My poor abused phone was running out of data. Children’s shows were streaming through it to keep the youngest child entertained for a while, but they were killing my brain cells. Kent had set Jenny up in the bedroom with my laptop so she could watch a DVD.
I could hear him chuckle but he wisely kept working at making dinner.
“Sorry, that was the last one for this phone. It needs to go onto the charger. How about we go outside and kick the ball around.” Lucky there was an old soccer ball in the shed that Kent had somehow refilled with air one day and was racing up and down the side of the house with it.
She shook her head.
“Dinner,” Kent announced and placed plates onto the tray before walking it into the lounge room. Anna bounced one more time and Launched, chasing after him giggling. Jenny came out of the bedroom, looked into the kitchen and smiled before going after her sister and Kent.
I stayed sitting.
This really wasn’t a place for kids to be spending time. Nowhere for them to play safely or to lounge around, and no real place for them to sleep. I could always take them over to mum’s and spend the night with them up there.
“Yo Lori,” Kent clicked his fingers in front of my face.
“Huh? Oh, food. Right, I’m on my way.” I stumbled up and followed him.
But I didn’t follow him into my lounge room. Instead it was an Arabian tent palace with yards of fabric strung from the middle of the ceiling and billowing in the centre as they moved to the walls and hung straight. The floor was piled high with pillows. Closer inspection, I could tell these were drop sheets for painting. And the pillows ranged from outdoor ones to dog beds. Where on Earth did Kent get them?
Who cares? I was grinning like a fool. “This is great.”
“Aunt Lori, I love your house,” Jenny flopped back into a pile and giggled with a mouthful of food.
I came in and plunked myself down beside her. “Thank Kent for all of this, I was at work.”
“Thank you Kent. Can you do this to my bedroom?” Jenny shot upright, her eyes twinkling. “Like a Princess Jasmin room.”
“Only if you can have a tiger.” Kent smirked.
“A tiger?” Jenny looked confused.
“Like Jasmin had.”
The three of us women looked at him strange. “Why would you want to keep a wild animal locked up? That’s mean.” Jenny pouted.
Anna did the same.
I shook my head at my house mate. “Wild animals belong in the wild so they can be free and do what they were born to do.”
two small heads bounced up in down in agreement.
This time Kent pouted. “It was a joke. Sorry.”
Anna took pity and waddled over to him through the ocean of pillows and gave him a hug. This restored the smiles.
After dinner, Andrew finally appeared. The girls went crazy wanting to show him their lounge room and how they had set up the laptop so they could watch DVD’s. He smiled and acted normal with them.
I pulled him out of their clutches just as Kent was brining in the ice-cream. Damn, I chose an excellent house mate. With a sigh he sat down with the girls and started to eat from his bowl.
“Out back, so they don’t hear,” was all he said.
I nodded and led the way. My gut was telling me to tread carefully, that even though he was my brother, he wasn’t going to be happy if I started asking questions.
The screen door slapped closed. “So?”
He sunk to the steps and hung his head.
“Fuck, Andrew what’s wrong?” I dropped down beside him.
“Alice,” he growled.
“I’m leaving Alice and taking the kids.”
“What the fuck?”
He lifted his head and looked me square on. “I need a place to stay.”
“This is still a work site. The kids need a house that’s not being ripped apart.” I paused. “Wait, if you’re leaving Alice, doesn’t that mean you’re seeing someone? Why not move in with them?”
“Fuck off Lori,” he snarled. “I wasn’t cheating on my wife. I’d never fucking do that.”
“Then why leave?”
He didn’t answer.
No way could I refuse my brother. No, it wasn’t ideal for the kids, but I couldn’t tell him to go away. “You’d have to share a room with Kent and the girls would have to share as well. And you have to help renovate the house. And bring furniture.”
Sadly, he smiled. “Thanks sis.”
“No problem. But I have to ask why not go back to mum’s? She has the room and would love the company.”
This time he glared. “And would you return to mum’s after having freedom?”
“Exactly. Anyway, she’d just try and fix my little problem and I’d get pissed off and have to move out again.” Faking a smile that I’d seen him use a lot around when dad died, he continued talking. “Anyway, my loving and kind little sister isn’t going to turn her favourite brother and his beautiful daughters out onto the streets. Especially when she needs all the help she can get to fix this house up.”
“You have me there. But do you want to talk about Alice?” One last shot. Why not? It could help him get over it if he spoke about it.
“No.” He whipped out his phone and dialled a number quickly. “I’ll get onto Shane to borrow his ute and get some furniture over here tomorrow.”
Furniture. Oh my, that would nice to have filling the house. A lounge. A desk. A side table to put my keys on. I could feel the smile growing.
“You know, I love you big brother.”
“Don’t get too girly on me,” he teased but gave me a hug anyway. “Thanks.”