• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 05
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Family Time

I haven’t seen my sister for three weeks. Now she is on my doorstep holding out this weird picture she’s painted. I scratch the prickling scar on my abdomen. Hold my sour dressing gown over myself.
        ‘You needed family time.’ She shrugs. ‘Is he…?’
        ‘Asleep.’ I jerk my thumb behind me. ‘And at the pub.’
She looks away and I know he’s texted her – told her to come.
She brings the frame in and leans it against the wall. She looks into the bassinet.
        ‘Ah, yes.’ She circles a finger around her face. ‘The Birkdale nose. Yes.’ She backs away. ‘Very cute. He’s adorable.’
        ‘I’ve just got him down, or I’d offer…’
        ‘No. Really.' She turns to me and frowns. ‘What’s that noise?’
        I open one wing of my dressing gown. My breast is compressed in the plastic funnel of the pump, the veins purple, my dark nipple distended.
        ‘Cuppa?’ she goes into the kitchen.
I sit on the sofa and stare at the painting. She has been watching Bob Ross tutorials again. I know she has from the picture.
And I know it from the way she beats the baby bottle brush against the sides of the sink. I lie back and stare at the pump pulling me inside out. I peel a damp flannel from the sofa arm and lay it over my chest.
        ‘I brought wine.’ She looks into the lounge. ‘You can’t though. Or can you?’ I shrug.
She moves gift bags and piles of pale blue knitted things to sit beside me and we look at the picture together.
        ‘I went rogue… after I painted the trees.’
        ‘The trees are good.’
        ‘Trees are easy,’ she says but I can see she is pleased.
        ‘The rocks and heather…’ I point with my toe. The suction cup buzzes on and off rhythmically. I glance at the 3mm golden meniscus in the bottom of the collection bottle. Two hours work.


Family Time

The baby stirs. A boat tugging its anchor. We hold our breath until he settles with a juddering sigh.
I point at the ice ceiling arcing across the top of the canvas. ‘That’s wrong.’
She raises an eyebrow. Then she gets up and turns the canvas on its head. Suddenly it becomes a glacial pathway between pillars of ice.
‘Oh,’ I say.
‘I ran out of canvasses. But I wanted to try the glacier. And bring the two things together. The texture. You know?’ Her eyes flicker towards the Bassinet. ‘I think it works, somehow?’

She doesn’t stay long. But at the door she hugs me and promises to be back soon. ‘I’ll bring a mental hot Balti. You’re still allowed…?’ she kisses me on the cheek.
I close the door and stop the pump. I lean in the doorway of the lounge. An arctic silence. I lift him from the cot and return to the sofa. The warm weight of him on top of me. His skin plaining against mine. His breath soft against my neck.