Peony’s not pregnant. I should know, I clean the loo. And the pants. You get the picture.

She’s up to something though. In the evenings, as Mother, Charlton and I settle in front of the World Cup, her phone will ring and she’ll answer it with a “not now!” and leave the room in a rush.

Yesterday Mother asked her: “What are you going to do with your life, dear?”

We were at the garden table examining the clothing catalogues, it being summer sale time.

“Mother!” I said. “That’s Peony’s business and nobody else’s.”

Peony scowled at whatever she saw in her catalogue.

“Plenty of irons in fires,” she mumbled.

“That’s right,” I soothed.

“It’s just that we had such high hopes for you,” continued Mother. “What with your own mother failing to achieve anything. We put all our hopes into you. You did so well at university.”

I was just agreeing with this assessment when I heard the echo of the insult.

“What do you mean failed? I’ve worked my arse off all my life.”

Peony patted me on my shoulder.

“Mum’s a writer,” she said and I swear I heard a distant tone of commiseration in her voice.

“Ha!” replied Mother.

Oh I didn’t want to have this conversation. I’ve had it too often before. I never come off well.

“She is,” insisted Peony and still there it was, that little ding of pity.

Mother pulled a face.

“It’s not really writing though, is it? Not real books, I mean. Come on.”

I sighed.

“Can we not have this conversation?”

“They’re very nice books,” tried Peony. “People get to choose whether they want to read them or not. Who cares what publishers think? Let the people decide! We’re living in a new era, Grunma. Nothing’s mainstream any more.”

Mother won’t argue with Peony. To her, Peony is a shining temple goddess. You can’t go bickering with a goddess.

“If you say so,” she grumbled. “I can’t continue speaking, dears. Not with my condition. But let me just have the last word as befits my age and status. They’re not proper books. Not really.”

Peony laughed and slapped her grandmother affectionately on her back.

“Silly old tart!” she exclaimed and her phone rang and she hurried to the end of the garden to take the call.

 

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