Saturday, December 5, 2009

Zac in the Kitchen from work in progress

Zac was in the doorway of the kitchen, silhouetted by the weak rays of the not quite risen sun, his face lit by the blue of the light bulb. His edge was clear and solid, watching him her eyes relaxed. Yet again he took her by surprise, his slender height filling the door, his arm up lazily holding the lintel as they spoke. Her round and squidgy boy had been pulled out to a long strand.

Sean was harder to see, back a few paces, leaning away from the door and the boy, when she would be leaning towards him. Sean’s dark shape seemed solid compared to the slight, bright mirror of his son. They were saying the easy, normal, meaningless, repetitive things that had become habit and started and ended everything. Zac’s clear young voice, so light it almost blew away before she could catch it, broke through Sean’s soft low rumble. As she slid past, Zac leant closer to the doorframe to let her pass. He loosely held a piece of toast.

‘That’s not all you’re having to eat?’

‘It’s too early for food.’

She wasn’t going to fuss. She made herself a cup of coffee and drank it while she made Zac’s lunch. She kept going back to the cupboard for extra things to put in. A muesli bar, some crackers, a bag of chips. Just in case, for whatever situation it was she couldn’t foresee. She knew Zac wouldn’t eat any of them, and that in three days time the lunch bag would come back with the extra food intact. Zac hated waste, and he wasn’t too keen on junk food. As she worked she half listened to the radio, turned down low so as not to wake Liam. She didn’t care what was on the news, only what wasn’t. A new local case would have been the lead story, today all that was reported was the worsening situations in Thailand and Britain. Meaningless abstract numbers. But to the people who lived there, for them, the numbers would inhabit streets, use shopping centres. The people who lived here would be checking where those numbers had been, if they could have crossed paths. There mostly likely wouldn't be any news from China.

When Sean and Zac paused in their conversation, she found herself saying, without being aware it was about to come out, ‘Do you have your phone?’

‘Yes Mum.’

‘Is it on and charged?’

‘Yes Mum.’ A slightly impatient smile.

‘OK then.’ But she couldn’t just let him go. ‘Be careful.’

‘I always am.’

‘Do you have some money, just in case?’

Sean, leaning against the wall, swivelled to her. ‘I gave him money. Don’t fuss, he’s fine.’

‘Don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable with.’

Zac turned back to face her, his smile wider now, and good natured, ‘I’m not going to go running around in the middle of the night, Mum. I promise.’

‘Of course not. Just stay safe.’ She wanted to tell him he couldn’t go. If she just said those words her panic would disappear. She watched his face as he rifled through his bag, checking against a list the school had given them. His face was pinker now, so alive, as the sun took over from the cold fluoro. She held herself back.

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