SIT yourself down, Adam,” Maria says, putting a steaming cup on the table. “ Hot chocolate. Liam and I always have one on a Friday night, while we watch television.”
I snort. “I’d rather have a coffee. Or a vodka.”
Maria laughs. “No coffee after lunch in this house – and definitely no vodka.” Then she turns away and calls for Liam. Not what I was expecting.
I take a sip. The drink is thick and sweet – delicious. The only hot chocolate I’ve ever had before was like muddy water.
Maria’s looking at me. “Good?” I shrug. “It’s all right. Tastes different. What d’you put in it?”
She taps the side of her nose – secret.
I’m about to take another sip when a whirlwind crashes through the door straight into the table. The cup wobbles and I splash hot chocolate down me.
“Hey! Watch it!” I’m on my feet. “Slowly, Liam,” Maria says, scooping up
the whirlwind. “Say ‘hello’ to Adam.” A little boy looks back at me. “I’m Liam,” he says. “I’m nearly five and
I can swim without armbands and I got a sticker at school today.”
He pokes his hand out at me.
I start to grin at him, see Maria watching me and bite it back. But I take his hand. “Hello, Liam. I’m Adam and I’m nearly 12.”
MARIA puts him down and he scoots into the chair opposite me as I sit down again. He stares straight at me like little kids do.
I stare back.
“Will you watch Spider-Man with us?” he says.
I shake my head. “I think I’ll just go to my room.”
He looks away, disappointed. But there’s no point getting friendly – I won’t be here long enough for that.
Maria ruffles Liam’s hair. “I expect Adam’s tired,” she says. “He’s had a busy day moving in. Perhaps he’ll watch it with us next week. And perhaps we can watch something other than Spider-Man.”
She rolls her eyes at me, taking me into her confidence, but I know all their tricks.
Make you feel like you belong before the excuses start – it’s not quite working; needs a firmer hand; clashes with the other children. I gulp down the rest of my drink and head upstairs.
The room’s okay. Some posters up – boy bands. There must’ve been a girl here before me.
There’s a knock on the door. Normally they just barge in like you’ve no right to any privacy.
“Come in,” I say.
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1 October 2020