- Published: 30 March 2021
- ISBN: 9780143775744
- Imprint: RHNZ Black Swan
- Format: Trade Paperback
- Pages: 368
- RRP: $36.00
‘He weighs four kilos and two kilos of that is fluff! How can he occupy so much space?’
Sidney scooped up Brian and deposited him on the floor. Ninety per cent of the bed was now freed up for human occupation.
‘We don’t have to let him sleep with us,’ said Kerry.
‘Sure,’ said Sidney. ‘Industrial strength earplugs will block the yowling outside the door. And the scratching. And the sound of him revenge-pissing against the skirting boards.’
‘We could let him loose in the hills? The boys found him by the side of the road, after all, so he’s used to the big outdoors.’
‘He knows where we live. He will find us.’
‘He’s a cat,’ said Kerry. ‘Not Liam Neeson.’
‘He shat in your sneakers,’ said Sidney. ‘Who knows what else he’s capable of?’
Kerry reached over and checked the alarm clock.
‘Six-twenty. Perfectly civilised time. If it weren’t Saturday.’
He placed a kiss on Sidney’s temple. ‘Would you like me to bring you a nice fortifying cup of tea?’
‘I’m eight months pregnant,’ she replied. ‘You may as well just pour it straight down the toilet.’
‘I’ll take that as a yes,’ said Kerry, and swung his legs out of bed. ‘Toast?’
‘Small scraping of Vegemite, please.’
‘Ugh,’ Kerry shuddered. ‘Vegemite. The devil’s spread. Bovril, now — there’s some dark, yeasty deliciousness for you.’
He pattered out to the kitchen. Sidney propped herself in a sitting position against the pillows. She’d long given up on trying to get completely comfortable. There was too much of her; bits were always in the way. Some pregnant women looked like they’d stuck a basketball under their top, the rest of their figures unaltered.Whereas she appeared to have morphed into a Mr Men character, a wide stack of formless blobs.
It had been the same with her previous pregnancies, but she’d been barely in her twenties then, and had returned to her pre-pregnancy weight with reasonable rapidity. Not that she’d ever been fashionably slim, but Sidney had come to better appreciate her figure now that she seemed in danger of losing it forever. At thirty-four, Sidney knew she was a year shy of the ‘elderly gravida’ category for childbearing. But she also knew that since she’d moved into Kerry’s house, on the rural outskirts of Gabriel’s Bay, that she drove more and walked less than she did when she’d lived in town. She still gardened most days but suspected that, even when she could properly bend again, its aerobic benefits were limited to holding her breath when opening a bag of potting mix. Walking had been her main exercise over the last decade, and Sidney was surprised to realise how much she missed it.
When the baby came, her options would be further limited. She wouldn’t be able to push a buggy on the rural roads, not even one of those mountain types. The road’s speed limit was one hundred kilometres an hour, stock trucks and milk tankers were frequent,and the shoulder was about as wide as Brian the cat and littered with McDonald’s wrappings, beer cans and pūkeko corpses.
The local community hall, former headquarters of the Legion of Frontiersmen, held mother and baby yoga classes, and she could drive over the long, winding hill to the bigger town of Hampton and go swimming with junior. Or she could hire old Richard Simmons videos and shake her booty in the living room. Baby could watch. It would be educational.
‘Do they make Jolly Jumpers for adults?’ she asked, as Kerry placed tea and toast on the bedside table.
‘Apparently, they cause issues with muscular development.’ He slipped back into bed. ‘Tummy time is the recommended alternative. Builds core strength.’
Sidney eyed him sideways. ‘Do you have any core strength?’
He blew on his PG Tips. ‘We’re not talking about me, but about this super-human we’re bringing into the world, who will allow us to vicariously live out all our dreams.’
‘What if it’s uncoordinated and feeble? And funny looking?’
‘Then no one will ever doubt it’s my child,’ Kerry replied.
Sidney smiled. Kerry might not get a job as a Calvin Klein model, but despite his jokes about it, he had a naturally lean body, above average athleticism and the most attractive colouring — dark red hair and brown eyes — that Sidney fervently hoped the baby would inherit. Her own hair was most generously described as fawn, and though her eyes were a nice enough blue colour, the overall effect was underwhelming. If it didn’t require so much effort, she could be a master criminal. No one would ever remember her.
In appearance, her two sons took after their father, Feckless Fergal, the blue-eyed Irishman with hair as black as his soul.Needless to say, he hadn’t stayed around to see how they’d turnout. Aidan and Rory, just a year apart, had been snub-nosed and freckly all their childhood, but now he had turned twelve Aidan was just starting to show signs of sprouting a grown-up face, which Sidney found most disconcerting.
Not as disconcerting as his behaviour, though, which had been travelling downhill at the speed of a careening stock truck for the last six weeks. Everyone she’d talked to — all right, two people:Kerry and her friend, Mac, whose children were grown-up — had said it was perfectly normal at this age. Hormones, growing selfconsciousness and shifting sleep patterns combined into a toxic potion that transformed even the sweetest child into a sociopathic hell-beast, and it would all be over by the time Aidan turned — oh, thirty-five.
Kerry Macfarlane has run away from his wedding-that-wasn’t. He lands in coastal Gabriel’s Bay, with hopes to prove he’s not a complete failure.
Discarded medical equipment litters the floor: surgical tools blistered with rust, broken bottles, jars, the scratched spine of an old invalid chair.
As the new year of 1910 moved closer to its second month, the world marvelled that there had been so few deaths in Paris when the River Seine rose more than eight metres and flooded the city.
As I reach for the doorbell, my phone bleeps with a text and my head instantly fills with a roll call of possibilities.