It’s Briar’s first day of school and we’re walking up the street together holding hands. I’ve got Mum at home with Xanthe and Maurice so that I can be here for Briar. It’s her special day. She’s walking slowly and heavily in her black leather school shoes; her backpack seems to be weighing her down. I don’t offer to carry it for her. She’s a big girl now. I need to encourage independence, even if it means we have to walk in slow motion. We’ll get there. We’ve got plenty of time.
We’re approaching the school gate, and I’m surprised by how calm it looks. There are cars lining the street, yet there’s only a trickle of students entering the schoolyard. Are we late? I scrabble about in my handbag and find my phone and check the time. It’s fine. We’re fine. We have fifteen minutes to spare. We’re not going to be late. I breathe a sigh of relief and squeeze Briar’s hand and ask her if she’s ready. She is. We’re really doing this.
We reach the gate at the same time as another mother and child. The kid isn’t dressed in uniform, so I guess he’s just here for a school visit. He’s way bigger than Briar though, I never would have guessed he was five. I look at his mother. I see her short black hair and her thick waist and her stripey orange sweater, and I know her. Oh shit, I know her.
I quickly look the other way and somehow manage to take even smaller steps than before. We’re practically motionless, but I don’t care. I don’t want her to see me, I don’t want to see her, I don’t want to talk to her. She’s just a couple of steps ahead of us, strolling down the school path, and she stops. She stops and she bends over and she’s talking to her son. I have to pass her. I don’t want to pass her. I look down at Briar and I smile and I ask her if she remembers where her classroom is, and as we pass the mother I don’t want to know I remember...
Kane’s son has been staying with us for the school holidays. It’s been a long week, but the kid's mother is finally coming to pick him up. She’s driving all the way from Tauranga to Foxton to get him, because Kane can’t take any time off work. I’m just glad the kid is leaving so things can get back to normal around here. A week really drags when you can’t smoke pot in the house.
Kane and I are in the cowshed for the afternoon milking. I’m in a good mood. I’m putting the cups on the cows and I’m smoking a cigarette and I’m singing along with the radio. I’m looking forward to the end of the weekend because Jessica will be back at work and the kid will be gone and I’ll be able to relax a bit more. I’m covered in cow shit but I’m happy. It’s a good day.
Kane comes over to me and he’s got bad news. He says he needs to warn me that his ex has called to let him know that she didn’t want to make the trip down on her own, so she’s bringing Karl with her. Karl. That fucking asshole Karl. I can’t even believe the way the universe works. It’s just so fucking weird that Karl is friends with Kane’s ex, and it’s so typical that he’d get thrown back into my life like this. He was such a jerk to me, hooking up with me and then trying to hook up with my best friend, and now he’s going to be coming down here and he’s going to be in my house and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m milking the cows and I’m smoking a cigarette and I’m crying. I'm bawling my fucking eyes out.
Milking is over and the cows have been put away. We’re at home and we’re clean and we’re hungry. Kane’s ex is here and Karl is here, but I’m not even going to look at him. I’m pretending he’s not here. I’m sitting in the corner of the living room and I’m smoking a cigarette and I feel sick. Everyone is talking about dinner, and they’re all acting like everything is normal, even though it’s not. This is not normal at all. Fuck you, universe.
Kane’s ex decides we’ll have takeaways for dinner, but Kane and Jessica and I don’t have any money. We can’t afford fish ‘n’ chips. Kane’s ex doesn’t care, she wants chips for dinner, and that’s that. Kane and Jessica and I reheat our cold chips from last night’s dinner. Kane’s ex and Karl go down to the shops and get themselves battered fish and hot dogs and potato fritters and chips. They come into our house with their enormous newspaper parcel and they spread it open on our floor and they eat it in front of us. I’m gagging on my dry, microwaved chips. They’re eating like fucking pigs.
“This is disgusting,” Kane’s ex announces. She throws her half-eaten food down and starts breaking apart the pieces of fresh fish and the hotdogs that have not yet been touched. She takes the food her kid is eating out of his hands, and chucks it down on the paper. She wipes her hands like they’re covered in shit, and she bundles the uneaten food back up and she tells us that she won’t stand for this. She says that people in Foxton might not mind eating this crap, but she’s from Tauranga and she expects quality. She says that she’s going back to that bloody Fish ‘n’ Chip shop and she’s going to give them a piece of her mind. She’s fucking crazy.
We’re in our car and Karl is in their car and we’re all parked outside the takeaway shop and we can see Kane’s ex inside. She’s dumped her dinner down on the counter and she’s waving her arms in the air. I can’t see the person she’s talking to, but I’m pretty sure they’re in shock. Who the hell returns twenty dollars worth of fried food?
Kane’s ex emerges from the shop. Her short black hair bounces up and down as she trots over to our<em 1.3;"=""> car. She’s pumping her fists in the air. She has a camel toe. She comes up to the window and she’s all breathless with excitement and she tells us that she fucking told them and they gave her all her money back. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe this woman and her rudeness and her way too high pants. She skips over to her own car and I look over at Jessica and she looks over at me and it’s all just way too crazy. We can’t help ourselves. We burst out laughing.
Screw you, universe.
I wonder if she's changed as much as I have...