Image by Tú Nguyễn from Pixabay

Halfway into the third bottle of red Nicola thinks of checking on Adelaide and goes upstairs in a series of S-shapes, gently bouncing herself from the banister, the wall, the banister, the wall, and thinks she’s doing well not to shout ‘Weeeee!!!’ as she does it because she’s grown up now and can hold the wine that she and Tim chose together on their last trip to the Valley as they went around cellar doors doing what grown-ups do, investing in young wine which they’ll lay down in a cellar (even if the cellar is a five-dollar IKEA wine rack) and bring out when it’s ready, to be shared with equally discerning grown-up friends, who have come over to admire the banisters that Tim sanded and painted, and the wallpaper (statement retro print, flocked, at eighty pounds a roll) that a decorator came in to do because Tim’s sanding and painting were pretty terrible, and the whole house around it, which is their home, their passion, their investment, although that’s not what really matters because what really matters is upstairs sleeping with Mr Mordecai and Benny the giraffe, tight in the flushed-cheek sleep of a childhood in which Nicola wishes she could keep Adelaide forever, but which she observes in sips, like drinks stolen from a parental booze cabinet, when she needs it, like she needs it now, now that she is drunk and happy and wants the sight of her child to crown her happiness, so she pushes open the door with the exaggerated care of a drunk happy parent and looks into the glow-worm bower of childhood, but sees only the cover thrown back and the bed empty – as empty as the bathroom when she runs to it, as empty as her cry to Tim and the others, and as uncertain as her legs when she propels herself back down the stairs suddenly steady but hot – my god, how did she get so hot – until the cool wind from the open front door strikes her neck and she rushes to it shouting for Tim while, framed in that yellow-lit doorway with the heritage moulding and new-old stained glass she looks up and down the silent car-lined and sees the little figure in her Disney nightie, toddling between the quiet cars on the broad black strip of street looking up at the moon, the moon, so vast and silver-pale that it called her out of bed and out of the house, away, away and down the street which is the limit of her world and her parents’ world – or this is what she tells Addy when she has sprinted to her, swept her hot, chubby, nightie-clothed body up in her arms and cried angrily even as she has walked back to the house, looking accusingly at Tim and the others who stand, as drunk and slack-jawed as she was only two minutes before, in the doorway of the house that is their prize, their life’s work, the box they shut their little girl in when she wants to run away with the moon because this is what they do, this limiting and shutting in, this sanding and painting and closing doors on the big bright night and the lure of the world their child feels, this is what they do because now they are all grown up.

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