WHEN YOUR parents call you in for a “special talk” after dinner, you know it’s not going to be about anything good. They’re not going to be like, “Oh, darling, you know the latest version of the iPod Touch you wanted? We decided to buy you three in different colours.”
The last time we had one of these special talks was when Mom found a cigarette in my schoolbag. It took me nearly two hours to convince them that I’d only tried smoking a couple of times (true), and that it was so revolting I’d given up (also true). Then I said someone else had put it in my bag (false), and that nearly undid all the good work I’d done up to then.
I go through to the lounge to wait for my parents. They like to make you sweat on these occasions. I’m wracking my brain, trying to guess what this might be about. The thing is, I’m not exactly a saint, so there’s no shortage of options for me to consider.
I’m so preoccupied, it takes me a moment to notice that my loser brothers are already in the room.
“Scram, squirts,” I say. “Mom and Dad want to talk to me in private.”
“Us too,” says Aaron, the bigger of the two squirts. “Really?”
“Yes. They told us before supper.”
“Hmmm.” I plonk myself down on a sofa to consider this new development. “So it’s some huge big family announcement – not a lecture. I wonder what it’s about.”
“Maybe they’re getting a divorce,” says Caleb, the smaller squirt, looking a bit tearful.
A little clutch of fear grabs at my belly, but then I see Aaron shaking his head.
“No way, dude. No possible way. Didn’t you see them pawing at each other during dinner? It’s completely gross, but at least it means they’re not getting a divorce.”
“So what do you think it is?” I ask.
He’s quiet for a moment. Then he says, “I think Mom’s having another baby.”
“What?” Caleb almost screams. “That’s impossible. How could they…? I mean, aren’t they too old?”
“Mom’s 35,” I remind him. “Most of her friends have babies. I reckon Aaron’s right. That’s what it is – another kid.”
We fall silent thinking about this. Caleb’s probably worrying about not being the baby of the family any more (which wouldn’t be a bad thing if you ask me), and I’m thinking about how completely and utterly mortifying it’s going to be having a pregnant mom picking me up from school every day. Everyone will be staring at her and at my dad, and thinking about what they’ve been up to.
I’ll just have to move to Australia.
Mom and Dad come into the room at this point, looking all serious and solemn. If this is a new baby, they’re not exactly thrilled about it.
“Please sit down everyone,” Dad says, knocking authoritatively on a table in his best chairman-of-the-board manner.
Aaron does an eye-roll. “We are sitting down, Dad. What’s this all about?”
Dad clears his throat. “Well … as you know, your mother and I love you all very, very much, but we’ve decided…”
“I knew it!” Caleb squeaks in his half-broken voice. “I knew you were getting divorced. That’s exactly what I said! Wasn’t that what I said?”
They both turn to look at him.
“We’re not getting divorced, lovey,” Mom says in a puzzled voice. “What on earth made you think that? We’re just going away for a few months.”
Okay, so not a baby then.
“Going away?” I echo. “What do you mean?”
“As you know, UbuntuGold is expanding into Chile,” Dad says. “We’re planning to open three new mines there. But the whole thing needs to be correctly handled. We have to do a proper environmental impact study, and work with the local communities to make sure they see us as a friend, and not as an invader. I’ve decided to go out there for a few months to make sure it’s done right. And your mother’s decided to come with me.”
“And what about us?” Aaron bursts out. “I’m not leaving Brentwood. Not now that I’ve finally made the
A team in cricket.”
“You won’t have to,” Mom says soothingly.
“And I’m not going to stay with Granny in Soweto,” Caleb pipes up. “It’ll take like an hour to get to school every morning.”
“You’re not going to do that, either. The three of you will be joining the boarding-house from the beginning of next term. You’ll be safe and properly looked after there, and you’ll be able to carry on your schooling uninterrupted.”
My lame-o brothers jump to their feet and start punching the air. They’ve been begging to become boarders for years now, so of course they’re delighted. Mom and Dad are smiling. No one seems to notice that I’m not exactly ecstatic.
“Um, excuse me,” I say. “Does anyone care what I think about this?”
‘Of course we do, darling,” says Mom. “Aren’t you happy? I thought you would be.”
“Happy?” My voice sounds higher than normal. “Happy about what? Having to move into a dormitory after having my own room since the day I was born? Having to do supervised homework every night? And eat canteen food seven days a week! And never ever, ever come home – not even on weekends.”
“It’s only for a term, lovey. We’ll be back by Easter. And it’s really not so awful, you know. Brentwood has a lovely boarding-house, and the food isn’t bad. It’ll be over before you know it.”
“And what about my babysitting business? I’ll be letting all my clients down.”
Perhaps “business” is a slight exaggeration, but it’s true that I do have quite a few families that I babysit regularly for.
“You can send them all emails explaining that you’ll be back after Easter. They’ll understand.”
“But three whole months! That’s like forever. Why can’t I just stay here with someone to look after me?”
“Because your life is too complicated, Trinity. Who will drive you to extramurals in the afternoon, and fetch you from parties on weekends, and pack your school lunch, and check that you do your homework? There’s no one I could trust to look after you properly except the boarding-school. And anyway, I think you’ve forgotten something. Lael will be boarding next term as well. In fact, you’ll probably be in the same dorm .”
Tell us what you think: Do you think it’s fair of Trinity’s parents to send her to boarding school with such short notice?