Finding Audrey(3)

By: Sophie Kinsella



‘Frank, get real!’ Her voice echoes around the close, shrill and almost scary. ‘You’re not entering the international LOC competition, you’re not going to win the bloody six-million-dollar prize pot, and you’re not going to make your living from gaming! IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!’





A month earlier

It all begins with the Daily Mail. Quite a lot of things in our house begin with the Daily Mail.

Mum starts twitching in that way she does. We’ve had supper and cleared away and she’s been reading the paper with a glass of wine – ‘Me time’, she calls it – and she’s paused at an article. I can see the headline over her shoulder:

THE EIGHT SIGNS YOUR CHILD IS ADDICTED TO COMPUTER GAMES.

‘Oh my God,’ I hear her murmur. ‘Oh my God.’ Her finger is moving down the list and she’s breathing fast. As I squint over, I catch a sub-heading:

7. Irritability and moodiness.

Ha. Ha ha.

That’s my hollow laugh, in case you didn’t get that.

I mean, seriously, moodiness? Like, James Dean was a moody teenager in Rebel Without a Cause (I have the poster – best film poster ever, best movie ever, sexiest movie star ever – why, why, why did he have to die?). So James Dean must therefore have been addicted to video games? Oh, wait.

Exactly.

But there’s no point saying any of this to my mum, because it’s logical and my mum doesn’t believe in logic, she believes in horoscopes and green tea. Oh, and of course the Daily Mail.

THE EIGHT SIGNS MY MUM IS ADDICTED TO THE DAILY MAIL:

She reads it every day.

She believes everything it says.

If you try to take it out of her grasp, she pulls it back sharply and says ‘Leave it!’ like you’re trying to kidnap her precious young.

When it runs a scare story about Vitamin D she makes us all take our shirts off and ‘sunbathe’. (Freeze-bathe more like.)

When it runs a scare story about melanoma she makes us all put on sunscreen.

When it runs a story about ‘The face cream that really DOES work’, she orders it that moment. Like, she gets out her iPad then and there.

If she can’t get it on holiday, she gets major withdrawal symptoms. I mean, talk about irritability and moodiness.

She once tried to give it up for Lent. She lasted half a morning.



Anyway. There’s nothing I can do about my mum’s tragic dependency except hope that she doesn’t do too much damage to her life. (She’s already done major damage to our living room, after reading an ‘Interiors’ piece – ‘Why not handpaint all your furniture?’)

So then Frank ambles into the kitchen, wearing his black I MOD, THEREFORE I AM T-shirt, his earphones in and his phone in his hand. Mum lowers the Daily Mail and stares at him as though the scales have fallen from her eyes.

(I’ve never understood that. Scales?

Anyway. Whatever.)

‘Frank,’ she says. ‘How many hours have you played your computer games this week?’

‘Define computer games,’ Frank says, without looking up from his phone.

‘What?’ Mum looks at me uncertainly, and I shrug. ‘You know. Computer games. How many hours? FRANK!’ she yells as he makes no move to respond. ‘How many hours? Take those things out of your ears!’

‘What?’ says Frank, taking his earphones out. He blinks at her as though he didn’t hear the question. ‘Is this important?’

‘Yes, this is important!’ Mum spits. ‘I want you to tell me how many hours you’re spending per week playing computer games. Right now. Add it up.’

‘I can’t,’ says Frank calmly.

‘You can’t? What do you mean, you can’t?’

‘I don’t know what you’re referring to,’ says Frank, with elaborate patience. ‘Do you mean literally computer games? Or do you mean all screen games, including Xbox and PlayStation? Do you include games on my phone? Define your terms.’

Frank is such a moron. Couldn’t he see Mum was in one of her pre-rant build-ups?

‘I mean anything that warps your mind!’ says Mum, brandishing the Daily Mail. ‘Do you realize the dangers of these games? Do you realize your brain isn’t developing properly? Your BRAIN, Frank! Your most precious organ.’

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