Kathy Sutcliffe lives in the Central North Island town of Rotorua, New Zealand.
She teaches Year 7 and 8 students at Rotorua Intermediate and has 4 children of her own.
When not writing, working or looking after her children she enjoys exploring the great outdoors.
Her previous book with IP was Write My Face.
A more-pork hooted all night long and now, sparrows twitter outside my window. Damn happy birds. I groan and pull the pillow around my ears. Is this some kind of feathered conspiracy? Don’t they know it’s Saturday? I sigh. I might as well get up because I’ll never sleep with that racket going on. I roll over in bed and open my eyes, letting my brain shift into focus. As I blink, the same old scene comes into view. Same old jumble of clothes and stinky socks litter the floor. Same old art books and sketch pads stacked in corners. Same old music posters and pages torn from rock magazines plastering the walls. I can’t help being a slob, it’s just the way I am. Mum’s always on at me to tidy up and I always tell her I will … later.
Taking a deep breath I biff back my duvet, swing my legs out of bed and stagger to my bathroom. After a shower I wipe the mirror and examine my face for zits, then run a finger along my jaw line and decide a shave isn’t necessary. I take a few deep breaths and stand back to check for flab, but nah, nothing to worry about. One of the benefits of being a swimmer is good muscle definition. I haul on faded jeans and a T-shirt and after pulling up the duvet and kicking the dirty clothes under the bed, I head for the house to check out the food situation. I like having an outside room. Gives me space from the rest of the family and unless it’s freezing or raining, I don’t mind the short trip across the lawn to the back door. Today, it’s not raining or cold; it’s already warm and I reckon it’s going to be a scorcher.
Excellent. Might get in some swimming later.
Margaret, our old Corgi, yaps a greeting. “Yeah, yeah,” I pat her head affectionately. I am rarely able to sneak into the house without her raising the alarm.
Mum’s in the kitchen making coffee and Felix is glued to the TV in the lounge. My little brother is in personal communication with Thomas the tank engine and that means he’s licking the screen. Totally disgusting and really annoying too, because when I want to watch something, the screen is sticky and the picture blurred. Music bounces around the room as I wander through and grunt a greeting to Mum. She has the same dark hair and eyes as I have, but where I must be hitting six foot, she would be lucky if she’s five one. I obviously get my height from Dad.
Just for a minute, I feel lost. I miss my dad. I glance back at Felix, and wonder if he misses Dad too. The kid’s licking the TV again. “Felix!” I say. “Cut the slobbering, ah?”
“Thomas!” He grins, bending his knees in time to the music. “Look, Alex. Thomas.”
Mum laughs. I bet she’s remembering back to when I was that age and did exactly the same thing.
“Can you take him outside for a play with the ball when you’ve finished your breakfast, please love?” she asks. “He’s had long enough in front of the TV.”
“All good.” Felix is OK, most of the time. I wonder what I was like at his age. I can’t remember much back that far, but I’m sure I wasn’t as into the TV as he is. I remember thinking felt pens and crayons were pretty cool. Felix just eats his crayons. I clear a space on the bench and start making toast.
“By the way,” Mum pauses on her way down the hall, “courier for you.”
I hadn’t noticed the red and yellow envelope on top of a pile of old papers and magazines. The delivery is from Learning Media, and that means illustrating work, and illustrating work means money.
After swallowing my toast and washing it down with a cup of coffee, I dump my dishes in the sink and navigate my way through the Duplo blocks and plastic train tracks that litter the floor. Felix’s face drops and his lip wobbles as I flip off the TV. I laugh. “How about some footy, little guy? Race ya outside!”
Instantly his face lights up and he pushes to get past me to the back door. I let him win just to make him happy, and follow him outside to the back lawn. Margaret boings over to us on stumpy legs, yapping excitedly at the prospect of some Saturday morning activity.
After about half an hour of kicking the ball backwards and forwards Felix gets tired and wanders off to play in his sandpit. It’s nice outside so I slump beneath the spreading branches of the old oak tree that half fills our yard. Remnants of a rope swing dangle from one of its massive branches. Dad has said he’d fix it up for Felix one day, but he hasn’t done it yet. Classic Dad behaviour. He’s not here enough to do anything for anyone. I rest my head against the rough bark and try to clear the thoughts out of my head. I don’t want any dark clouds spoiling my day.
I close my eyes and listen to the soft sounds of a Saturday suburban morning.
Just as I’m relaxing, the sound of an engine drawing closer splits the air. Interesting. The house next door has been empty for a couple of months and I’ve become used to the quiet. I watch through half-closed eyes, as a dull-coloured removal van, followed by a silver Audi, pulls into the next door driveway. A pale-haired woman in a cream suit climbs out of the driver’s side of the car and rubs her shoulder. She marches straight up to the front door and unlocks it for the men in the moving truck. While all that’s going on, a guy about my age uncurls from the other side of the car and stretches, like he’s been sitting a while. He’s tall and wiry, dressed in skinny black jeans and a white T-shirt. His hair’s white-blonde and cut in a cool style, under-cut at the back and long at the front. He’s good looking too which means he might be competition. I get up just as he lifts his head, and our eyes meet.
“Hi. Moving in, eh?” I ask the obvious.
“It would appear so.” The guy’s got an accent. South African, maybe. “Piers Yzel,” he says, walking towards me. “We’ve just moved down from Auckland.”
Jackie McKay has been awarded a grant to complete a study in the serene wilderness of the North Island of New Zealand. The serenity of life in the bush is shattered, however, when Ethan steps into her life and rescues her from drowning.