Transformation of Minna Hargreaves, The (6 page)

BOOK: Transformation of Minna Hargreaves, The
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I was right. The taxi rolled to a stop and I’d only just managed to work out that we were at the airport, but on the opposite side from the terminal, when Cara bounced up, opened doors and started babbling at us. She was coming with us on the helicopter, she informed us, with a big huge smile like we were supposed to be delighted by that. Dad smiled back and chucked luggage around. Mum gave Cara a very level look, then turned away. Noah slouched around and appeared vaguely interested by the chopper. My friends came and hugged me. The four grandparents came and hugged me, although Gran H managed to hug me without touching me, which suited us both.

Seb didn’t show.

‘He isn’t coming,’ I whispered to my friends.

‘There’s still time,’ Jax said, staring at Noah who grinned at her but appeared to find the chopper more interesting.

‘There he is!’ said Lizzie. ‘Come on girls — it’s our duty to keep the camera away for Minna’s last farewell’

I hardly heard her. Seb was here. I ran to meet him. He jumped out of his car and hugged me. Then he kissed me and it was a kiss to remember, a kiss I could take with
me to warm and comfort me. ‘Hiya, doll. Can’t stay. Here — got you something.’ He pushed a parcel into my hand.

‘Oh, Seb! Can I open it now?’ It was small. I hoped it was a ring. It had to be — a ring would mean so much.

‘Sure,’ he said, his smile warming me but killing me too. ‘Better hurry though. Gotta go in a sec.’

I undid the ribbon and stuffed it in my pocket. I’d keep that and the paper. Inside was one of those little cardboard jewellery wallets. It had to be a ring. I opened it. ‘Seb! Oh, that’s beautiful!’ It
a ring — a gorgeous silver ring with a garnet set in it. ‘That’s my birthstone.’ I couldn’t say anything else so I threw my arms around him and hugged him.

He was pleased. ‘Don’t forget me, babe.’ Another brief hug and he was gone. I slid the ring on my finger and watched him leave me.

The girls rushed up. ‘What did he give you?’

‘Show us!’

‘Wow! Is that significant or what!’

Then Dad was calling and I had to go, walk away and leave my friends, my life and my love. Prison was a short helicopter ride away.

The helicopter tipped and rocked so that wild shots of the city and harbour reeled into view and out again. Damn Cara. My first helicopter ride and I couldn’t enjoy it. It was all her fault. I turned my face away from her and the camera. I could get my own back by doing some dire filming, or forgetting to do it at all. Serve her right. No one would watch the programme, the channel would have to pull it and all the money she’d laid out would be wasted.

Dad’s voice blathered in my headphones telling us to look at this mountain, that headland, this island. I tuned him out. Couldn’t tune Mum out though — she was sick, and not just once either. She vomited the entire journey. Dad ended up asking the pilot to fly as smoothly as he
could, and he kept patting Mum’s arm and saying ‘Not long to go now’, but I noticed he looked at the view and not at her. ‘There it is!’ Dad said. ‘Only a couple of minutes more, Liv.’

Mum was sick again. I turned my head away, and there below us was the island that got Dad and Cara all misty eyed and breathless. Not me. If ever I have to live on an island, it won’t be a chunk of bare rock. Oh, that’s right — I
going to live on this island. Lucky old me.

We swooped in a loop right around the island. Mum moaned again.

‘It’s not very big,’ Noah said.

‘It’ll be big enough once we start weeding it,’ Dad said.

‘You have got to be joking.’ I hoped he was, but even if he wasn’t he’d have a hard job getting me to weed the place.

Dad chuckled. ‘That’s one of our jobs — eradication of tradescantia, thistles, ragwort. Lots to do.’

‘I’ll film,’ I said. ‘You weed.’

The island stuck up out of the sea as if somebody underneath had slapped a hand under it and said
up you go
. Its sides were vertical rock. The pilot pointed to a scar on a cliff side. ‘See that? That’s what finally stopped the place being farmed.’ He flew us closer so we could see the narrow track snaking up the cliff. A slip had taken a bite out of it and left the scar.

Given the choice of crawling up the track or flying in by helicopter I’d choose the helicopter any day.

The pilot pointed out another attraction. ‘There’s your house. Used to be the farmhouse. Hope they’ve tidied it up for you.’

And then we were down.

Cara leapt out first, toting the camera. Dad ignored her and turned to help Mum out. She was dry retching by this time. Not a good start to our new life. Dad put his arm around her and helped her walk through the grass to the house. I followed them up the three steps on to a verandah that stretched around two sides of the house. We stepped into a big room that had the kitchen at one end and an airy family room at the other. I stood at the big windows while Dad got Mum settled on the sofa. Out the windows I could see the sea and, beyond that, the mainland where my real life waited for me.

I turned away. I would not cry anywhere near Cara and her camera because if I did, I could be one hundred per cent sure that that particular piece of footage would end up on screen. She liked me about as much as I liked her, and if Dad kept smiling at her like that I would have to deck him. In the next second though, I decided I’d misjudged him. The scene went like this:

Dad: (smiles at Cara)

Cara: (smiles back, eyes sparkling, body inclined slightly towards Dad)

Dad: Make Liv a cup of tea, would you, Cara?

Cara: (through clenched teeth) Certainly, Wes.

Me: (big smirk)

Cara: (having observed big smirk) Minna — I’ll show you how the water works.

Me: It’s okay, Cara. I know how water works.

She shrugged at that and said, ‘Suit yourself. It comes off the roof — I guess you might like the taste of bird shit and salt.’

One–nil to Cara. This place was living up to all my expectations — unfortunately. Cara was busy laughing her little socks off as she filled the kettle. My only comfort was that her whole programme pretty much depended on me. She turned her head to speak to me. ‘Don’t worry Minna, it’s fine when it’s filtered and boiled. The old guy who lived here drank it straight from the tank. Survived till he was eighty-one.’

I stood in the middle of the room. Crates and boxes cluttered the floor space. Mum lay on the couch. Noah slouched in a chair beside a woodburner. Dad had disappeared. Suddenly I didn’t care about Cara and her games. All I wanted to do was get away from here and from her. I walked back outside. ‘Minna! Take the camera,’ she called after me.

I ignored her and was at the bottom of the steps off the verandah when she caught up with me. ‘Here.’ She shoved it at me. ‘You have to get used to taking it everywhere. Remember the training?’

I just shook my head and kept walking. Let her sweat. I hoped she’d lie awake at nights worrying that I was going to mess the whole thing up. She muttered something but went back inside.

I didn’t get very far because Dad bounded around the corner of the house, swept me up in a whirl of
isn’t this wonderful, dream come true, can’t believe we’re really here.
Yeah, that last one I could totally relate to. He dragged me back inside because there was important information Cara had to impart to all of us. I went because the sooner we got rid of her the better pleased I’d be.

The second she saw Dad, she went into a sickening domestic goddess routine — putting out cups, sugar (which none of us takes), milk and biscuits on a plate, and all the time she slid sleek smiles in Dad’s direction. He didn’t notice; he went over to Mum and asked her if she was feeling better yet.

‘No,’ she whispered.

He took the tea Cara poured and carried it to Mum. Didn’t say thanks to Cara which pissed her off.

Noah ate all the biscuits.

Dad drank his tea, in between lighting the wood-burner.

I drank tea too, mainly because there didn’t seem to be anything else and I was thirsty.

Cara sipped her tea and the camera lay on the table in front of her. If she wanted me to be filming 24–7 then she wasn’t setting a crash-hot example.

Dad’s attention shifted between Mum, the view, which he declared out of this world, and the woodburner, which seemed to need his attention every ten seconds. Cara didn’t rate. The frown lines deepened in her forehead. She’d need botox if she hung around the father much longer.

She set her cup down with a click on to the saucer, which for sure we’d never use again because who wanted to wash useless dishes just for the fun of it? But as always, old Cara had a trick or two up her sleeve. ‘Right. Attention please.’ She glanced at Mum who didn’t attempt to open her eyes.

Noah slouched lower on the window seat and didn’t open his eyes either.

Cara frowned some more and focused in on Dad and me. ‘You don’t need to worry about those cameras.’ She pointed up at the ceiling. ‘I’ll collect the footage from them when I come each month and change the film.’

I gaped at her, a whole heap of words whirling in my mind that I squashed down because of not wanting to provide Good Television.

Noah didn’t care about GT. He opened his eyes and actually sat up. ‘You mean — they’re on all the time? Like security cameras?’

She nodded. ‘Yes. Didn’t Wes tell you?’

We looked at Dad who didn’t even try to look guilty. ‘I might have omitted to mention it,’ he said. ‘Don’t worry, we’ll soon forget they’re there.’

And that was meant to comfort and reassure me? I leaned my head in my hands and those damn cameras would have caught the groan I couldn’t manage to suppress. Bloody great. How in hell was I going to appear light-hearted, adventurous, charming, quirky, capable, et-bloody-cetera with those cameras up there recording every move I made?

I lifted my head and glared at Cara. She smiled back at me and her eyes held exactly the same expression that Gran H’s do when she’s slam-dunked me. I smiled back. ‘I am so going to enjoy the filming, Cara,’ I said. ‘Thank you so much for entrusting the task to me.’

That took the sparkle out of her eye. Cow.

She smiled at me again. ‘Time for me to leave,’ she said with just a slight emphasis on
. She let that sink in before she added, ‘We’ll be back in a month to pick up the film and drop off any supplies you need.’ She smiled
at me again. I had to admit she was pretty good in the revenge department.

I trailed out of the house after her because watching the chopper take off would be my last piece of
for an entire month. I watched Cara get into it and refused to let myself think about how long a month was.

The chopper lifted off with a rush of air that flattened the grass and blow-dried the trees and then it was just the four of us. Dad, of course, was acting like he was five years old, this was his birthday and he still had a mountain of presents to open. He rubbed his hands. ‘Come on, troops. Back to the house. I need to show you how to use the radio.’

I didn’t even bother sending him a dirty look. I trudged back to the house, lifted my head and composed my face for the benefit of the cameras and headed for the privacy of my own room. Dad had other ideas. ‘Min!’ he bellowed. ‘Here. Now.’

I went, but only because the alternative would have been an unseemly slanging match caught forever on those bloody cameras. I hated them and I hated him and no way was I going to use the bloody radio which for sure wasn’t going to be any sort of radio that would interest me.

I was right.

Dad swivelled around from where he sat at a sort of desk, stuck to the wall midway between the open-plan kitchen and sitting room. He beamed a megawatt grin in my direction. ‘This is it, kids. This is our contact with the outside world.’

Noah grunted.

‘Great,’ I said. It was a box stuck to the wall. It had a microphone and a handset and it didn’t look to me that I’d be able to contact anyone meaningful and important to me in the outside world.

I was right again. He gave me the benefit of a full six seconds of his attention. ‘This isn’t for social use, Min. We do the listening watch. We can use it for emergencies. But that’s it. Understand?’

‘Yeah.’ I didn’t bother asking what a listening watch was. Who cared?

Dad seized the chance while he had us all in the one place to drop in a couple more gems about Life on Isolation Island.

One: I was not to use my hair-dryer because it would drain too much power from the solar batteries.

Two: showers were limited to two minutes and baths totally prohibited.

‘I’m just gonna love it here,’ I said. ‘I can tell already.’

Dad beamed at me. ‘That’s the spirit, Min.’

I treated him to the raised-eyebrow stare. He couldn’t be that dumb, surely? But then again, maybe he could. I was beginning to think this whole thing had turned his brain to bird seed.

Noah had had enough of quality family time. He muttered, ‘Going exploring.’

Yeah right. Going to find a stash for his hash more like but Dad slapped him on the back, said, ‘Excellent idea,’ and trotted out with him, so suck on that, stoner brother.

Mum hadn’t moved. She hadn’t even drunk her tea.

‘You okay, Mum?’

She wiggled the fingers of one hand at me but didn’t say anything.

Great. Here I was stuck on an island in the middle of nowhere. My father had run off exploring. My only and dearly beloved sibling had taken himself off to get high once he could ditch the father. My mother was stretched out on a couch and didn’t look like being any sort of company for the rest of the day.

The camera I was supposed to take with me everywhere I went lay on the table. I left it there and went off to my bedroom. It was a truly awful room. When I felt better — if I ever did — then I’d film it and ever so subtly indicate that it was Cara who had created the nightmare of pink: flowery curtains, flowery floor mat, flowery bedspread, flowery wallpaper.

Whoever had decorated this lacked the style gene. Or maybe it was her, out for revenge. I wished I’d brought my posters. I wished I’d brought a tin of plain, quiet paint. I wished I was anywhere in the world except here.

BOOK: Transformation of Minna Hargreaves, The
10.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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