Finding Audrey(2)

By: Sophie Kinsella


I turn to see Dad joining the fray, and a couple of neighbours are stepping out of their front doors. This is officially a Neighbourhood Incident.

‘Anne!’ Dad calls again.

‘Let me do this, Chris,’ says Mum warningly, and I can see Dad gulp. My dad is tall and handsome in a car advert way, and he looks like the boss, but inside, he isn’t really an alpha male.

No, that sounds bad. He’s alpha in a lot of ways, I suppose. Only Mum is even more alpha. She’s strong and bossy and pretty and bossy.

I said bossy twice, didn’t I?

Well. Draw your own conclusions from that.

‘I know you’re angry, sweetheart,’ Dad’s saying soothingly. ‘But isn’t this a little extreme?’

‘Extreme? He’s extreme! He’s addicted, Chris!’

‘I’m not addicted!’ Frank yells.

‘I’m just saying—’

‘What?’ Mum finally turns her head to look at Dad properly. ‘What are you saying?’

‘If you drop it there, you’ll damage the car.’ Dad winces. ‘Maybe shift to the left a little?’

‘I don’t care about the car! This is tough love!’ She tilts the computer more precariously on the window ledge and we all gasp, including the watching neighbours.

‘Love?’ Frank is shouting up at Mum. ‘If you loved me you wouldn’t break my computer!’

‘Well, if you loved me, Frank, you wouldn’t get up at two a.m. behind my back, to play online with people in Korea!’

‘You got up at two a.m.?’ says Ollie to Frank, wide-eyed.

‘Practising.’ Frank shrugs. ‘I was practising,’ he repeats to Mum with emphasis. ‘I have a tournament coming up! You’ve always said I should have a goal in life! Well, I have!’

‘Playing Land of Conquerors is not a goal! Oh God, oh God . . .’ She bangs her head on the computer. ‘Where did I go wrong?’

‘Oh, Audrey,’ says Ollie suddenly, spotting me. ‘Hi, how are you?’

I shrink back from my bedroom window in fright. My window is tucked away on a corner and no one was meant to notice me. Least of all Ollie, who I’m pretty sure has a tiny crush on me, even though he’s two years younger and barely reaches up to my chest.

‘Look, it’s the celebrity!’ quips Ollie’s dad, Rob. He’s been calling me ‘the celebrity’ for the last four weeks, even though Mum and Dad have separately been over to ask him to stop. He thinks it’s funny and that my parents have no sense of humour. (I’ve often noticed that people equate ‘having a sense of humour’ with ‘being an insensitive moron’.)

This time, though, I don’t think Mum or Dad have even heard Rob’s oh-so-witty joke. Mum is still moaning, ‘Where did I go wroooong?’ and Dad is peering at her anxiously.

‘You didn’t go wrong!’ he calls up. ‘Nothing’s wrong! Darling, come down and have a drink. Put the computer down . . . for now,’ he adds hastily at her expression. ‘You can throw it out of the window later.’

Mum doesn’t move an inch. The computer is rocking still more precariously on the windowsill and Dad flinches. ‘Sweetheart, I’m just thinking about the car . . . We’ve only just paid it off . . .’ He moves towards the car and holds out his hands, as though to shield it from plummeting hardware.

‘Get a blanket!’ says Ollie, springing into life. ‘Save the computer! We need a blanket. We’ll form a circle . . .’

Mum doesn’t even seem to hear him. ‘I breastfed you!’ she shrieks at Frank. ‘I read you Winnie-the-Pooh! All I wanted was a well-rounded son who would be interested in books and art and the outdoors and museums and maybe a competitive sport—’

‘LOC is a competitive sport!’ yells Frank. ‘You don’t know anything about it! It’s a serious thing! You know, the prize pot in the international LOC competition in Toronto this year is six million dollars!’

‘So you keep telling us!’ Mum erupts. ‘So, what, you’re going to win that, are you? Make your fortune?’

‘Maybe.’ He gives her a dark look. ‘If I get enough practice.’

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