A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times

KEEPING MUM


 

            Roger blew into Jane’s ear, making her jump. “You’re miles away,” he said to her accusingly.

            Jane blinked, suddenly aware that she had been day dreaming. “I was just thinking about Chloe.” She made a face. “Well, worrying about Chloe.”

            She frowned at the thought of her baby-sitter and the mayhem she was probably wreaking. Jane pictured their front room littered with Coke cans and crisp packets, as music blared out from their CD player.

            It had been Roger’s idea to have Chloe babysit for them, after their usual sitter had let them down. Jane had reluctantly agreed because Roger was so looking forward to going out. But she wished they’d been able to find someone else – anyone else. Everywhere Chloe went, chaos followed.

            There was no doubting that Chloe had a heart of gold, but she was so – well, irresponsible. And there was the awful music she listened to, and the ridiculous clothes. And then there were the gormless boyfriends. The last one had been caught in the high street, doing wheelies on his bike. Jane told herself that Chloe was at a difficult age, that it would soon all pass but it didn’t help.

            Roger sighed and touched her arm. “I’m sure you’re worrying about nothing. Why not just ring home and check that it’s okay?”

            Jane shivered at the thought of it, and her hand trembled as she dialled the number. The phone rang for a long time, as Jane waited anxiously.

            Eventually, the line clicked and Chloe answered the phone.

            “Chloe! I’ve been ringing for ages,” Jane complained, “Why did you take so long to answer?”

            Chloe was evasive, “I ... I didn’t hear it.”

            “You had your music on too loud you mean!”

            “Maybe,” Chloe admitted, grudgingly.

            “Is Scott all right?

            “Oh yes, he’s fine. He wasn’t sleepy, so I let him stay up a while longer. We were having a dance. He’s in bed now, though.”

            Jane was about to ask if Scott had remembered to clean his teeth when she heard a laugh – a deep, male laugh. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously.

            “Is that a man’s voice I can hear?”

            There was a long pause. “Er ... yes,” Chloe replied. “It’s just a friend. You know, Rick. He popped in on his way home from the youth club.”

            Jane fought to control her temper. How dare Chloe use her house as a rendezvous point for dropouts!

            “We’re going to have a serious talk when I get home,” she warned. “You’d better have some good excuses.”

            Jane slammed down the phone and stormed back to the table. She told Roger, but he seemed to find it all amusing. “Oh well, girls will be girls,” he said.

            “Not in my front room they won’t,” Jane replied. Heaven knows what they are doing.” She breathed in angrily. “That’s it. We’ll have to go back. Chloe can’t be trusted. I knew something like this would happen.”

            Her husband groaned. “But it will be midnight soon. We’ll miss the last dance.”

            Jane’s expression was like bottled thunder.

            “I’ll get our coats,” Roger instantly conceded.

            Jane fumed on the drive back. “I knew it was a mistake,” she snapped. I knew it. I told you we should have a responsible adult. Well, that’s positively the last time she baby-sits.”

            Roger knew what was good for him. He simply nodded and kept silent. He concentrated on the road and winced at the thought of what was to come. All too soon, he turned into their street and spotted Rick’s bike parked outside their door. Jane spotted it too, and muttered furiously.

            “He’s still there,” she said through gritted teeth.

            The wall of sound hit them as they entered the house. Jane marvelled that Scott could sleep through the racket. She also marvelled that the neighbours hadn’t called the police.

            They found Chloe and Rick in the front room, both looking sheepish. Chloe immediately leapt up and switched off the music.

            “Oh, I wasn’t expecting you home so soon,” she said.

            “That’s obvious,” Jane said, her tone icy. She glared at Rick. “Isn’t it time you were leaving?”

            The bespectacled male nodded timidly and grabbed his CD collection and his bicycle clips. Roger couldn’t hide a smile as the youth club leader hobbled away.

            Jane turned her attention to Chloe. “Why don’t you put your hearing aid in when you listen to music, instead of blasting it out?” she demanded.

            Chloe’s twinkling eyes misted under her grey hair. “I’m sorry, love,” she said, shoulders slumping. “I forgot.”

            Jane wanted to scream. She looked across pleadingly at Roger. “Can’t you talk to her? Try to explain things?”

            Roger glanced at the merry widow and shook his head.

            “I don’t think so,” he said. “I couldn’t really tell her off. After all, Chloe is my mother!”



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