Short Story Preview: Countdown – Gabriela Harding
That we call each other Mummy and Daddy isn’t even the worst thing.
Here I am again, awake with the kids while Daddy’s sleepingoff a hangover.
“I could do with a coffee!” he yells from the master bedroom, at the ring of the kettle.
I take a moment to snort through my nose, in and out. Sharp bits of Lego are embedded in my knees so deep that I might need a surgical intervention to remove them. My hair is sticky from the cup of milk Elena threw at me.
“Get up and make your own coffee!” I yell back. “I’m too busy picking up toys!”
A door slams upstairs, followed by more shouting. Laszlo covers his ears. No one understands our through-the-wall, mumbled language, no one but me. I know how Daddy’s mind works. He would’ve said something like: “They’re old enough to pick up after themselves!”
To which I reply: “So are you! I could make an escape rope from all the soggy long johns you dump around this place!”
Sophia is my saviour. She’s more than a childminder; she’s my angel, my confidante, the other mother. I fantasize about her moving in with us, always there to rescue me from the sleepless, tireless monsters.
The monsters have gone, immaculately dressed, with neat hair and brushed teeth, not a hint of their inborn talent for torture in their angelic features.
Nights are no longer long stretches of peaceful rest. I’m their prisoner, waitress, maid, pet; like vampires, their thirst for attention begins in the dead hour and only ends when, exhausted, they fall asleep at the precise moment I’m serving dinner.