Family, Fiction, Melbourne, Relationship and marriage, Writing

Sleepover

It’s cold at the table.

Not the kind of cold that can be fixed by turning up the heater. It’s the company, my dinner companion. Grandma is stern; her face set like concrete as she hands out the platter of potatoes.

‘I told you not to play with that crowd,’ she says. Her lips are a thin line. Typical of her to dole out her opinion while I’m a captive audience. ‘I knew you’d only get hurt.’

Grandma is my guardian. My parents were killed in a car crash when I was only four, and I’ve lived with her ever since. Now that I’m fourteen, her advice is unsolicited and out-dated.

Stifling an exasperated sigh, I say, ‘Grandma, I’m not hurt. All I said was I didn’t want to go to Lana-Ray’s for a sleepover.’

Her eyes narrow. She forks medium-rare roast beef onto her plate and hands it to me. ‘Eat. You’re too skinny.’

I pick over the slices of beef, and choose one that has the least amount of pink. All the while I feel Grandma’s steely gaze on me.

‘Let’s join hands for grace.’

By rote, the words fall from my tongue. When we’re done, I eat my peas first, then the beef and carrots, and save the potatoes til last.

Grandma eats like she lives. Sparingly. Without pomp. And at a meandering pace. I wait until she’s chewed her last mouthful of beef, smooshed peas and gravy, all mixed together before I ask, ‘May I please leave the table?’

‘You may.’ Her nostrils constrict as she breathes in. ‘Finish your homework please. I’ll be checking it over in the morning before breakfast.’

In my room, I change from my dinner attire—as Grandma insists on calling it—and into trackies, runners and a T-shirt. My mobile pings. It’s Dean. His message tells me he’s outside, under the jacaranda tree.

Sliding up the sash, I crawl out, past the daisy bush and make my way, silently and stealthily, across the lawn.

He takes me in his arms, kisses me with all the passion of an eighteen year old boy. ‘I had to see you,’ he says. His voice is throaty, full of emotion and wanting. ‘I’m glad you didn’t go to that bitch’s sleepover.’

‘Me too.’ An idea forms in my head. I smile at him, as I hold his hands. His eyes are bright in the moonlight.

‘What?’

‘Come on.’ By the hand I lead him back to my window. We creep inside. ‘Let’s have a sleepover of our own.’

Giggling, we dive under the covers. Grandma never checks in on me. She goes to bed as soon as the dishwasher is loaded and the start button is pressed.

Dean’s hand grasps my breast. His lips are on my neck. I feel warm and safe and loved.

‘You’re beautiful.’ He says, staring at my face.

I laugh, deflecting his compliment. Never now how to respond when someone praises me. I lean towards him, ready to continue our kiss, but he pulls away.

‘You sure you’re ready for this?’

I nod.

‘And your Granny won’t interrupt us?’

This time, I shake my head slowly from side to side. I hope it looks alluring, but I just feel silly.

Minutes later, though, I feel grown-up. Pain throbs between my legs, but it’s done. I’m not a baby anymore.

Dean snores beside me. I peek under the doona at his naked form. Then I snuggle close. This is the best sleepover. Ever.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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