Not Perfect Part 4 Ainsley Kate
I slumped on the old, green, tattered and completely need-to-throw-out arm chair. I picked up the bunch of bills that were sitting on the coffee table. Unpaid. I sighed in frustration. How could there be so many in such little time?
Just then, the phone rang. “Kristen?” No answer. I clambered off the easy chair like a graceful elephant. Elephants aren't graceful.
“Hi, is this Mrs Richards?”
“Yes, it is.”
“This is Fred Filby from L J Hooker Real Estate, how are you today?”
“Good, thanks.” I murmured, wondering what on earth he could be ringing for.
“That’s good. Listen, this is a curtesy call to tell you that the mortgage on your house, er, hasn’t been completely paid off.”
“What are you talking about? It was paid off years ago.”
“I’m sorry, but the record here says…” I heard the flipping of pages. “That the last deposit was paid 11 years ago, 5th of May.”
“Oh.” Eleven years ago…too painful to think about.
“Um, sorry about that. I will make sure a deposit is paid soon.”
“I’d make it sooner than later, if I were you. Anyway, you have a good day and a Merry Christmas. Bye!”
“Bye.” I said into the beeping receiver, since he’d already hung up.
Christmas. Crikey, that was coming up too. And the mortgage? Why had that come up now?
Kristen emerged from her room and hopped down the few steps we had leading to the bedrooms.
The phone started to ring again. I snatched it up to my ear.
“Hello, am I speaking to the holder of the house?”
“I am Hugh Brisley from Bell Electricity, how are you doing today?”
“Just. Fine.” I bit my tongue to stop some nastier words from taking a walk.
“This is a curtesy call to remind you that your electricity bills are two months overdue, and you will be billed extra if not paid.”
“WHAT?” I screamed.
“Yes, I’m sorry, but that’s our policy.” His voice sounded a little shaken. “If it is inconvenient at this time—”
“Oh, you bet it’s inconvenient.” I snapped.
“Ermm…if it is inconvenient, then I can assure St. George bank will be willing to extend a loan.”
“What, and get me in debt for the next five million years? Don’t think so. Look, I will pay the bills. Soon. So get off my back. Bye.”
I slammed the receiver down. Ooh, how I hated those calls. Always wanting your money and annoying the living daylights out of me.
I turned around to see Kristen staring at me, concerned.
“Mum, are you okay?”
“Perfectly.” I grinned. “Haven’t had a crack at them in years.”
“Then…are we going broke?”
“No! Seriously, it’s okay. Go back to painting your nails, dear.”
She half-smiled, and then spun around on her heel and up the stairs.
I slapped myself on the forehead. No use telling her and making her worry her pretty little head off, but the cold reality was there, still. I didn’t have any money in the account, and was waiting for next week’s pay day to do the simple grocery shopping.
I racked my brain for ideas on how to get more cash.
I needed it, fast.
I typed on the keys, the letters appearing quickly on the screen. A couple more touch-ups and this resume would be ready.
Dale stuck his head between the doorway and my ajar door.
“Are you going for the new position?”
“…AND you took up the extra journaling from the Sydney office?”
I poked my pointer finger at him in a joking manner. “You have a problem with that?”
He shrugged. “No. But I was just thinking about…don’t you have a kid?”
He shrugged again. “I’ve got three at home, and…well…it’s just that they seem to need heaps of time spent with them. That’s all I’m saying. See you later.” His head disappeared.
I felt a little frustration boil up inside me and emit some steam at the top of my head.
“Well, I’m just keeping mine alive on a one-income salary,” I muttered over my shoulder.
Besides, Kristen was older now. She could take care of herself. She didn’t need me to play legos, or go out for icecream treats.
“It’s okay,” I reassured myself out loud in my empty office. “She’s perfectly capable of looking after herself.”
I hit the print button.
I rubbed my sore, screen addicted eyes. Maybe I needed glasses. But I didn’t have time to get any because of this extra workload I accepted. Stupidly.
I heard a door close, and, a moment later, saw Kristen waltzing down the stairs into the kitchen.
I stifled a yawn and stretched instead. “Hey.”
I watched her lively form as she bustled around the kitchen. Something struck me as odd.
“Honey, don’t you have school today?”
She gave me a strange glance. “Mum, it’s Saturday.”
“Oh. Sorry, forgot.”
She placed her bowl of cornflakes on the bench top. “And you do know that I finished school last week, right?”
“I told you, remember, last Friday I was making cupcakes to take for the last day. Remember?”
“Yeah…” I said, even though I really didn’t.
“They were blueberry, with chocolate chips.”
I nodded absently. “What are you doing today?”
“Christmas shopping.” She licked her spoon. An odd habit, I thought, since there was nothing on it.
“Christmas shopping…” I repeated. “Okay.”
“It’s next week, you know.”
“Mum, you seem to forget a lot these days.”
“Not really. I just get a bit distracted, sometimes.”
An awkward silence followed. Kristen cleared her throat loudly.
“Well, I better go. My friends are waiting.”
“Ok.” She gave me a peck on the cheek.
“Don’t forget to lock the door!”
“I won’t.” The door slammed a bit too hard, making me cringe. Was it just me, or did she seem a little…annoyed or something?
I got up off the kitchen bench stool and started my ritual coffee making. I peered into Kristen’s bowl and was surprised to see it practically full.
She had taken one bite.
There he stood, arms open wide. I ran to him, the tears streaming down my face.
“He was like my best friend,” I sobbed.
He quietly shushed me and hugged me tighter.
“And the first man I ever loved.” I buried my face deeper into his chest.
He rocked me from side to side, side to side.
I heard a tiny step behind me. “Mummy, where’s Grandpa gone?”
I fought a sob rising in the back of my throat. “Away for a while.”
She sucked her little thumb. “But where?”
He opened the door, shouting: “People, I’m home! Where’s my girls?”
She ran to him, giggling. He snatched her up, throwing her in the air. “Darling, look what a cute puppy I’ve caught!”
He took a sip from my mug. I shook my head at him.
“But I thought you wouldn’t mind!” His face lit up cheekily.
A smile played about my face. “I don’t.”
“Mum? Mum, I’m home…”
I started, realising I had drifted off to sleep.
Kristen paused in my doorway, laden with plastic shopping bags.
“Oh…sorry, were you asleep?”
“I was. Accidentally.”
I scrambled off my queen-sized bed, messing up the sheets.
“Do you need something to eat?” I asked her, ignoring the tumbled bedding and made my way to the kitchen.
“Nah, I had it ages ago.” She dumped the bags on the floor.
I took a glance at our red clock, three hours past noon. “Wow, I slept for an eternity.”
Kristen opened the fridge door. “Drink?”
“No, thanks. You know what I feel like? A beetroot hamburger.”
“That’s…interesting. I think we do have some beetroot somewhere.” She poured herself a glass of chilled water.
I found a tin of the beetroot and pathetically attempted to open it. I handed it to Kristen.
“I fail at this, can you do it?”
“Yeah.” She patiently wound the blade around the tin and handed it back to me triumphantly.
“When are you knocking off work?”
The question caught me by surprise. “Do I have to?”
“Well, you can’t work on Christmas Day, obviously.”
“Soooo…Monday night is the carols.”
“The carols. That everybody goes to, that happens every year that almost every time we go.”
“Of course, I remember now.”
“Could you come with me?”
“Maybe. I've accepted an extra workload from the Sydney Times, so depends.”
“They pay well.” I offered.
I felt a bit guilty. I didn’t want to let her down. We went almost every year. “But, you’d have friends to go with, right?”
“Sure, but I wanted you to come.”
“We’ll see, then.”
Kristen swished water around in her mouth.
“Can you teach me to drive soon, please?”
“Are you old enough?” I took a bite of my delicious bread roll with the beetroot inside, making the juice drip slowly down my chin.
“Yes. Besides, everyone else in my class has their P’s.”
“That’s because they’re all a year older.”
“I know. But I haven’t even got my L’s, let alone learnt the basics.”
I scratched my head. When would I get the time to do that?
“Okay, I don’t promise anything, but hopefully I can take you soon.”
She shrugged. “I just…yeah. Do you want to see what I bought today?”
“No, not now. I really should finish this column. Sorry.” I turned around to face my laptop.
I heard her sigh as she carried the bags to her room, making the plastic rustle and crinkle.