FIVE

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

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Sammy’s dad came in through the front door, shaking the rain from his umbrella onto the doormat. He closed the door behind him, put the umbrella in the stand, and propped his suitcase against the wall as he hung up his coat. When he saw Sammy he stopped. Sammy smiled and got up off the sofa.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Mum’s out. So I thought I could stay over. Play with Ryan.”

Ryan was on his tummy on the sitting room rug, building a house from plastic bricks for his dinosaurs to live in.

“Oh,” her dad said. “Where’s Tracy?”

“Upstairs on Facebook.”

“What’s for dinner?”

“Pasta with tomato soup poured over. It’s in the microwave.”

Her dad groaned and rolled his eyes. “It’s Friday night and I’ve got pasta and tomato soup for tea. That lazy bitch.” He kneaded his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. “Can you get me a beer out? United are on in a minute. I’m going upstairs to get changed. Ryan, tell your lazy mother to quit messaging her boyfriends and get you ready for bed. If you’re quick you can watch the game with me.”

At three nil down, with fifteen minutes to go, Sammy’s dad clicked off the telly. He reached for the beer on top of the stack of Tracy’s TV guides, slugged back the remains, and crushed the can in his hand. Then he got up and collected the other cans from the floor, carrying them through to the kitchen.

“Bedtime, Ryan,” he said, as he dropped the cans in the bin. He turned to Sammy. “You’ll need to shift the washing off the futon. Just stick it on the floor. You know where the sheets are.” He switched off the kitchen light and walked down the hall.

“Dad,” Sammy said, as she followed him, “I met an old woman today. She said she knew you.”

Her dad’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t know any old women.”

“She gave me a bracelet…”

“I don’t know her. If you see her again, tell her to sod off.” He nudged Ryan up the stairs in front of him and trudged up behind.

“Dad?”

He stopped, shoulders slumped. “Sam, I just want to go to bed.”

“I was only going to say goodnight.”

Her dad carried on up the stairs, taking Ryan to his bedroom and switching the hall light off as he went. “Goodnight,” he said.

“Love you,” Sammy called up.

The bedroom door slammed shut.

 

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