‘Circle round the back,’ I say to Ben.
We’ve been driving for six hours. Stopped at a roadside motel and spent a night in a flea-ridden bed. We both rose at 5AM, itchy and groggy. I briefly contemplated a hot shower to wake up and maybe burn off the fleas, but one glance at the mouldy curtain and recess and I decided to wing it until we got to my parents’ home. Ben paid the bill and we took off to the nearest town boasting a Macca’s drive through for brekkie and haven’t slowed to under 80 kms per hour since.
As Ben follows the driveway to the sprawling grounds at back of the estate, I gaze at Mum’s garden.
‘Stop, Ben,’ I murmur. ‘Look at Mum’s rose garden.’
‘Yeah, it’s pretty,’ he responds without looking. His voice sounds tight. He stops though, and I’m so close I can wind down the window and touch the petals, the thorns.
‘Such gorgeous rosy hues,’ I mumble.
‘What’s that?’ Ben snaps.
‘Nothing.’ I draw breath. ‘What’s the matter with you?’
‘You’re not nervous? You’ve been here before. You know Mum and Dad are cool. They like you.’
‘Nah. Just forget it.’ He takes his foot off the brake and the car crawls around towards the stables, the pool and Dad’s garage.
Boris greets us with at the garage with a gentle nod. With a flick of his hand, one of the garage doors rises to reveal an empty space for our car.
‘Boris!’ I run towards him once Ben pulls to a stop. ‘How are you? Everyone behaving themselves?’ I throw my arms around him and give him a squeeze.
Boris is Mum and Dad’s house manager. He organises Mum’s diary and events, the cook, and the gardener, the cleaning staff, and he would’ve arranged for whichever of Dad’s cars usually takes this space to be moved to the display centre in the CBD. Mum and Dad could not function without him.
‘Boris, you remember Ben?’
‘Of course,’ he responds, offering his hand to Ben.
‘Do they know we’re here?’
Boris smiles. ‘Yes, of course.’
‘You reminded them, probably about five times in the last four hours, right?’ My voice is light, teasing. I grin widely at Boris.
‘Carrie,’ Boris pleads. And then, ignoring my taunting, he says, ‘Your mother is resting in her room. Your father is in his study.’
I take Ben’s hand. ‘C’mon,’ I say, giving his arm a gentle tug.
‘Carrie, you know the way. I’ll bring your bags inside shortly.’
‘Thanks Boris. There’s not much there. Two bags for me. One for Ben.’
Ben and I walk towards the patio and french doors that lead into the sun room.
‘Oh Boris!’ I call out over my shoulder, remembering the motel. ‘We’ve got fleas. From the motel we stayed in last night. Got anything for that?’
‘Of course, Carrie. I’ll bring it to your suite right away.’