he?’ I asked.
‘No one knows. He left when Tommy was born. Tommy’s mum obviously thinks so.’ Lara grabbed a chocolate biscuit and stuffed it into her mouth.
‘Phew,’ I said. ‘Looks like you had a lucky escape... and poor Britney, she told her mum. It must have been bad.’
‘Not really, Britney’s a prude. He picked the wrong girl there.’
‘But I thought you sai...’
‘I was angry.’ Her look told me that ought to be enough of an explanation.
Lara went up to have a bath leaving me to ponder on the way relationships have changed since I was her age. I could never have had that sort of conversation with my mother. I’d have been far too embarrassed and she wouldn’t have understood anyway. Mum’s always been a closed book when it comes to that sort of thing. I’m sure poor Dad must only have got his oats at Christmas and Birthdays.
Toby came back at six and we had egg and cress sandwiches for tea. Gary announced that he was going to the pub at seven so I had a nice long bath and watched The War of the Worlds on DVD with Toby. Lara came home at eight thirty looking seriously pleased with herself. She checked out the love bite on her neck in the hall mirror and went up to her room without saying goodnight. Toby went to bed at nine and I followed him at half past. I’m not sure what time Gary came home but he didn’t disturb me and I managed to get a good night’s sleep.