Matilda walks up the garden path. The beauty of its frondescence almost calms her.
But her palms are still sweaty as she approaches the steps to the home’s wide verandah. There’s an outdoor sofa with a small round table to her left and a swing in the front yard. The appearance of a nice family home. She draws breath. Presses the doorbell. And waits.
The day Charlie came home, bloodied and bruised, remains fresh in her mind. True, it was only two weeks ago. Matilda washed and disinfected his cuts, kissed his forehead while he cried and recounted the event. Mateo and he were walking home when Mateo lashed out, wrestled him to the ground with arms and legs swinging and kicking. Charlie’s left arm was limp and sore. Matilda bundled him into the car and drove to the nearest A&E, where an x-ray showed it was broken. When the bone was reset and the cast in place, Matilda and Charlie were able to go home again. It was well past his bedtime when she tucked him in and kissed him goodnight.
‘He OK?’ asked Brad.
She poured herself a huge glass of wine. ‘He’s a trouper. He’ll be fine. Cast is on for six weeks though. Did you get through to the school?’
Brad shook his head. ‘I’ll try first thing tomorrow.’
Matilda sat heavily on the couch next to Brad. She curled into his shape, balancing her wine on her leg.
‘What a day.’
‘What’s the deal with this Mateo kid? You know his mum?’
‘Yeah, Zara,’ Matilda nodded. ‘She’s nice enough I suppose. This’ll be the true test.’
‘Let’s wait to see what the school does first. Yeah? Before wandering the streets like a gung-ho warrior looking for who’s culpable.’ He paused. ‘It could easily be Charlie who started it.’
Matilda bristled at his words. But she sipped her wine and let her anger simmer.
She presses the doorbell again. And again. She can hear people inside the home.
‘Hello,’ she yells. ‘I know you’re in there.’
The door opens to reveal Zara. Her face dark like a thundercloud, her eyes flashing. ‘You’ve got a nerve to show up here.’
Matilda flinches at the venom in Zara’s tone. She can’t form words.
‘Leave my property. I’ve got nothing to say to you or your bully. My lawyers will be in touch with you.’
The door slams in Matilda’s face.