Over the horizon, the Mother saw him arriving. Her eyes lit up – could it be that time already? So soon? She felt a slight twinge of guilt about how quickly she was prepared to dismiss her current companion – was she really as fickle as that? The Mother looked across to the creature beside her and thought – yes, she was. Because it was time. And with that, her guilt was gone. She was ready now.
As she waited for him to canter up the hills towards them, the Mother thought of what had just taken place. She could have sworn she’d only just waved goodbye to Work, skipping away with delight with the knowledge that she wouldn’t see Work for another two days.
But no, a few hours had, indeed passed. After leaving Work behind, she had travelled through the glens of Waverleys, amongst the woods of Bur and up the steep hills to home. She’d felt the joy she often experienced when she knew she would be seeing Family Time again. The Mother had pined – oh, how she had pined – for Family Time (sometimes known as ‘The Second Shift’), when she was with Work.
For Family Time, when it was in the right mood, could be a jolly creature, as it was this time. Family Time was full of tales of adventures, of games played, of puzzles solved, of friendships tested and found to be strong. It was full of details of footy training sessions, of basketball training, of teasing musings of which sport was best. It was proudly to show off its maths homework (completed), its skills with checkers / draughts (developing) and how much dinner it had eaten. It was full of jokes to start. But then it went too far, as Family Time was wont to do, and then there were tears. And gnashing of teeth. And other cliches that the Mother had heard a million times before (and that was no exaggeration).
And she remembered, with frustration, the words that had just come out of her mouth: ”Well, if you can’t play NICELY with each other, we won’t be able to play games after dinner, will we?”
And Family Time had muttered ‘yes’, and ‘sorry’ but with a sulky tone that really showed it didn’t mean it. And Family Time then bickered with itself, almost as if it was comprised of more than one person (and the Mother wouldn’t have been surprised if it was). And so, after a long day with Work, the Mother often found her delight in being with Family Time could quickly turn into impatience for Night-time to arrive. For when Night-Time arrived, Family Time was just plain worn out and ready for sleep, no matter how Family Time tried to deny it. And so it was now.
And so, with Night-Time fast approaching the Mother urged Family-Time to just hurry up, and agreed that, yes, its teeth HAD been brushed properly, and yes, she could tuck it into bed, and yes, she would – just this once – go and collect its special toy, and yes, the special book – but no more, because Family Time was really old enough now to look after its own things. And Family Time muttered some more (and the Mother pretended she hadn’t heard the first comment. Or the second), because she was much more focused on Night-time. Urging him on.
He had nearly arrived, galloping now on his rather fetching white steed (she just noticed), when the Mother caught a glimpse of something in his hand. Her delight turned to suspicion. What was Night-Time bringing her? It didn’t look like a blissful night of calmness.
With a patient tone that she hoped masked her frustration, the Mother asked what was in Night-Time’s hand. Without a word, he handed her a note. She opened it, cringing, knowing what it might contain. And yes, she was right.
‘Dear Madam’, the note (in compliance with privacy regulations), commenced. ‘I wish to inform you that our copy of ‘Just Tricking’ is due to be returned tomorrow’. It then continued to detail the implications of the delay, in terms of fines, and replacement costs if the item could not be found.
The Mother was cross. The Mother stamped her foot (left or right – she didn’t care which one – maybe both. At once).
She said ‘Couldn’t someone have told me this earlier?‘
She said ‘I‘m sick of overdue books – not this time, Sonny Jim‘ (because she’d always wanted to use that expression and wasn’t sure if another opportunity would turn up).
She said ‘Why is it always up to me to look after other people’s library books?’
But no one responded.
She looked in the rooms and saw that Family Time was now asleep.
She looked at Night-Time, who looked back at her. And shrugged his shoulders.
The Mother sighed. And set to work.
And Night-Time settled on the couch to watch the State of Origin NRL match. Which he chose to do, despite the fact that Night-Time and the Mother do not live in a state which follows NRL. Or that the Mother really cares who wins. Or can stand to hear Ray Warren’s voice on TV (no offence to Ray Warren meant).
Because he knew that the Mother would now spend the next hour searching for ‘Just Tricking’. And he was right.
But, before he settled down, he made the Mother a lovely dinner. Because that was a nice thing to do.
And the book turned up.
And Night-Time turned the channel to the Tour de France, so he and the Mother could drool over holidays past.
Which they did.
So it turned out all right.