Keeping mum

Half way to Mum’s place Dad stopped for cheeseburgers. ‘Special treat,’ he said.

‘Mum won’t be happy,’ I said.

‘About your mother. Don’t tell her about the baby. Not until I’ve talked to her.’

Dad saw my disappointment.

‘I mean it, Jude.’ He gave me his serious look over his burger.


We’d finished dinner and were about to watch Shrek when Mum’s phone rang.

‘Lester. Everything OK?’

I hit ‘pause’.

‘I’m taking this in the other room,’ she said. ‘Start without me.’

When she came back she was quiet. She didn’t laugh at the bits she usually laughed at. When the movie finished she made me do my teeth and tucked me in.

‘No reading?’ I said.

‘You read, Jude. You’re a big girl.’

Then she kissed me like I was going away.

I’d always loved the sound of her voice through walls—muffled warm like a friendly ghost. But when she called Auntie Jean I wished I couldn’t hear. ‘I wanted the big family,’ she said. ‘I wanted more. Not him.’

But next morning it was as if nothing had happened. While we were making breakfast she said, ‘What do you think? About Dad and Liz having a baby?’

‘It’s good,’ I said.

‘Hmmm. A little brother or sister.’

‘Yeah,’ I didn’t know what she wanted me to say.


2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (