‘Shut that bloody door!’ I shout out of sheer panic, just as an officer in a high – viz jacket steps into the living room, radio crackling. I marshal my facial features into an expression which I hope says a mixture of:
- Is there a problem here officer?
- There is nothing you can book me for, literally nothing (I am at least 45% certain of that)
- I haven’t just woken up. Honest.
‘It’s about the car insurance,’ says Annie, biting her bottom lip.
The lawman is looking around the living room. ‘Please don’t look at our living conditions,’ I want to say but my mouth is just moving. I try to force a sound out.
‘It’s actually you that we want to speak to miss,’ he says to my wife.
Annie gives me a look that says, ‘Please swap bodies with me.’
‘The insurance is with Hastings Direct,’ I tell him, hedging my bets. It could be with any of the major insurers but I have seen a Hastings advert recently; probably in between episodes of Peppa Pig.
‘If you could get the documents…’ he says to me and walks off to the patrol car parked on the drive. ‘Could you come with me please miss?’
Annie gives me a panicked look over her shoulder mouthing, ‘Is it insured?’
‘Hope so,’ I mouth back, as reassuringly as one can when mouthing the word ‘hope’ to one’s spouse who is being ushered into the back of a police car.
This doesn’t inspire confidence in Annie who starts to cry. This is fucking embarassing, I think.
‘Naughty man?’ asks Bobbie.
‘Is mummy being arrested?’ asks Gretchen.
‘I don’t know,’ I say to myself. Realising I have said this aloud I reassure the kids, ‘No. Definitely not,’ I say, ‘definitely not.’
This has the exact opposite effect from what was intended. Gretchen’s eyes well with tears.
‘Naughty man? Mummy go naughty man?’ asks Bobbie, a note of confusion evident in her tiny voice.
‘Erm…’ I say, not reassuringly.
Gretchen has started to cry properly now. When I say cry, what I actually mean is howl. I should say something about Gretchen’s crying at this point. She is 8 years old now and to my mind should have knocked all this crying malarkey on the head a long time ago. Recently though she has redoubled her endeavors in this field.
She has adopted a technique of throwing her head back, opening her mouth wide, scrunching her eyes up until the first tear comes (which can take up to half a minute to achieve) and then letting out a sound akin to a Vulcan bomber taking off.
The Vulcan bomber is now revving its’ engines. To this cacophony Bobbie now adds her own falsetto cheeping. ‘Mummy, mummy, mummy…’ she goes.
‘Don’t worry my darlings,’ I say, but the gentle tone I adopt in these situations is lost in the din of screaming and wailing.
From the kitchen window we can see Annie in the back of the patrol car, the loose bun in her hair waggling around when she variously nods and shakes her head. There is more shaking than nodding, which is concerning.
The patrol car still has its’ flashing lights on. I note that in the houses opposite neighbours have also come to their windows. I wave to Duncan and Mandy across the road; a gestured designed to let them know that this is all fine, just a mix – up, nothing to worry about. At all. But they don’t see me. Either that or they’re pretending they haven’t seen me. Or, alternatively, they hate me, and this is the confirmation they were waiting for that I am a social deviant and someone they wouldn’t want to be associated with. Come to think of it, that would explain why they do seem to avoid me.