Saturday, November 20, 2010

Frankie Loveday, Part 8

(This post is the start of Chapter 6. To catch up on the story so far, look at:
Post 1 (Chapter 1, Part 1)
Post 2 (Chapter 1, Part 2)
Post 3 (Chapter 1, Part 3)
Post 4 (Chapter 3, Part 1)
Post 5 (Chapter 3, Part 2)
Post 6 (Chapter 4, Part 1)
Post 7 (Chapter 4, Part 2)
NB: Chapter 2 and Chapter 5 have been omitted deliberately. Chapter 5 takes place in the art room at Frankie's school and contains additional revelations about both Penny Ganz's mother and the cheating scandal).

It was clear from the moment we walked in the door that this was going to be a Jonah day at our house. You know about Jonah days? From Anne of Green Gables, which are among my Mum and Phil’s favourite books of all time? Jonah days are days when just every little thing is wrong, nothing and no-one behaves, and it feels like the universe is against you.

Of course, my mood was already sour from the events of the day, and Seb, who’d had another asthma attack later on in the afternoon, was riding the wave of six puffs of Ventolin, which always made him jumpy and irritable. Phil was distracted, as she always is on Tuesdays, worrying that she’d be late to gymnastics training. (She never is; my Mum drives the logistics of Phil’s gym schedule with grim determination). Seb and I had been bickering most of the way home, which, unlike usual, hadn’t petered out to peace by the time we got home, but rather was ramping up to a full-blown spat. I was in the act of pulling a dreadful face at him as we came in through the kitchen door, to be met by the sound of Vicky in full toddler flight.

“NNNNOOOO! Don’ wanna cwean bum, Mummy! No yukky orf!” she screamed as she darted under my legs, half-tripping me and causing me to fall heavily into Seb, who turned around and immediately clouted me on the arm. “Vicky tripped me, you little toad!” I yelled at the top of my lungs (a very loud place, you’ll recall) and I lunged for him, all the frustration of my highly frustrating day boiling over. Phil, usually so quiet, suddenly screeched, “VICK-EE! My BAG!” and took off after the now-giggling toddler, who, I noticed, had Phil’s gym bag clutched in her sticky hands and was emptying its contents onto the kitchen floor gleefully.

All in all, it must have looked like a scene from the Three Stooges in there, with people tripping over each other, Seb putting his foot in the garbage bag that Mum had tied up ready to be taken out, Vicky up-ending a cup of apple juice into the cutlery drawer, and Phil’s gym paraphernalia spread from one end of the long, narrow room to the other. And as for the noise? Well. Four Lovedays in full flight is something to hear. (If you don’t value your hearing, that is).

The swing door to the big living area shot open and Mum stood in it, with a face like thunder. “WILL you all BE QUIET, RIGHT THIS MINUTE!” she bellowed. My Mum doesn’t like to yell, but sometimes she does; it’s only human, after all. I will say this, when she yells, she’s louder than any of us, so it at least has the effect of cutting through.

Phil stopped her screeching at once and went up to my Mum with tears in her eyes. “Vicky has ruined my gym stuff," she wailed, throwing herself at Mum. “Look, my leotards are both covered in ... something ...” Seb and I, who had quietened down but were still devotedly pushing at each other, were sufficiently diverted to stop and look at the leotard in Phil’s hand, which was dripping something brown, gooey and sticky onto the floor.

“Chocolate sauce?” I guessed, although I couldn’t smell the sweet scent of chocolate in the air.

“No, it’s Worcestershire,” said Seb, sniffing. He has a good nose for odours. “That’s in the high cupboard. How on earth did she even get it down?” He looked at Vicky, standing up on her chubby legs on her toddler steps at the sink, with respect. She blew a raspberry at him and went off into gales of laughter.

Mum sighed deeply. I could see her counting slowly to 10 in her head. When she spoke, her voice was pretty terse, but she was in control of herself.

“I’m sorry about your leotards, Phil. I’ll wash them tonight and I’m sure the sauce will come off, but you’ll have to wear leggings and a t-shirt to training today.” Phil, who likes everything to be Just So, opened her mouth to protest, but Mum cut her off with a look and said sharply, “There really isn’t any point arguing with me, Phillida. We have to leave in 20 minutes unless you want to be late, so hurry up and change.” Uh-oh, we’re full-naming, I thought. Bet Mum’s had a pig of a day.

I grabbed Vicky off her steps and carried her to her change mat, ignoring her wriggles and screams. The thing about being tall, broad and strong is that I’m a match even for a determined toddler. And I knew how to change a nappy. Didn’t like it, and to be honest rarely did it, but I knew how to do it, and I figured Mum was owed a free one about now.

I plopped Vicky down on the change mat in Mum’s bedroom, holding her in place with my arm as she began her usual contortions to get free. “I no wanna!” she shrieked. “Fenky! Let Vicky goooooo!” Then she kicked me, hard, in the stomach.


Surprised into silence, Vicky lay as still and quiet as a baby doll while I got rid of the full nappy (toddler poop. loooovely) and put on a fresh one. As I was bagging up the dirty nappy, she got up and wandered around the room. I noticed, as Vicky stroked it, that the fancy quilt was back on Mum and Dad’s bed, which was neatly made, and that the room had an underlying smell of lavender. (Of course, right at that moment, it mostly smelled of poop, but I’m talking about background aroma.)

I mentally hit myself on the forehead. Of course. Auntie Dido!

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