“Kirk, Karis. Time to come in now its getting dark outside.”
“Arr come on mum. Just five more minutes.”
“I said now you two! No arguments!”
Kirk and Karis both slipped out of their newly constructed tree house and slumped towards the house. Since the day they were born they have lived for the outdoors forcing their dad to build the tree house so they could play, eat and even sleep in it. Well they would have done if Georgia did not make them come back inside every night before it got dark.
“Now I want you both to wash up and then it’s straight to bed. You’re both filthy!”
“But mum, how come Joe gets to stay up?”
“Cause Joe is two years older than you two and when you are Joe’s age you can stay up an hour later too.”
“Don’t but mum me. Up to bed NOW!”
Georgia spun round rubbing her neck. Juggling the kids and a job was really starting to wear her down.
She cast her eyes down onto Joe sitting quietly in the corner reading his book. He was so quiet but so joyful at the same time that sometimes she just wanted to wrap her arms around him and cuddle him until he burst. She really felt for him at times. India and Izzy had each other and Kirk and Karis had each other but Joe was the lowly middle child with no partner in crime.
“Hey Buddy, what you reading,” Georgia asked moving over to sit by her son’s side.
“Just a book from school,” he replied. Sensing his mother’s need to chat he folded down the corner of the page he was on and set the book to one side. “When’s dad coming home,” he asked.
“Soon I hope,” Georgia sighed.
“He’s always coming home late these days,” Joe commented.
“I know bud but your daddy has a very important job and I guess he is really busy right now.”
“But he’s never even home before I go to bed anymore,” Joe replied.
Georgia was a bit taken aback by Joe’s comment but it was something she had noticed too. For the last year Luke had been working later and later and she could not even remember the last time they made love.
“Don’t be like that Buddy. Your daddy is needed by lots of people. He just has a lot on his plate right now.”
She pulled Joe in towards her and gave him a tight squeeze. “You still have your old mum,” she said releasing him. “How about you and I have some ice-cream? I’m in the mood to be a bit naughty?”
“Yeah,” Joe shrieked jumping off the stool and running ahead of Georgia into the kitchen.
By the time India and Izzy arrived home from their party Georgia and Joe had polished off two large tubs of Orange Chocolate Chip ice-cream.
“Hi girls,” Georgia called over. “Did you have fun?”
“Yeah I had a great night,” India said smugly.
“Yeah of course you did,” Izzy snapped sarcastically turning from her sister to her mother. “Mum India stole my boyfriend!”
“He was not your boyfriend,” India replied very matter of factly.
“He was too. He asked me to go the party with him and then I turn around and you are sucking face with him.”
“You can’t lose what you never had Izzy.”
“Ooohh I really hate you sometimes,” Izzy squealed pulling back her arm like she was going to strike her sister.
“India and Izzy stop this right now,” Georgia cried running over and separating the girls. “I’ve had enough of this constant squabbling between the two of you all the time.”
“But it was her fault. She stole…..”
“I did not steal him; he was never into you anyway. He told me I was much prettier than you….”
“You bitch,” Izzy screamed trying to lash out at India with Georgia fending them both off from each other.
It was at this moment Luke came home from work. “What the hell is going on here? I can hear you screaming from right down the street!”
India and Izzy spun around and started screaming at their dad pointing and swearing at each other in ineligible squawks.
“Whoa whoa whoa,” Luke said holding up his hands in defeat. “I don’t care. I really don’t care. Now either say you’re sorry to each other or I am sending one of you to boarding school. I’ve had enough of you two fighting all the time.”
This stopped the girls dead in their tracks. They looked sheepishly at one another then at the floor.
“Sorry Izzy for taking Matt away from you,” India finally muttered.
“Sorry India for calling you a bitch,” Izzy replied through clenched teeth.
“Right that’s better,” Luke stated. “Now it’s really late I think you girls should go to bed.” He peered around at the table to see Joe sitting quietly, ice-cream all over his face. “And I think that includes you too mister.”
The twins sloped off to their rooms with Joe bounding after them. “Did you really steal Izzy’s boyfriend,” Joe was calling as they disappeared round the corner.
When the stampede of footsteps had disappeared up the stairs Luke finally turned to his wife. “Thanks for that,” Georgia said. “I couldn’t deal with them tonight.”
“They’re just teenagers,” Luke replied brushing Georgia’s comment aside. “Girls will be girls.”
“Yeah but you don’t have to deal with them all day every day. If it’s not India and Izzy arguing its Karis and Kirk or Joe and Kirk or India and Karis…. They’re driving me crazy!”
“Well what do you expect me to do,” Luke said finally spinning around and looking his wife in the eye.
“I don’t know, be here more!”
“Oh god not this again,” Luke sighed turning away once again. “We’ve been through this Georgia. I have to stay late now and again it’s my job.”
“And we’re your family,” Georgia shrieked. She slumped onto the sofa and hid her face in her hands. “I wish my mum was still here,” she muttered. Esme had passed away a couple of years back and Georgia still missed her every day.
“Me too,” Luke said slumping down next to her. They stayed silent for a while until eventually Luke slipped his arm around Georgia and she leaned back against him. Just having him close made her feel better already.
“I’m sorry ok,” he sighed. “I’m sorry I’m not here to help you more. I’ll try harder ok?”
“I promise.” He kissed her on the forehead and closed his eyes. They were both so exhausted they both fell asleep as they were.
The next morning when they awoke they were still in the same position. They looked at each other not sure of how they slept all night in that one position and then looked around the room which was filled with a hive of activity.
Kirk and Karis were already at the breakfast table tucking into breakfast and Joe was seated next to them, head tucked firmly into his book.
India and Izzy were by the cooker flipping some pancakes while Luke and Georgia sluggishly pulled themselves from the sofa stretching out their aching limbs.
“Well good morning,” Izzy said turning to her parents.
“Why didn’t anyone wake us,” Georgia said.
“India said not to wake you,” Karis said her mouth full of pancakes.
“We just thought you needed to rest. Especially after our fight last night,” India said. “We are real sorry about that.”
“It’s ok hunny,” Georgia said smiling.
“What’s the time,” Luke suddenly gasped.
“A quarter to eight,” Joe said from under his book.
“Jesus Christ,” Luke shrieked. “I’m gonna be late.” He grabbed his keys and sprinted out the door with not even a goodbye.
“Goodbye dad,” Kirk called but it was too late, the door had been slammed shut.
Georgia stood staring at the front door for a while wondering if Luke coming home last night had been an illusion!
She was jerked out of her daze by a massive crash. “Muuuummmm,” Kirk cried. “Joe just knocked over the jug of chocolate milk again.” Georgia turned around to see both Karis and Kirk soaked in milk and Joe looking very shamefaced.
“Sorry mum,” he said.
“Its ok buddy. Why don’t you take the twins upstairs and help them change their clothes and I’ll clear up this mess.”
“Ok,” he replied. “Come on you guys.”
Karis and Kirk bounded out the room after their brother while Georgia mopped up the mess on the floor. Just a normal morning in the Starr household.
“You look tired,” Amy said when Georgia went to meet her for their weekly coffee later that afternoon.
“I’m fine Georgia replied. The kids are just running me ragged is all. Nothing new.”
“Luke still not around?”
“No, not really. Its weekends now too. Joe pointed out last night that Luke is never normally home before he goes to bed. It broke my heart to see him looking so sad.”
“It’s not on,” Amy said trying to sound comforting rather accusatory. “He’s just as much their dad as you are their mum. He needs to help out more.”
“I agree but he loves his job Amy. How can I pull him away from that?”
“Even more than he loves his children?”
“I hope not.”
“Are you sure it’s just work keeping him away?”
“What do you mean,” Georgia snapped. “What else could it be?”
“Oh don’t worry. I did not mean anything by it really.”
“No come on Amy. What did you mean?”
Amy took a deep breath. “Well it’s just do you remember Jessica from school. Well I ran into her the other day and she’s divorced. She caught her husband with another woman. His secretary no less.”
“Are you saying you think Luke is having an affair?”
“No! I mean I’m sure he isn’t.”
“Of course he isn’t,” Georgia stormed. “Luke would never do that to me. To his family!”
“I’m sure your right,” Amy said. “Let’s forget I ever said anything. I’m sorry.”
“No need to be sorry I know that that’s not what’s going on.”
Amy quickly changed the subject but the seed of doubt had been planted in Georgia’s head and she could not think of anything else.
“I had better go, I have to run some errands before the kids get home from school,” she said getting out of her seat.
“Oh err ok,” Amy replied. “Listen I hope I haven’t upset you Georgia. I shouldn’t have said what I said before. Don’t worry about Luke. He’s one of the good guys.”
“I know,” Georgia said. “I had better go. Speak later.” She left the plaza and once she got round the corner she started running.
She sped across town in her car, tearing through the traffic and arriving at the military base in record timing her heart pounding like a drum through her chest all the way.
“I’m here to see my husband,” she told the receptionist. Could it be her, she couldn’t help thinking. She hated coming to the base anyway. The reception hall was as sterile and shiny as a hospital ward and there was an air of authority that made Georgia feel uneasy.
“Name,” the receptionist asked not even looking up.
“Georgia Starr and my husband is Luke Starr.”
“One moment.” The receptionist dialled a number and then waited. “Yes I have a Georgia Starr here to see Luke Starr,” she said into the receiver. “OK I will tell her.”
“He’s on his way,” the receptionist said hanging up and glaring at Georgia like she was a piece of dirt.
“Oh ok thank you,” Georgia replied running her fingers through her hair. She had not even bothered to wash it that morning and compared to the glamorous receptionist she felt old and haggard.
“Georgia,” came Luke’s voice? “What are you doing here? Is it the kids?”
“No no,” Georgia said beckoning Luke to sit next to her on the hard reception sofa. Now she was here she did not really know what to say. “I just I err….”
“What is it,” Luke asked. “What’s the matter?”
Georgia could see the concern in his face and decided to just blurt it out. “Are you having an affair,” she said. She looked over at the receptionist to check she hadn’t heard and was relieved when she saw she was on the phone.
“What,” Luke sputtered. “What are you talking about?”
“Well you are working late all the time. You’re never home. And Amy told me about Jessica do you remember her from high school? Well she is getting a divorce because her husband cheated on her with his secretary and I just thought……”
“Shhhh,” Luke said silencing Georgia. “Hunny. I am not having an affair. I’m sorry that Amy has put this silly idea into your head but it’s simply not true. I have a very vital job here at the base and a lot of people reply on me. That is why I have to stay late. Now please stop all this silliness. I love you.”
“I love you too,” Georgia whispered and she had never felt so foolish. Why did she listen to Amy? Of course Luke would never cheat on her.
“Feel better now,” Luke asked.
“Yes,” Georgia said getting up and wiping a stray tear from her eye.
“No more silliness?”
“No,” Georgia said smiling up at Luke.
“Ok well I better get back to work. I’ll see you tonight for dinner yeah?”
“You’ll be back in time for dinner?”
“I will,” Luke confirmed kissing her on the forehead.
Georgia turned and made her way to the doors feeling lighter again. Why was she so silly? She got her keys out of her bag and stupidly dropped them on the floor. As she scooped to pick them up she shot a glance back through the doors and saw Luke standing next to the reception desk laughing with the pretty receptionist!
Sickness washed through her and she felt light headed. Maybe she had not got the wrong end of the stick after all.