“I’m here mum,” quickly I scanned the room making sure my supervisor didn’t over hear me. “What’s wrong? I’m at work,” you never call me at work unless there is a problem.
Fuck. My gut reaction was worry. Fuck.
“Andrew asked me to pick the girls up from school, but I can’t make it. Can you get off work early and do it?”
What the fuck?
“I’m sure I can…” I looked over at my supervisor waved my hand to get her attention. “Hang on a second, mum.” This last part I said in my normal voice.
“What is it Lori?” My supervisor ambled over and stood at the end of my desk. She frowned.
“Something’s come with my family. My brother asked our mother to pick his kids up from school but she can’t do it. She’s asking if I can go a little earlier and-“
“No problem. Just go when you have to.”
I fucking love my job!
“Mum?” I repositioned the mouth piece to the land line. “I can pick the kids up.”
“Oh good.” She sighed and I could picture her slumping forward and closing her eyes. That sort of thing made me scared.
“What’s going on?” I demanded. “Is Andrew alright?”
Mum inhaled sharply. “He wouldn’t tell me anything. He just said to pick up the kids and look after them until he got back to town. But I’m out of town for the funeral today.” She continued rambling on in my ear.
I reached into my drawer and pulled out the mobile that waited within. Single handily, I typed a text to my brother and sent it. Then swapped over to message Kent. “Guests tonight for dinner. Anna and Jenny. Can you make food and get house kid friendly?”
Within seconds Kent replied with “Roger that”.
Andrew was being silent.
“Right mum. I’ll call you once I have the kids. I have to get back to work.”
“Okay love. Talk later.”
Putting the phone down I gnawed on my bottom lip. Accident? Argument with Alice? Getting caught up with mates? Nah, mum was really worried. Andrew wouldn’t make her worry if it was something trivial. So what the fuck had happened? Was someone in the hospital?
This time I tried calling his cell. He didn’t answer it. It was on, but he was ignoring it. “Shit,” I hissed under my breath and messaged Shane.
Two words without vowels, that was all my other brother could muster? Asshole.
I tried my two other brothers, hoping that one of them knew what the hell was going on, that maybe Andrew had called them before mum to pick the girls up and they had squeezed the sequence of events out of him. No luck. John was oblivious to anything going on. Tony said he would keep trying to reach Andrew.
One last person to call; Alice.
But what if the two of them had been fighting and I was just going make things worse? “Fuck it.” If they were having issues that was their problem. But I needed to know what was going on so I can reassure the kids. That and I wanted to know.
“What’s going on Alice? Andrew called mum and asked her to pick up the kids…” Before finishing the text my supervisor plopped a stack of reports on my desk.
“Everything alright?” She asked.
“I have no fucking clue,” I responded honestly.
Nodding, I shoved the phone back into the drawer. “My brother isn’t answering the phone and he didn’t explain to mum why he couldn’t pick up the kids and no-one has a clue what’s going on.” I sighed.
She frowned. “Do you have to take the rest of the day off?”
I shook my head and straightened up. “No, I’ll just have to be out of here before three to get the kids. The rest of it isn’t my problem. Sorry for this.”
“No, no, don’t apologise. But if you need to be with your family you know you can go at any time.” She tapped a finger on the reports to emphasis the comment.
Smiling I reached for the top report. “So what do you want done with these?”
Just before three I shut down my computer and heading for the door at a very clipped pace. I was worried that something bad had happened, but I couldn’t let that show on my face when the girls see me. No, I had to make sure that they were… what? Left in the dark? Shit.
This was a little too much like when dad died. Everyone had kept me in the dark, afraid that I would be upset if I found out any details. I had hated that.
Without Andrew telling me what I could tell his kids I would have to wing it.
“Move,” I growled at the other cars. What was wrong with parents, how could they be licenced drivers when they don’t look where they’re pulling out of, indicate at any time, and drive in the middle of the road with their huge fucking cars? “Assholes!”
I had to park at the very end of the street and hike back, my skirt clinging to my butt and my black shoes thumping out a war anthem against the concrete.
There had been a couple of times that I had picked up my nieces from school, for sleepovers at gran’s for the weekend. They would come running out of the buildings and tackle me, talking non-stop about their day and what they had planned for the weekend.
It wouldn’t be like that this time.
I ambled over to the gate and waited for the bell to ring. When it did, a stream of kids of all ages burst forth. Carefully I looked for the girls. There. “Jenny, Anna.” I called out.
Jenny took Anna’s hand and led her over to me. “Aunty Lori, are you picking us up today?”
“Yep.” I plastered a smile onto my face, hoping like crazy it wasn’t a fake one.