“I am a respectable mother. I am a respectable mother. I am a … de-spectacled muddle.” Pippa chanted her mantra into the mirror. It had all been going so well until child number three got himself expelled from boarding school and had to come home. And then Covid happened. And then lockdown began. And then, basically everything went wrong.
The first mistake had been naming a child after an evil aunt who eventually cut them out of her will and left everything to an animal charity where it undoubtedly got siphoned off by a crooked CEO who spent it on flashy cars and posh holidays.
Pippa didn’t have anything against flashy cars and posh holidays. Indeed, had Aunty Dora left her the loot she would have spent as much as possible on flashy cars and posh holidays. The flashy car part would have kept Bob happy, and persuaded him to stay at home and look after the kids for a few weeks while she enjoyed the posh holiday part, checking out of kids and family life the minute she checked into the airport. Champagne, Madam? Oh yes, please. A massage, Madam? Well, why not. She would have enjoyed every decadent second.
But no. Despite saddling her son with a name like Theo – Dora still being slightly too outré for children born in the early part of this millennium – she didn’t get a sausage.
Maybe sausages had been the crux of the problem, Pippa wondered, remembering the time Dora came to stay 10 years ago and snootily announced she was now a vegan.
“Typical Dora!” Pippa huffed at Bob when they made it back into the kitchen. “Always got to be centre of attention with her latest fad.”
“Well, you’re not going to get away giving her sausage casserole now, are you?” Bob quizzed.
“I jolly well will. Those vegan sausages look just the same, don’t they? We’ll tell her it’s vegan sausage casserole and she won’t be able to tell the difference with all the sauce.”
She had felt a bit bad about it afterwards, but surely that wasn’t enough to get bumped out of a family inheritance.
By the time the doorbell went, Pippa had recomposed her mantra, messaged the girls to say she couldn’t come round to get sloshed, and picked out the most mummish outfit in her wardrobe.
It wasn’t exactly the first time she’d had to get dressed up for a visit from the police, but there was a difference between looking sweet and innocent in your 20s, and looking like a mother who had it all in hand in your 40s.
Damn Theo. Why couldn’t he be the sort of teenager who pushed the boundaries up to the point before he got caught, rather than the sort who pushed them over then got caught sitting on top of them?
She’d never really misbehaved at school so he must have got it from Bob. At university when they met during her year of grunge, he’d had a bit of a penchant for pot. Not enough to be a ‘stoner’ but close enough to friends who had been close enough to being one. Assassination by association, that’s what Lydia had called it when they dissected their student days.
Now Bob wouldn’t go more off-piste than a couple of pints. He still had the Nirvana T-shirt, but had lost his teen spirit long ago, life joy crumbling into the coal pit of fatherhood and a stultifying job at the States. Both involved digging your way out of a big hole however you approached it.
Pippa hadn’t been at the same university as Lydia, nor the same school, but when they met, a few months after Pippa arrived in Jersey, it felt like they had led parallel lives up until the point where Pippa had babies, and Lydia had a career. Now they were both housewives of sorts. Women who managed their own domains with varying degrees of success and satisfaction depending how much one spent on staff, and how annoying your children were.
School fees for three boys, with boarding for Theo after 13, and university for the elder two meant Pippa and Bob spent little on home help.
Sometimes, when Theo complained about boarding school, Pippa wished she could swap places. She could have been quite happy to sit in a classroom, run around a field, and eat stodgy puddings every day. It would be easier than finding the money to send one’s ungrateful child to sit in a classroom, run around a field, and eat stodgy puddings. Oh, why hadn’t she stopped at two and got a puppy? Social security contributions for mothers had a lot to answer for.
By the time Pippa reached the door she had posted a smile to her face and was prepared for the worst. Maybe it would be good if Theo did get charged. It could be a wake-up call for him.
Join the Island Wives again next Friday.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or undead, or actual events is purely coincidental.