Perfect Day

Free Perfect Day by Imogen Parker

Book: Perfect Day by Imogen Parker Read Free Book Online
Authors: Imogen Parker
friend.’
    ‘How old? Is she very small, like Grandma? People get shorter when they get older, don’t they, Mummy?’
    ‘She’s not really old. It just means I’ve known her a long time. Longer than Daddy, even.’
    ‘What about school?’ Lucy’s half excited, half suspicious.
    ‘Well, it is Friday. I’m sure Mrs Bunting wouldn’t mind just one day.’
    ‘I don’t think Ben will miss me, do you?’ Lucy asks.
    When she asks a question in the negative, it always means the opposite.
    ‘Not for one day. Anyway, we’re going to tennis with him tomorrow morning.’
    ‘Oh yes, that’s right!’ Lucy smiles with relief.
    They’re only five, but Ben and Lucy are a definite item. They’ve just got to the stage where they know it’s uncool to hold hands at school. Boys now sit with boys and girls with girls in class. But they are not yet so grown up that they need to hide their love from their parents.
    ‘Can I play on the beach?’ Lucy asks.
    ‘If it’s warm enough.’
    ‘Can Lizzy Angel come too?’
    ‘If you remember not to lose her.’
    Nell dials Frances ’s number. It rings and rings and Nell is cross with herself that she did not find out whether Frances was in before telling Lucy. She hates offering something and then having to withdraw it. They’ll go to the seaside anyway, she thinks. She’s putting the receiver down when Frances answers.
    ‘Bloody hell. What’s the time?’ says Frances groggily. ‘Do people with children forget how nice sleeping is, or do they just get mean because they can’t?’
    ‘Lucy and I would like to come and see you.’
    ‘And Lizzy Angel,’ Lucy adds.
    ‘Today?’
    ‘Yes. Is it a problem?’
    ‘I’m teaching this evening, but...’
    ‘We’ll be gone by then.’
    ‘Fine... no, more than fine. Great... When are you setting off?’
    ‘Now- ish ,’ says Nell, excitedly. ‘See you then. Say, love you in the world to Frances .’ Nell holds the phone in midair between herself and Lucy.
    ‘Love you in the world!’ Lucy shouts.
    ‘Love you in the world?’ Frances repeats.
    ‘I used to tell her that I loved her the most in the world...’ Nell explains, ‘and her version kind of stuck.’
    She’s slightly embarrassed. Frances despises cuteness.
    ‘Later!’ she says, putting down the phone and smiling at Lucy.
    ‘We’re going to the seaside!’ Lucy jumps up and down. ‘Can I take my bucket and spade?’
    ‘If we can find them.’

    Nell steps into the garden. It doesn’t get the sun until the afternoon and it’s still chilly. Gingerly, she lifts the lid of the sandpit. There is a rime of green mould on last year’s sand and on the handle of a spade that is peeping out of it, like a piece of modern sculpture. Alexander has not made his annual trip to the Early Learning Centre to buy fresh sand. Nell’s eyes blur with tears. This is a neglected sandpit, she tells herself, not a metaphor for our relationship. Unhappiness makes you lend emotional weight to everything. Her mind revisits the blazing row she and Alexander had last week after she gave his mother’s old rug to the dustmen. She shivers the memory away and puts the red plastic lid back.

    The floor of Lucy’s room is covered with every item of clothing she possesses, and Lucy is standing in her knickers, grey socks and school shoes.
    ‘I don’t know what to wear,’ she says, shrugging like a much older person.
    Nell kneels on the floor and begins to put everything back into the chest of drawers.
    ‘How about these? I think Frances sent them to you last birthday.’
    ‘How did she know it was my birthday?’
    ‘I expect I told her.’
    ‘Has Frances ever met me?’
    ‘No.’
    ‘Why?’
    ‘Because she used to live on the other side of the world. But now she’s home.’
    Nell picks out a pair of faded jeans from Gap with flowers and butterflies embroidered on them.
    I wish I was small enough to wear these, Frances ’s note had said.
    ‘They’re too big,’ Lucy says. ‘I

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