I blink at his face. He looks pale. Like his tan got sucked back into his pores.
“Hi,” he says, his arm still around me, looking down like he really cares.
“Why don’t let me drive you home.”
“Great idea,” Sir says. He stands up and claps his hands. Team comes running.
“Morning practice cancelled tomorrow. We’ll do ground training in the afternoon. Meet me at Santos beach.”
Then he chucks me under the chin. Like he does with the boys all the time, after practice. But it’s the first time he’s ever done that to me.
When I arrive home, Ma and Gabs are there. I stand in the doorway, in my borrowed wetsuit, covered in towels I don’t own, feeling a bit dumb, like I’ve forgotten something.
“Here’s your stuff,” Max says from behind me.
I turn and realise he is in my house, setting down my school bag. Oh no. And there he goes, gazing at all the quotes covering the walls. Great, now more people know. But all he does is give a soft chuckle, “Where were you when I had to write that paper in Grade 10?”
I shrug, trying to pretend I’m not mortified, and say, “I hear they do another play in Grade 12.”
“Good to know,” he says.
“Tazmin!” Ma calls, as if the kitchen is in the next house. “Who is with you?”
“It’s me, Tannie,” Max says.
Ma pops right out, like a jack in the box. “Oh Max, didn’t know we’d be seeing you today. How’s your ma?”
“Mom’s doing good, thank you,” Max says. “I hope you don’t mind that I brought Tazmin home. She had a rough practice and coach thought she should get into a hot shower right away.”
She sets her piercing gaze right on me. “What happened?”
I shrug. “No big deal. But I would like a shower.”
And then we all hear a squeal and look down to see that Gabs has crawled over to Max and pulled his little self up by Max’s leg, clinging to the damp neoprene. “Hey there,” Max says, and scoops up Gabs. “You’re looking good, little man. Haven’t seen you in months.”
Gabs babbles back and grab’s Max’s hair, with cry of delight.
“Doesn’t see enough men,” Ma says. “Women at home, women at the crèche, boy isn’t going to know how to be a man.” She lets out a sharp tsk. “Tazmin, go take that shower. Max, ask your ma if you can stay for dinner. We’re having fish curry. We’ll have it early, not a problem.”
“Ma –” I start to say but she’s snapping her dishcloth at me, telling me to shoo.
Tell us: Do you think little boys need to have older male influences in their lives? Why or why not?