‘What’s with all the ruckus?’
Dad’s angry, I can tell. His face is red and if he was a cartoon character, there’d be steam coming out his ears.
He pushes back his chair with such force it tips over and leaves me in the kitchen to investigate. My younger brothers are fighting in their room. I can hear him muttering under his breath as he walks towards them.
I slump in my chair and wait for Dad to return. I look around the kitchen; there’s still so much that reminds me of Mum.
She died when I was fifteen, and my heart still aches as though it were yesterday. Dad remarried the year I turned eighteen; he and Maria had the boys soon after. Mick is now eleven and Henry, thirteen. Maria left them all shortly after I moved out of home. I think she didn’t like being the only female in the house. I’m probably right; last Dad heard, she’d shacked up with her female ex-boss.
But now, that leaves Dad caring for these two boys, who frankly need more attention than he can give. I do what I can to help, but in truth, I just don’t want to spend my life looking after my brothers. Who would?
Dad returns. ‘What were you saying, Frannie?’ He picks up his chair, sets it back into place and sits.
‘Just work stuff. A colleague who’s verging on vitriol in her dealings with the staff.’
‘Is she your superior?’
‘No, we’re both at the same level. In charge of teams. Mine’s marketing, hers is purchasing.’
‘Well.’ Dad scratches his chin with his thumb. ‘You could go to your line manager? I assume the same person up the chain looks after you both.’
I nod. ‘Mmm, I could, I guess. But how does that make me look? And it doesn’t project the image of cohesion and collaboration that the business tries to portray.’
‘But neither does a middle manager who treats insubordinates badly.’
Dad groans. The boys have started up again. ‘Mick! Henry! Give it a rest!’ He yells so fiercely, I jump.
He makes a gurgling sound and I glance up at him. He’s too red. Purple almost.
‘Dad. You alright?’
As I speak, Dad turns rigid and falls to the tiled floor.
‘Dad!’ I grasp about for my handbag, looking for my mobile. I dial 000 and speak to the operator. She calms me, tells me what to do and the ambulance is on its way. Sometime during the call, I realise how quiet the house is.
I check Dad again. His pulse is steady; I figure I can leave him for a minute. I walk to the boys’ room and find them holding each other on one of the beds. They’re crying silently.
‘Mick, Henry,’ I say gently. ‘Are you both OK?’
‘What happened to Dad?’ Mick asks.
‘He’s…’ I actually don’t know what happened. Stroke? Heart attack? ‘He fell from his chair,’ I mumble. ‘Come with me. See for yourself. The ambulance will be here soon.’
I can hear the siren. ‘Hear that? That’s for Dad. He’s going to be fine.’
The words fall so easily from my lips. But I wonder, will he recover. Mick and Henry’s eyes are wide, following my every move, almost like they can read my mind. But they nod and we go back to where Dad lies on the dining room floor. And we wait silently together.