I shower in under three minutes. I pull my towel off the bar so fast, I send one quotes rocking on its hook: Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall. – Shakespeare, Measure for Measure. I manage to steady it before it drops, because the last thing I need right now is that.

It’s then I realise I didn’t bring a change of clothes into the bathroom with me. I am not letting Max see me in only a towel. I crack the door open and peep – no sign, and scamper-scamper into the room I share with Gabs.

When I come out, I find everyone around the small table in the kitchen. Max has changed back into his uniform, must have used Ma’s room. The three of us fit – just. Gabs, in his high chair, is sitting between Ma and Max. He’s mashing pumpkin and boiled rice into his mouth with his little hands, smearing half of it on his face. But Max doesn’t seem bothered. In fact, between answering Ma’s questions, he talks to Gabs, like he’s a real person. Few people do that, and Gabs is loving it. Keeps reaching out and offering Max some of his dinner. Max even pretends to eat some.

“You’re very good with kids,” Ma says.

Max’s cheeks go pink. “Have a lot of cousins. Youngest isn’t much older than this little man, here.”

I’m mostly quiet. It’s been a weird day and this is awkward. Sure, Max and I have known each other for a long time. Back when we were really little, sometimes his ma would have Justine and I over when both my parents were working and grannie couldn’t watch us. The three of us would play in his huge house in Santos, with a big wide view of the bay and the mountains. They have a walk-in freezer so big you could lead a cow in and shut the door – I do not lie. His ma was always worried one of us would wander in there and get trapped.

But that was a long time ago. Haven’t been to his house since I started wearing a uniform at school. Nor has he ever been in our house before. Why would he? If his ma was caught short for childcare she’d get another nanny. These days, Ma still drops in on them from time to time if she thinks Gabs needs seeing. Not that Max’s dad is a paediatrician. But he’s always thought Ma was a great nurse and happy to help us save a bit of money as we only have a hospital insurance plan. Not that I’m complaining, that’s more than most around here have.

After Max leaves, Ma gives me a hard look. “I’m trusting you to watch yourself,” she says. “He’s a good kid, and I’m happy for you, but these old bones hardly have enough energy left to raise Gabs.”

“Ma,” I say, “It’s not like that. He’s just part of the team and can drive.”

“I’m not stupid, you know.”

“Never thought you were, Ma.”

“I know what I’m seeing.”

“Okay, Ma. I’m not arguing with you.”

“But you need to start using that deep conditioner, because you’re looking like a big disgrace. Got you some this afternoon, its in the cupboard.”

So I end this messed up day by sitting on the toilet as Ma fusses over my hair. I end up reading the same quote over and over: All the world‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts. – Shakespeare, As You Like It.


Tell us: Do you think Tazmin should be embarrassed about her home? Or should she relax about the unusual décor?