What Does He Do?

We all looked at each other dubiously, waiting to see if my mum would go and pick it up. She had an extension in her room. It kept ringing. Twelve rings.

Then it stopped. There was no voices. There was silence for a minute, then I heard a vibrating from my bed. In a fold of the duvet, my mobile phone was flashing, alerting an incoming call. I picked it up. The screen displayed an unknown number. I pressed my thumb down on the ‘end call’ button. I was pretty sure who it was calling. You know how much I have, he had written. He meant his resources, all the information at his disposal. He had even told me he had gotten my details from the school secretary. If I didn’t have more pressing matters at hand I would go and have a word about privacy laws.

The landline rang again. The persistent trilling wouldn‘t stop. Six rings in, my mother must have picked up because it cut off abruptly.

I signalled to Willow and Meena to stay in the room - hopefully conveying that they shouldn’t start arguing again - and crept down the wooden stairs. On the landing, there was no light from my mother’s bedroom. There was no talking, either. There was a click and a beep as the cordless phone was replaced in the cradle.

I knocked softly - too softly - then stepped into the room through the gap between the slightly ajar door and the frame. She was sat on the bed with the laptop on her knees, the power cord trailing like a black snake across the floor to the wall socket. Everything was just varying shades of black but with my new eyes I could see the profiles. The curtains were shut tight so no moonlight could find its way in. The illumination from the laptop screen cast a glow that made her face look blue-grey as if she was dead. The garish hair was now a limp dark red in the washed-out light. She turned her head and pulled the laptop screen down with her hand, shutting off the only light source. I heard the rustling as she shifted to get up.

“What’s wrong, Ruby?”

She whispered as if she didn’t want to wake someone up, but we were the only people in our house.

I decided to play the card Allan had given me, even though I didn’t know what it was.

“Mum, what’s dad doing?”

In the dark her expression was inscrutable. She didn’t hesitate, to her credit.

“He’s working in Italy. What’s wrong?” she repeated.

“Yes, but who is he working for?”

“You know who he’s employed by. Shadows Corporation.”

“Why’s it called that? Shadows?”

“How should I know? Why are you asking me at this time? Maybe you should have asked your father.”

“Should have? Why would you say that? Not should?”

“Enough, Ruby, just go to bed,” she said. “Ask him, if you want to know so badly. Ask him why he had to get our family involved in his job.”

“But we’re not. I don’t know anything about what he does, and it’s not fair,” I insisted though I knew I was sounding like a child.

“Neither did I, and I wish it had stayed that way.”

She turned her back on me and put her laptop away. I took this as my cue to leave. Whatever she was caught up on now had made her forget about the brain tumour business momentarily. Though how could you forget something like that so easily unless there was something bigger to worry about?

I dragged my feet a little on my way back up because they felt heavier. It was getting to be like a yoyo, up and down.

Willow held out the phone and showed that there were two received text messages. I opened them warily.

The End

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