The screen goes blank. I bang on its side, trying to bash it back to life. Nothing.
‘Don’t do that!’ Dad yells. ‘That costs a lot of money, you know.’
‘Yeah, well it’s useless now.’ I push my chair back; it falls down with a crash as I stomp away.
‘Let me have a look.’
‘Fine!’ I call from my room. I slam the door shut.
‘Don’t slam your door!’
I slump onto my bed. Bury my head in my pillow to muffle my sobs.
Ever since Mum left us, our home has been askew. Dad’s always grumpy, my sister Mai-Bella, cries all the time. And I have this feeling in my chest. A flutter, like wings flapping inside my ribs. My heart’s come loose.
‘Braiden,’ Dad says while gently knocking on the door. ‘Can I come in?’
‘Go away!’ My voice is croaky.
Dad enters my room.
‘I said go AWAY!’
‘Braiden, mate. Come on. It’s hard enough without you shutting me out.’ He sits on my bed. Rubs my back. Mum used to do that. It always made me feel safe, loved.
‘Mate, I miss her too.’ Dad’s voice falters and cracks.
I look up. His eyes are red, his face blotchy. I sit up, reach my arms around his neck. ‘Dad, why did she leave us?’
We all know why, at least academically. Dad was honest with us: she’d been having an affair with a work colleague for two years. Decided to leave us to be with him. That was seven months ago. None of us have heard from her since then.
‘Dunno what went wrong. Didn’t see it coming, that’s for sure.’
‘Aren’t you angry?’
‘Yes. But I’m working through it.’
‘I reckon I’d run her over if I saw her in the street.’
‘Mate, that’s harsh. She’s your mother.’
‘I know,’ I mumble. I wouldn’t really. ‘Just felt better by saying that.’
‘Alright. Now, come back down and finish your homework. I fixed your computer.’
‘Thanks Dad.’ I reach out and hold his hand. He squeezes mine gently, plants a kiss on the top of my head. Mum used to do that too. And it hits me like a brick to the head: Dad is keeping me and Mai-Bella safe and loved. He’s doing it all, adding in those little mum things to his own repertoire, to remind us that we’ll be OK. And, now I think of it, he’s doing a damned good job.
‘Dad,’ I say again. ‘Love you.’