“Come on, hurry up. We’re going to be late.” I’m sitting on the bed dressing for school. I’ve got my uniform on, she’s hovering like a large bumble bee, her shirt is striped across her body, she’s always cross, always in a hurry, her feet are trying to walk out the door. “I am hurrying.” I pick up a sock and pull it on.
“Quick, I’m waiting.” There is still jungle oats to eat before the long gravel road, then the tar road, then the border post, then more roads, then school. I want toast. Just toast. But there’s only jungle oats.
“I’m going to count. One, two…”
“No, don’t count!”
The bedspread is pink with those tufty worms that make patterns. I like pulling out the threads one by one. Some parts of the bedspread are bald like they’ve been eaten by a caterpillar. One sock to go, its got lost in the bedspread, oh there it is, black head sticking out of a burrow.
“Two and a half…”
“No, I said don’t count.” My shoes thud at my feet. I look up. The air around her is all bright and dizzy. She doesn’t stand still. I don’t know how to tie my laces. She’ll have to help me. She leans down, her hair falls around her face, like a tent.
“Why do you always have to dawdle?”
My legs jerk as she ties my laces. The pink bedspread stretches away from me, I’m a camel in the desert riding through a storm. I’m cold, it’s still almost dark outside, even though the light next to my bed is on. The light shines in a bright circle that goes fainter at the edges and in the far corner of my room by the bookshelf and the toys, there is hardly any light, as though it got tired and fell asleep before it reached there. It’s so cold in here that my breath makes smoke, I pretend to smoke like mummy, I put my fingers to my mouth inhale and then slowly exhale. I’m trying for smoke rings. She sees me do them. She switches off the light. I follow her to the kitchen, the smell of jungle oats stronger, there’s nowhere to hide from it. I sit down and pick up a spoon. I sprinkle sugar all over the surface until it is crunchy and sparkly, thick. I pour enough milk on to drown it. Now I have to eat it. Oh help! Spoon by slimy spoon I swallow.
I hear Dad revving the car engine. I escape. Run out with my bag, dogs barking. The car door slams. He reverses down the drive. The tyres crunch. I close my eyes for just a few minutes. My legs are cold where they touch the car seat. My toes are frozen and my hands are warm in the woolly blue gloves my granny knitted for me. I breathe on them, each breath is like one of those fan heaters. Every morning it’s like this till winter is over. There are three heads in the car, Dad, Sean and me. I can see theirs in the front. I like sitting in the back by myself. All this space just for me, like the queen.