‘Don’t let that girl distract you from your studies, Rima’.
‘Dad, it’s fine. Me and Cass do our homework together every night. And she’s well smart – much cleverer than me. She helps me’.
‘I don’t want you getting help – you should be able to do things by yourself’.
‘Don’t make us regret sending you to that school. We can still put you in a boarding school’.
‘Dad, my school work is fine’.
‘Ravi, leave the poor girl alone. Your father’s just looking out for you, baby’.
Rhana had heard the arguments so many times before: why Rima wanted to go to the local school, why Ravi wanted her to board. She had to admit, she’d had reservations about sending Rima to the state school as well, but the girl knew her mind – she was like her parents in that respect. And Ravi’s concerns about the Goth girl seemed unfounded – although her father seemed to be the town flirt and her mother the town lush, the girl herself seemed relatively stable.
Neither Rima or Cassandra had seemed to make other friends naturally, so it was nice they had each other.
‘Well, my girl. You just make sure your standards don’t slip. By the way, honey, I have to work late tonight. Schmoozing some clients again. Such a drag. I’m sorry’.
Ravi was trying desperately to become the CEO of a big corporation but he was still climing the management ladder right now, hoping someone would drop off their perch and leave a vacancy, or maybe that he would be head-hunted. However it happened, he needed to, as they say, ‘make friends and influence people’
Taking clients to restaurants, tasting the drinks menus at bars, hosting parties… it was a hard job, but someone had to do it.
After all, nothing paid for itself – not their luxurious beach house, not Rima’s clothing and school books, not the upkeep of his wife’s damn Persian. Sheba she called it. That was asking for trouble, wasn’t it? For she surely did consider herself queen of all she surveyed.
Unlike Ravi, Rhana had no great ambitions to climb the greasy ladder. She was happy – ish – with her office job. It wasn’t what she got up for every morning, it certainly didn’t inspire that kind of passion in her, but it was a steady 9-5 and she had plenty of time in the evenings to chill out, see friends, spend time with Rima or play with Sheba. Maybe one day she’d think of something more challenging to do – but for now she’d rather take a bubble bath than burn the midnight oil. She wasn’t jealous of Ravi in the slightest. Slightly begrudging that he wasn’t home enough, perhaps. Slightly. Maybe. But not jealous.
‘So yeah, I was thinking everyone could come over at five on Friday and she could blow out the candles at six. Yeah, yeah, bring a bottle. Or two hahahaha. Yeah, of course she’s cool with it. See you then, honey. Bye!’
Attendees now invited to Sandi’s birthday party, Molly French decided she deserved a little down-time. A quick DVD before tea time would suffice.
River McIrish was sick of being the default babysitter whenever Molly felt like doing anything other than caring for her little girl. Molly was all sweetness and light and ‘but she loves you River, she looks up to you’ and ‘I’ll do your hair and make-up for you, make you look pretty, honey’ and before she knew it, River always ended up holding the baby. It was only because her mum refused to and she wasn’t good enough at saying no to adults yet.
She liked the girl, and she wouldn’t mind babysitting her if it wasn’t all the time. When were the Frenches going to leave anyway? Her mother had said they’d only be there a short while, just while Molly ‘got herself together’, but it had been two years now. At least Sandi was growing up and wouldn’t be a baby much longer. That was something.
But sometimes it got too much, and when Sandi started crying and wouldn’t stop (which happened more often than River would like), River hated that. This time she’d had it. Molly was in, she could take care of her own stupid kid. ‘I’m off out. See you later’.
Before Molly could protest, River was out of the door.
Whilst she was jogging around town to clear her head, she caught sight of a series of posters stapled to telegraph poles – all advertising kittens – free to a good home. She remembered all the times she’d begged her mum for a cat when she was little. ‘When you’re older. When you can be responsible’. Well, she was older now, and if she was trusted with Sandi so often, that must mean she was responsible. She picked up the phone and called.
‘Are you sure your mum’s authorised this, young lady?’
‘Absolutely. She’s just working late, at the lab in town. She’s really excited about having the cat’.
‘Well, OK, but we’ll give her a call later this week just to check she’s settled in OK and everything’s fine’.
‘I’m sure she’ll be glad to speak to you’.
River named the kitten Olive and snuck the cat and a tray of pet food into her bedroom before Molly (currently trying to put a screaming Sandi to bed) could hear.
She would talk to mum about it… but not just yet. She was always cranky after a late shift and it would be better to catch her when she’d slept well.
Molly rubbed her eyes blearily and looked at her mobile. Two am. What WAS that noise? She went over to Sandi’s crib, but the little girl was sleeping soundly. She crept into the living room.
What the hell?
She knocked gently on her cousin’s bedroom door. ‘Fiona? Fiona? Are you awake?’
Fiona McIrish dragged herself out of bed. Molly better not be getting her up to look after Sandi again.
What. On. Earth?
‘You’ve got some explaining to do, young lady’.