Quick Peep at Unsuitable
Today I’m writing the last chapter of Unsuitable. So in honour of the 115,000 words between the last chapter and the first, here’s the first.
Unproofed and not final – but you’ll get the gist.
1: The Break Up
Audrey cried. She wasn’t proud of it. It was the shock. Cameron had been with her from the start. From those first brain-numbed, endorphin-high, dizzy days and nights where up was down, sleep was awake, and white was most definitely an alarming shade of Dijon mustard with a side of green froth.
Audrey had her first genuine panic attack over the green froth. Cameron knew the green froth did not mean Mia was dying.
Cameron knew what to do about the green froth and about proper nipple attachment and nappy rash and sleeping patterns and teething and night terrors and controlled mayhem.
Cameron knew about crawling, bouncing off furniture, teething, toddling and walking. About potty training and only wanting to wear a purple, sparkly fairy dress, and lying on the floor in the middle of a supermarket aisle screaming while wearing the unwashed purple, sparkly fairy dress. Cameron knew how to make a small, stubborn child who’d had all her joints stiffened with unfathomable rage, bend to get into a car seat.
Cameron knew about tantrums, tricycles and learning to talk. About fabulous lies and biting, scary monsters and crayon on the wall. Cameron was good with stain removal and reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, sometimes just one page of it, over and over and over without committing a serious crime.
And Mia knew Cameron. Went easy into Cameron’s arms in the morning and told her secrets and poked her face and smeared food on her. She trusted Cameron to be there for her when Audrey was at work. Mia loved Cameron, had known Cameron her entire life. And Audrey worshiped at the altar of Cameron.
So she cried. Big ugly, snotty, gulping, gut-wrenching sobs.
This was a lot worse than the green froth, than the sleepless nights, than those inexplicable soaring temperatures, and the constant checking that Mia was still breathing.
This was the worst day of her life.
Worse than the day her father closed the door in her face, and her mother watched through the sheer curtain, or when Barrett was late to the clinic and wanted out of their deal. Worse than the day Mia’s lips went blue. Worse than returning from maternity leave to find she’d been restructured out of her job.
Without Cameron, there could be no Mia because it hardly mattered what job Audrey did, she couldn’t do this alone without support.
And now Cameron was leaving, so Audrey blubbered. And she didn’t do that as a rule. She was practical, pragmatic, reliable, not emotionally unstable. But tears were the only rational response left after offering more money, less work, more everything, less everything.
Cameron held out the tissue box. “You’re making me feel such a rat.”
Audrey reached for the top tissue and took the whole box instead. The one box might not be enough. “I don’t mean to, but I never thought you’d leave. We’ve been together three years.” Three years and three hundred milestones, every single one of them enough to turn Audrey inside-out if she’d had to do this alone. “I don’t know how we’re supposed to go on without you. We love you.”
“Audrey, God.” Cameron snuffled into a tissue. “You always knew I’d eventually have to go.”
“I wilfully forgot that part around about the time you made our lives so wonderful. I was so lucky to find you, and I can’t imagine what we’re going to do now.”
Cameron played with her engagement ring, twisting it around and around her finger. This was difficult for her too. But not that difficult. Moving to London wasn’t difficult; it was a walk on the Commons, a tube ride. Raising a three year old alone, when you worked full time, that was difficult. It was laying the turf on the rotten Commons, digging the bloody tunnels for the underground, and hand-making all the Thomas the Tank Engines needed for peak hour.
“It’s only two years and she’ll be at school,” Cameron said. It was possibly the singularly least helpful thing she’d ever said after, Audrey we need to talk, and Audrey, it’s time for me to move on.
Audrey sniffled. “Only.” Seven hundred and thirty days, that was longer than some of her staff stayed in their jobs before wanting to travel or take sabbaticals or go volunteering. What happened to staying in your job long enough for a gold watch, for long service leave? That’d gone the way of the fax machine, of the camera that wasn’t also a phone, of CD Rom drives and DVD players. Now there were pens that could print 3D. Now you stayed in your job five minutes and you asked for a promotion. Or you moved to London to nanny for people who lived in a flipping castle.
Audrey and Mia did not live in a castle. They lived in a very nice bungalow cottage in a good suburb,with a huge mortgage on it and a backyard that needed serious reality renovation show attention. So what if Cameron was getting her own two bedroom apartment in her new job. Yes, it made the guest bedroom she used when she stayed over seem mean, but the bungalow had Mia in it. The castle, which was probably not actually a stone building with ramparts and turrets given it was in Belgravia, had unknown English twin babies in it, but it might as well have had a moat, and ghosts, it was such a bad scene.
“I’ll organise a short list for you. All you’ll have to do is interview a new nanny and pick someone wonderful and it’ll all be fine.”
It wouldn’t be fine. Mia would be devastated.
“Or maybe you want to consider kindy now she’s three.”
Maybe enough kindys for the waiting list that snaked around the suburb had opened since Audrey checked—but probably not. She shook her head.
Cameron was a mind reader. “Or family day care?” Cameron was following her heart, or rather following Edward which was the same thing. Why did she have to love the only Paddington Bear English boy in the world who couldn’t live without pea-soup weather and warm beer?
Having Mia cared for with a small group of other children had always been a option but it didn’t help when Audrey had to travel, so even if she could find a local family day care arrangement that worked, she’d still need a nanny for the nights she needed to be away and Mia needed someone she was comfortable and secure with, not a different person every time.
Audrey blew her nose. “This is really happening isn’t it? Do I have make-up running everywhere?”
Cameron nodded. They both knew it was smarter not to let Mia see them crying. Fortunately Peppa Pig was attending Edmund Elephant’s birthday party in the other room, and that was pretty absorbing stuff. Pig noise. Otherwise there would be so many tears the house might flood. Snort.
Telling Mia was going to require a strategy. Probably a morning activity with lots of distractions planned for the remainder of the day to combat horrendous, meaningless guilt, followed by alcohol to enhance the wallowing. Mia would need Disney. Lashings of Ariel, Rapunzel, Snow White and Jasmine. There would need to be quite a bit of singing along with Elsa before either of them was going to be able to let Cameron go.