“But why, Mum?”
“What’s he doing here?”
“He’s the new lodger,” Agnes explained. “He’s moving into the new rooms.”
“We don’t want him.”
“We don’t need him.”
“But we do need his money,” Agnes said. “It’s sad but it’s true. Feeding all you kids doesn’t come cheap.”
“We aren’t that expensive!”
“We barely eat a thing!”
“Daniel eats nothing at all!”
“I eat apples from the apple tree,” Daniel said. “And drink water from the tap.”
“And ice creams from the ice cream van,” said Agnes, sighing slightly. “I’m sorry everyone, but we really do need a new lodger now Oya’s moved in with Anna.”
“But she hasn’t moved out!”
“She’s just moved upstairs!”
“I know, I know,” said Agnes. “But it’s not like I can continue charging them both now they share a single room, is it?”
“You could!” Claire said. “I would.”
“It just wouldn’t be fair,” said Agnes.
“Who cares about fair!” Claire grumped. “I hate him!”
“You hardly know him, Claire,” Agnes said. “How can you hate him?”
“He called me fat!”
“He did not,” Ethel said.
“He said you were a big girl,” Tina said. “I was there.”
“We were all there,” Ethel said. “Even Mum!”
“See!” Claire said. “It’s the same thing. I told you!”
“That’s not the same thing, Claire,” Agnes said. “I’m sure he was just trying to be nice.”
“He’s not nice at all,” Claire said. “He’s creepy. I don’t like his eyes. Or his smile. Or his name.”
“He’s got eyes like blueberry pies,” Daniel said.
“What’s wrong with his name?” Agnes said. “Christopher’s a nice name.”
“He’s got a name like a videogame,” Daniel suggested. It was the best he could do.
“It’s not even a little bit nice!” Claire said. “It’s an awful name and I hate it!”
“He’s got smiles like a crocodile’s!” Daniel added for good measure.
“No he doesn’t,” Claire said, spinning right round so she could refute Daniel’s allegations head on. “If he had a smile like a crocodile his smile would be nice and I’d like him but his smile is awful and I hate him so he doesn’t have a smile like a crocodile AT ALL.”
“Claire what’s gotten into you?” Agnes asked. “He’s not even moved in yet. You probably won’t even have to see him when he does. He’s very busy. He works in the city, you know?”
“Well maybe he should stay there!” Claire shouted, before suddenly slumping down on the settee.
It was all too much for her. She pulled a hairbrush out of her pocket and started running it furiously through her hair in an attempt to calm down. The cat pawed at her knees, then climbed up her leggings like they were a ladder. Everyone else drifted from the room like clouds.
1. Written on May 9th, 2022
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