It was so much easier to get up when there was no school. Sammy kneaded her eyes, tucked her unruly hair behind her ears, and leapt out of bed. Downstairs in the kitchen she fetched a bowl, emptied in a packet of porridge, added milk, stirred, then slammed it in the microwave. Load up on carbs for footy. Saturday was football in the park with Dad. And some other junk that didn’t really matter. Eat some meals, watch some telly, work on her Kill/Death ratio on the Playstation. Padding, essentially. Not that she absolutely loved football or anything. It was all about spending time with Dad. Comic books and video games were cooler, but she could play footy better than most boys and it was the only thing her dad took notice of, making it the best way to get father-daughter time. She hadn’t seen him in almost two weeks due to an away game last weekend, but this weekend he’d be free. And she couldn’t wait.
Sammy’s mum swept into the kitchen. She twirled, flinging her immaculately straight glossy hair out behind her, and suffusing the air with the scent of cocoa butter. She stopped to face Sammy.
“Morning, sweetie.” She gave Sammy an air kiss so as not to imprint pink lip gloss on her.
“Hey,” Sammy said. She couldn’t help smiling. Mama was always happy and it was infectious. She was a little tired looking and her jeans squeezed her love handles over her belt, but she was beautiful.
“I bet you can’t wait to trail around shop, after shop, after fabulous shop, behind me while I look for a new outfit.”
The microwave pinged. Sammy took her porridge out and carried it to the table.
“Nope. Not going shopping,” she said. She sat and began shovelling breakfast into her mouth. “I’m meeting Dad at the park,” she mumbled in between mouthfuls.
Her mum didn’t reply.
Sammy waited, but her mum said nothing while gazing apologetically at her.
“You’re kidding me!”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart.”
“Dad cancelled last weekend! He promised we’d practice keepy-ups.”
“He texted this morning. Tracy’s come down with a migraine. He’s taking your stepbrother out so she can recover in peace.”
“She hasn’t really got a migraine.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Where’s he taking Ryan?”
“I didn’t ask.”
“They’re going to the park, aren’t they?”
“I really don’t know. I’m sorry.” Her mother turned away and began filling a bowl with bran flakes. Cancelled again! Sammy used her spoon to scrape at a hard patch of porridge, which had welded itself to the table over a week ago.
“Will you come to Meadowhall with me instead?” her mum asked.
“I don’t want to go shopping.”