My Children's Playmates

I passed that day. Somehow, I passed that day. I didn't know anything. I didn't know if the children had school, or why there were notes on the worktop seemingly in some sort of code, or what my role was as a member to the family. Did I have a job? I didn't even know where to find the spoons, for goodness' sake.

After flicking through an events diary on the table, first asking Eric the date, I discovered that I had nothing special to do that day. The relief I felt was like nothing else. I was actually gasping afterwards as if I had been being strangled by the great gnarled hand of anticipation.

I spent the day ransacking the little room opposite mine and Eric's, reading every diary I could lay my hands on, even several from my far-off childhood. I recorded everything in diaries. Every thought and feeling. There were tens of them, all in big cardboard boxes under the desk, stacked up, filled with writing. So many words. So many thoughts and words, I could scarcely comprehend all the emotions that came upon me as I read the perplexities of my childhood. But I revelled in every moment. I wondered if my daughter Wanda kept diaries.

That evening the children came in from their playing outdoors grimy and black, their fingernails disgusting and their hair knotted. I didn't know what to say, to my shame. Eric wasn't back from work yet (he was a journalist for the local paper) and I was alone with my children, dusty and dirty, and I was tongue-tied.

It seemed like hours at the time. They stood there, waiting. And I stood there like a lemon, waiting for myself. It was as if I had been hitherto programmed to reactions, and now devoid of that programming software, there was nothing left. I was empty and I didn't know what to do about it.

"Aren't you going to tell us off?" Wolfgang asked at last.

I gathered what wits I had left. "Where have you been?" I faltered.

"Playing," thus Wanda with a sweet smile, folding her hands behind her back as if hiding her misdeeds from my eyes.

"With who?"

"Friends," she said. "Second cousins."

I started. "Second cousins?"

They both frowned at me. "Yes."

"Which ones?" I stammered, guessing wildly at the correct thing to say. "I mean, which of my cousins' children?"

They blinked at me.

"Just say who."

"Just Roddy and B. and Verity," said Wanda. "What's your problem with that?"

"No problem," I said. "Can I ask who their parents are, do you think?"

Wolfgang looked at me as if I were some horrible insect. "Uncle Errol and Auntie Isabelle?"

"Oh...I see."

I drifted off upstairs again, and I expect the pair were too gleeful that I hadn't told them off to wonder why I was asking such questions.

I'd better explain. Errol is one of my cousins. I have...a lot of cousins. Errol and his twin Vivienne are two of them. They're about a year older than me and my sisters, and Vivienne was my best friend for as long as I can remember. Errol wasn't of much interest to me. He was obsessed with football. That's all. At that time I had an idea who Isabelle could be, but only a small one.

But one thing was clear to me after that: I had to talk to Eric as soon as possible.

The End

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