12.8.13

A mere darkening (fiction)

Here’s the plan, she says to herself: First, I’ll wait.

Mummy will have to go to the bathroom at some point. Then I’ll sneak out, I’ll leave the door just a little open so it won’t lock and I can get back in later, when it’s dark.

She nods in her self-confidence but knows somehow that her plan is as good as fantasy.

On the balcony, looking down five floors through the glass that surrounds her – she cannot see the others.

“It’s not safe,” declared her mother, “Who doesn’t understand,” her older brother says – he’s fifteen and everyone here, he insists, stays out late except him.

It’s summer.

It’s been a month since they arrived overdressed because mummy said it would be cold in Finland. But the children insisted it was summer – and besides they’d Googled the weather forecast for Helsinki - 29 degrees - and that’s too hot for coats, coats that were now folded forgotten into the plain white MDF wardrobe that lined the bedrooms in their apartment.

“Be home before dark,” Mummy had insisted, before she realised that night here in summer was a mere darkening near midnight, a shadowy haze that lifted in the early hours of the night and forced them all awake.

“Be home by seven,” she changed the rules and even Daddy rolled his eyes though he didn’t have to abide by her edicts.

“We had a brai in the park. You should have come,” he said, tipsy, talking of the others with whom he was already friends.

But she wouldn’t budge, how could you be in a park at night? Surely they’d be attacked? Wasn’t this city teeming with alcoholics and weren’t Nazi thugs at every corner preying on black people waiting to attack?

He shook his head and went to bed, his eyes covered with a scarf to block out the light.

But the other kids are outside, she insisted every evening. She knew. She’d met them during the day - some of them even spoke English.

“Then they must have bad parents.” Mummy said and would not be swayed, because yes she’d agreed to coming here, but no she would not allow this place turn her into a bad parent – a permissive parent, one of those parents who let her children become rowdy and disrespectful and to stay out all night just because they lived in a foreign country.

She listened for the other children, their frenzied screams and shouts of joy telling her that they were just outside her line of sight. Maybe tonight she’d stay on the balcony until they were quiet to find out what time their fun ended – did they really stay out until Midnight? She waited for her mother to tell her to come inside and shut the balcony door, to spoil what little fun she was having.

The sofa creaked and the advertisement break came on, she heard Mummy rise, her Finnish for Foreigners book sliding to the floor yet unread.

The bathroom door closed and the clicking of the lock told her it was time. 

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