Transformation of Minna Hargreaves, The (8 page)

BOOK: Transformation of Minna Hargreaves, The
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The evening of Day One was a bunch of happies. Mum sat up. She wanted to go to the toilet. Moving made her sick, but I’d cunningly put a bowl beside the sofa by then so it wasn’t the disaster it could have been.

She tried to stand up and she staggered. Dad sat at the table doing some paperwork and wouldn’t even look at her. Noah, as always, was absent — in both body and mind this time.

Mum let go of the arm of the sofa and tottered across the room. I was expecting her to ask me to help her. She didn’t. She didn’t even look in my direction. She stumbled and clutched at her stomach.

I looked at Dad. Nope, he wasn’t going to move, not even if she dropped down dead.

I sighed loudly, got up, went over, put my arm around her and helped her out of the room. I didn’t talk to her and I figured she got the Bad Mother message.

Dad turned a page. Loudly.

I waited outside the toilet until she reappeared.

‘There’s a tap there.’ I pointed to where it lurked in the weeds.

She didn’t answer. Just started the totter back to the house without washing her hands. I kept my arm around her and my mouth shut but there was plenty going on in my head — mainly that if she was too sick to wash her hands, then she was pretty damn sick because my mother was a bit on the fanatical side about hand washing. And if she was that sick, then she should go home, and if she went home then I’d go too because I for sure wasn’t going to stay here and be Dad’s pet handmaiden. But if Mum thought I was going to live with her she could think again. I would live with Lizzie.

Or I could live with Seb. The thought of that set my toes tingling and zapped up the heart rate. His parents would be cool about it so long as he didn’t get me pregnant. His mother liked me. I could go on the pill and I’d make sure Seb always used a condom as well just to be double, total certain, because one thing I knew for double, total certain was that I didn’t want to get pregnant.

Mum stopped to gather her strength before attacking the steps. I would be so glad to be out of here and away from her. I nearly turned my head to ask her where she’d go when we left the island, but didn’t in case she said she was going to live with
, whoever he was. But, thinking
about it, that’s exactly where she should go. He was the one who got her into this state so fair dos for him to look after her till she was better. Huh! That would teach him to be a bit careful who he shagged.

‘You want to go to bed?’ I asked as we stumbled back into the house.

She said something that could have been yes.

‘She can sleep on the sofa,’ Dad said.

The silent one speaks. This whole farce was his idea so let him sleep under the eye of the camera. I was pissed off with the pair of them, but at least Dad could still look out for himself. ‘The bedroom’s along here.’

‘Minna!’ Dad yelled in a sergeant-major voice. ‘Did you hear what I said?’

I yelled back over my shoulder. ‘Yes I did and so did the whole freaking country.’

That shut him up.

The bed wasn’t made but Mum lay down anyway. I tucked a thick duvet around her. The room was cold and she was shivering. I looked at her. Hell. I couldn’t just leave her like that — yeah, she deserved to suffer, but still …

I walked a couple of steps on my way to ask Dad what to do before I worked out that he wouldn’t help me. ‘Mum? What …?’

‘Hottie. In a box.’

It was in the third box I looked in. I filled it from the hot tap in the kitchen. Chatty father ignored me. ‘Thank you, Min,’ whispered my mother.

I’d had enough of Day One, of my family and of Isolation Island. I did my video diary:
Can’t complain that
nothing happens on an island
. I hadn’t bothered with the make-up and my hair was less than sophisticated but Cara might appreciate the understated irony. Lizzie, Addy and Jax would understand and at least I’d avoided showing my real feelings. But I should have taken more trouble. When Seb saw me looking like a refugee he might forget I was one hot chick and dump me. I twisted the ring on my finger. Had he given a ring to Jilly Trant too?

I picked up the koala and held it tight. My mind was made up — when Mum left the island I would go too and I would ask Seb if I could live at his house.

I jumped into bed and lay there shivering. It wasn’t entirely from the cold. What if Seb’s parents said no? What if Seb said no?
No doll, I don’t think that’s such a hot idea.

I snuggled down into the bed. It was comfortable and I wondered who would sleep in it next — would Cara find another family to torture in the name of good television? I fell asleep with images of the island as we’d seen if from the chopper swinging through my head.

Day Two, and I woke up to a weird howling noise. I sat up, not sure for a second where I was. Oh, that’s right. Isolation Island, but not for much longer praise the Lord, and the inventor of the helicopter who I think was Leonardo da Vinci. Well, good old Leo. If Seb and I ever did have a kid we could call him Leonardo da V.

I jumped out of bed. It was cold. I put on my jeans, then I swapped them for trackies, bush shirt and thick disgusting jersey — clothes I would never have to wear after today.

Dad wasn’t in the kitchen but there were blankets airing by the woodburner.

Tell the world how pissed off you are, Father dear. Make it perfectly plain and clear that you didn’t go near your wife last night and don’t intend to ever again.

Not that I blamed him. I just wished he wouldn’t provide Cara with quite so much excellent television.

I fed bread into the toaster. What if I wasn’t his kid either? How much did a DNA test cost? When I had kids — excuse me, make that
, and a big fat if at that — I’d make sure they knew who their father was. My ring clanged against the toaster. Seb and I would be responsible and careful. We wouldn’t drag a poor, unwanted kid into the world.

Jilly’s baby was due next month. But Seb would have learnt from that. He’d make sure it didn’t happen again and he must love me or he wouldn’t have given me the ring. He would be so surprised to see me this very afternoon.

The toast popped and I got down to some serious eating which I have always found to be an excellent
to thinking. So — just me, my toast and that weird howling noise. I grabbed my iPod and drowned it out.

The alarm went for the listening watch so I did it. Good old Maritime R. Did they know how fantastic it was to talk to another human being?

Then I took myself off to the state-of-the-art facilities beside the chickens and discovered that the weird howling noise was one hell wind ripping across the top of the hill. I stood and stared up at the trees that grew sideways instead of upright. Could a helicopter land in
such a high wind? I hoped so, but the longer I watched the trees bending and swaying, the more I had to admit that no chopper would be coming near us today. What if Mum got better before the wind stopped and I really had to do the whole jail sentence of twelve

The hens cackled at me and rushed to the fence. ‘What?’ I squatted down. ‘What’s your problem?’ I worked it out. Hunger.

What do hens eat?

It turns out they are rather fond of burnt spud, mushy broccoli and bits of bread. I stayed watching them for a bit. Then I remembered the camera. I was supposed to be doco-maker extraordinaire so Cara could have shots of hens doing what hens do. Not a lot of variety in the hen compound, but I felt it served her right because it was her bright idea to shut me up here with nothing but hens to talk to.

Back in the house there was still no sign of the males of the family. I had to get home today or I’d go mad. Boredom and isolation — a fail-safe recipe for madness. I tiptoed into Mum’s room. If she was still sick, then the chances of getting off the island had to be good.

She was awake. ‘How you feeling, Mum?’

‘Better thanks, Min.’

Not what I wanted to hear. ‘You want anything to eat?’

‘Just a cup of tea. Weak. Thank you, Min.’ Her voice wasn’t much above a whisper.

I made the tea. She was still sick — trying to put a brave face on it, but she didn’t fool me. She’d be much
better off at home where there were doctors and hospitals.

She drank half a cup of the tea.

After that there was nothing to do.

Noah slept till lunchtime. Dad didn’t show up to drag him out into the real world of howling wind, pissed-off fathers and faithless mothers.

Only the thought that I’d be off the island as soon as the wind dropped prevented me from jumping off the cliff and swimming for it. All I saw of Noah was his back disappearing out the door. ‘I hope the wind’s blown your stash away,’ I yelled after him. That put a spring in his step.

Mum had a quarter of a finger of dry toast for lunch but it stayed down, along with the other half of her cup of tea.

If she got better I’d kill her.

An hour later she staggered out to the kitchen; I helped her with the journey to the loo. All the time I waited for her outside the door, the hens yelled and yabbered at me. ‘What?’ I yabbered back, but it obviously wasn’t the right answer because they kept on and on.

I thought Mum might say something but she didn’t. Instead, she threw up. So, not getting better. Good. We didn’t talk.

I was seriously pissed off with Dad. He didn’t come back all day and what exactly was I meant to do with those damn chickens who yelled at me every time I had to go near them?

I shut myself away from cameras, read my magazines and listened to music all afternoon. I wrote to Lizzie and
then to Jax and Addy but it wasn’t the same as talking to them. I wrote to Seb but I’d never have the guts to send it to him.

Darling Seb, I love you so much. Come and take me away from here. Let’s live together. Tell me you love me

I cried. But I vowed again that no way was I ever going to film myself crying and being sorry for myself.

By late afternoon I was yearning for real food as well as for company. Maybe Mum …

I took myself off to her room to check. Nope. She wasn’t going to be chatting or cooking any time soon.

‘Mum, I’m hungry. I need real food. What can we have for dinner?’

‘Get something out of the freezer.’

I checked the basin by her bed. She hadn’t been sick again. Did that mean she was getting better? Not if how she looked was anything to go by.

But maybe she’d be able to tell me how to cook whatever chunk of raw flesh I hauled out of the freezer.

I collected the camera, ran down the path — wind still roaring overhead — braved the chorus of chicken yells and opened the freezer doors. Well now, a chicken would seem appropriate. There was a shelf full of them. I took one and it was soft, soggy and unattractive.

I may not know much about being a domestic goddess but I do know when a freezer isn’t working. This one wasn’t. It held our entire supply of meat for the year and the whole caboodle was slowly rotting.

The chicken felt cold. It would be okay to eat. Probably.

Mum turned faintly green when I asked her how to
cook it, but she said, ‘Put it in the biggest pot. Cover it with water. Get it simmering and then throw in any vegetables you can find. Won’t be great but you’ll be able to eat it.’

Dad came in when darkness fell. I’d say he’d been chopping and hacking things all day by the look of him. He sat down at the table, just waved a hand at me and didn’t say anything such as
you brilliant kind and clever girl what would I do without you thank you thank you thank you.

‘Dad,’ I said, ‘just because we’re on an island doesn’t mean you can leave off the deodorant. And may I suggest you have a wash before dinner?’

He grinned and ambled off to have a shower.

I cheered up. Perhaps a day of hacking and chopping had got rid of some of the pissed-ness about Mum.

Not so.

‘Mum’s a bit better,’ I said when he reappeared.

‘Min — what your mother does or feels is of no interest to me whatsoever.’

All right, sunshine — try this one then. ‘The freezer isn’t working.’

He shot out of the house. Came back half an hour later.

‘Fix it?’ I asked.

He dipped a spoon into the concoction on the stove. ‘Needs salt. No. It’s unfixable. The solar panel is smashed — wind must’ve ripped it off the roof. So no freezer and no washing machine.’ He didn’t sound particularly worried. ‘Why didn’t you feed the chooks and where’s Noah?’

I ignored that. ‘But Dad — all our meat! We won’t have any.’

He swished a hand at me. ‘We’ll talk about that when Noah turns up.’ He looked around as if he expected Noah to appear from under the table. ‘The chooks, Min — why didn’t you feed them?’

‘What with? Why me? And how?’ I glared at him. ‘How come it’s my job all of a sudden to feed everything and everybody?’ I gave a brief thought to the cameras, but too bloody bad. I kept yelling. ‘Is there anything else on this crap island that you’ve forgotten to tell me to feed so you can yell at me when it squawks?’ I concentrated on making a whirlpool in the pot to keep the tears from getting out and down my face.

I heard him take in a huge breath. ‘Sorry, Min. Sorry. Things are a bit — well, you know how they are.’ He drummed his fingers on the table. ‘Have you any idea where Noah might be?’

I turned round to stare him in the eye. ‘He’ll be wherever it is that he’s hidden his dope. He’ll be smoking up a storm, which probably isn’t such a dumb thing to do right now.’

Dad barked out a laugh. ‘Don’t be crass, Min.’

I shrugged. ‘Go and look for him — and open your eyes, Dad! How come you and Mum … how come neither of you have even noticed he’s been a stoner for the last few months?’

He gaped at me, then snapped his mouth shut. ‘Why didn’t you say something?’

I was yelling again — he was copping all the misery of the day, but it served him right in my opinion. ‘Like when
was I meant to say anything? Catch you when you breezed in yelling for food at nine o’clock at night? Why didn’t
notice? You’re the parent. Oh, that’s right — you’re never around to notice. I forgot. Silly me.’

BOOK: Transformation of Minna Hargreaves, The
4.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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