‘He’s always been a bit daffy,’ said Mum.
We were sitting at the outdoor couch on the deck, sipping gin and tonics. It was our favourite way to catch up at the end of each week. I’d just told Mum that I saw Aidan at the supermarket on Wednesday. He’d been pushing a trolley full of groceries, and a Baby Bjorn strapped to his chest. With baby in it. I’d spiralled to a dark pit when I saw him, hid in the next aisle. Grabbed a few things—not on my list—and fled to the checkouts. I was pretty sure he hadn’t seen me.
‘Daffy?’ I asked. ‘What do you mean? Like the duck?’ I looked at her sharply while dabbing at my eyes with the paper napkin.
‘No, honey. Daffy as in eccentric.’ She stared at the clear blue water of the pool. ‘You never wanted kids with him anyway.’ She paused, stood up. She walked to the pool fence and opened the gate. She reached for the skimmer and took five stray leaves floating on the surface. Turning to me, she continued, ‘Did you?’
I didn’t answer. I didn’t know how to respond. Being with Aidan was good. Just not great. But everyone assumed we’d marry, have kids, buy a huge house in a middle-class suburb and live happily ever after. But there was always a feeling lurking within me. Doubts and questions and unease.
Mum was talking. ‘…he might like to swim and you know how he hates leaves in the pool.’
God, she was on a tangent. She did this a lot these days.
‘Have you made an appointment with Dr Jackson yet?’ I asked from my lounge chair on the deck, all thoughts of Aidan and his baby and our failed relationship billowed like those bits on a dandelion after you blow them. Mum wiped her hands on her trousers and looked at me.
‘Mum!’ I screeched. ‘Dad and I want you to see the doctor.’
‘What for?’ Her face changed. She was now a little girl, sulky and beginning to fret. She wrung her hands together; her brow creased in confusion.
I went to her, guided her back to the deck and into the house. Dad was in the kitchen, opening a beer. We exchanged a glance. Dad took Mum by the elbow and led her to their bedroom. By the time he arrived back in the kitchen his face was red. He was puffing as if he’d just run a marathon.
‘You go home love. She’s resting,’ Dad said, swigging on his beer. ‘Nothing more you can do for now.’
‘You’ll make sure she calls the doctor?’ I asked. ‘I can go to the appointment with her. I’ll take time off work, support her in any way.’
‘I know. We’ll get through this together. Whatever it is.’
I hugged Dad goodbye, slung my handbag over my shoulder and made my way home to my flat. The memories of Aidan and worries about Mum followed, like a stray dog looking for a loving owner.