Mandy and I are at ‘Jump’, the local trampolining centre watching our toddlers bounce wildly over a patchwork of mini trampolines. We say ‘oooh’ and ‘brilliant’ intermittently and I’m genuinely impressed Sienna (2.5) can bounce up from her bottom to her feet but the lurid green décor is making me nauseous and my nagging rib pain is back.
I surreptitiously place my hand next to Mandy’s to compare palm colours. OMG. Mine is much redder than hers (it must be cirrhosis). The blood drains from my face and goes to my hands – they are beetroot now. Jesus! I can’t feel my face.
Mandy smacks my hand away. “You’re doing my bloody head in! Your hands are normal.” She shows me her iPhone. “Queen Fiona’s back on Facebook.” She puts her snooty Fiona voice on, exposing her top teeth. “I would like to make everyone aware that there has been a spate of burglaries in the area so I am asking everyone to be extra vigilant. Last night my husband (General Jeremy Smith) and I discovered a chalk circle above my back doors.”
I have been in touch with the police and they have provided this:
Mandy: “I’m surprised there’s not an arrow pointing at her ‘back doors’ after seeing that picture of her in the leather gear on her fridge.”
Me: “Or maybe The General’s the kinky one? Si’s convinced he likes it in the (I whisper) chutney tunnel.”
Mandy snorts her coffee down her nose. She looks at the police picture. “A circle with a cross means she’s got nothing worth stealing – that’ll pee her off.”
Her phone makes a magical noise. “She’s posted again. She’s selling Fenella’s Wendy house. Poor kid, can’t have anything left.” I swipe my phone into action. I’ve wanted a Wendy House for Sienna for ages but Si has thwarted my attempts. I find the Facebook page – I have to beat Mandy.
Mandy: “Right,I gonna buy it,” she says yawning. (Mia’s been up every two hours again)
“Too late!” I say looking up from my phone triumphantly. “It’s mine.”
Mandy: “You sneaky….!”
Si: “I’m not having that plastic thing on our lawn.” Simon’s back from Wiltshire and laying down the law again (on the lawn).
Me: “It’s not for you, it’s for the children.”
Si: “It’s an eyesore.”
Me: “Well, I’m sorry Prince Charles if it’s not to your architectural aesthetics but it’s staying.”
Si: “It’s going back.”
How dare he swan in at weekends and interfere – he doesn’t really live here. “It’s staying,” I say through gritted teeth. He marches out and starts dragging it over the cul-de-sac of our 90s estate, to Mandy’s lawn in the corner.
Mandy opens the door and is thrilled that we don’t want it – now all the children can play in it because there’s more room on her lawn. Si echoes her. “Much more room.”
Simon returns indoors to remove all of my and the children’s things, which have accumulated on his vast Victorian patriarchal desk of oppression, onto the sofa for us to ‘sort out’. I shove it all on his desk and mix up his pens. He and his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can sling their hooks back to Wiltshire.
I ignore him during kids’ tea and we unload the dishwasher together in silence. I take out the cutlery basket and tip it into the drawer and look him straight in the eye. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Husband.
Si: “If I bring the Wendy House back will you be nice to me?”
Me: “Only if you stop throwing your weight around.”
Si: “I’ve had an idea to put hanging baskets round to make it look less Disney.”
Hanging baskets on a wendy house? WTF.
He wants a big snuggly cuddle. We hold each other and it’s really nice – he smells of Chanel ‘Eau Sauvage’. I cuddle him tighter and breathe him in and this is the moment he tells me that he’s not actually staying this weekend – it’s in the iCalendar – he’s getting a late ferry to Zeebrugge for a WWII army re-enactor weirdo reunion. He just needed to pick up some clothes and see his girls, of course.
I push him and his wheelie out of the house and lock the door – he will be boozing on the ferry all weekend and I hope his palms go red.
There’s a bang on the door. I open it: “What?!”
But it’s not Simon, it’s Buck and he looks as p*ssed off as I do. He’s an ex Scottish rugby player and a Leviathan of a man in every direction, a Special Forces operative he’s one of the hardest men we know. “I want that plastic piece of sh*te off my lawn – tell Simon he’s taken things too far.”
I tell Buck to put the house back on Fiona’s lawn. He says he’ll sort it and then I brace myself for the evening routine… Cue Vita starts screaming, Sienna won’t come out of the wardrobe, the hot water’s on the blink, I use the power shower instead and scold the children, then pour freezing water on them to make it much worse. I pick the wrong animal towel for the toddler, the baby has a poo in the bath and after another 40 minutes of hell, I finally get my darlings ‘down’. And I decide to turn in early too because I am not going to binge drink tonight but binge-watch Netflix with a hot water bottle, my fluffy bed socks on and my superking bed all to myself. Again.
I’m midway through Episode 4, Season 3 of Narcos. Cali cartel boss, Pacho Herrera, is shooting a man in the face when I suddenly hear a bang through my earphones, IN MY HOUSE.
What the hell was that? Maybe it was Sienna cracking her head against the wall in her sleep? Chalk circles start bombarding my mind and visions of Fiona leering at my back window causes my blood pressure to rocket. Narcos is still rolling on my laptop and, as the victim bleeds out, there is another massive bang, louder than the first. THERE’S SOMEONE IN THE GARAGE.
I’m barely able to breathe, I know there’s a dagger under the mattress but where did Si put the bloody pickaxe handles? And why don’t we have an Uzi? He can’t leave us vulnerable like this is a major capital city, whilst he skips off to Zeebrugge with beardy re-enactors or is safely holed up in leafy Wiltshire. (Although Swindon could be twinned with Cali.)
On the third bang, I turn all the lights on and exploded into action. I tear open the baby gate, race down the stairs, grab an umbrella, unlock the front door, turn the outside lights on and see the assailants in front of me. My brolly cradled like a semi automatic, I am in the mood for murder but instead of masked men I see Fiona and General Jeremy dressed in eighteenth century eveningwear, pushing the pink Wendy House into the gap between the garage and my front door. The General’s spurs clunk on the tarmac, his medals jingle jangle as he bends and oh no, I can’t look; he’s got his General’s gold curtain braid trapped in the Wendy house window. As he rescues his curtain pull his military hat falls off. He’s definitely been drinking.
Fiona wants to know why ‘it’s’ back on her lawn. I explain Simon didn’t want it so he put it on Buck’s lawn. Well, we don’t want it back either,” she says trying to now look past me. “Simon in?”
Fiona: “Dr. Nick? Ahaha.”
Funny. I look at my umbrella and imagine stabbing Fiona in the toes like a Bulgarian secret agent.
Fiona: “Just got back from a do at St. James’s Palace.”
“Great.” I say realising I have my pink floral pyjama shirt tucked into my pj bottoms just like my mother always taught me so I ‘won’t get a cold in my kidneys’. I consider untucking but decide it will draw more attention to my Simon Cowell bed-wear.
“Looking forward to seeing you and Simon at dinner,” says the General, who is well, rather, general in the looks and personality – the personification of beige with just a hint of clumsy.
He hobbles off, while Fiona continues to stare at me. What you lookin’ at? I think about pulling my umbrella trigger and blowing her away. And then it dawns on me – she wants a tenner for the ruddy plastic s**t house, right this second at 11 at night.
I fetch my wallet and give it to her in change. Her evil eyebrow arches. “Oh,” she says, pointing to a small chalk X on the wall by my doorbell. “Looks like you’re worth doing over.”