She unlocks the car with a beep. The little boys tug at the door handles.
‘Max, stop shoving me!’
‘I’m not shoving you! It’s Nico!’
‘Mum! Jos hit me!’
‘If you’re going to fight,’ she says, clicking the key into the ignition, ‘you can walk to Aunt Livy’s.’
The fidgeting stops. The boys attach their seatbelts.
‘Are we going to Aunt Livy’s?’
‘Yes.’ She says, smiling at them through the rear view mirror.
Nico and Max cheer. Jos folds his arms.
‘I don’t want to go to Aunt Livy’s.’ He mumbles, ‘She doesn’t let me read by myself.’
‘But she makes the best ice cream sundaes!’ Max beams. He leans forward in his seat.
‘Mummy, have you had a ice cream sundae at Aunt Livy’s?’
‘I don’t want to go to Aunt Livy’s.’ Jos says, louder. He looks at his mum in the reflection of the mirror.
‘So I’ve heard.’ She says, staring back at him. ‘What do you want me to do about it?’
Jos does not expect the cross examination and stumbles.
‘I don’t know.’ He shrugs. ‘Can’t we stay with you?’
She doesn’t even break a sweat.
‘Joseph, what day is it today?’
‘Thursday.’ He replies reluctantly.
‘Thursday. A week day. And what happens on a weekday?’
‘You have to go to work!’ Max pipes up.
‘I have to go to work. I don’t want to go to work on lovely summer days like this, but I have to, because I need to make money to support you. I’d rather be at the beach with all of you and Daddy, but beaches cost money. Boys cost money. Even Dads cost money sometimes. So I have to go to work. Daddy has to go to work. And you have to go to Aunt Livy’s.’
She turns around.
‘Sometimes you have to do things that you don’t want to. That is how life is balanced. On the one hand-‘
She raises her right hand.
‘Fun things. And on the other-‘
She raises her right.
‘Not so fun things. But that’s good. I know it’s hard to understand now, but it teaches you things. Endurance, how to enjoy the good things when you get them.’
She continues, her thoughts far away.
‘If you just do the things that you like all the time, the minute something you care about gets too difficult, like reading a new book, or drawing a picture, you’ll walk away instead of working through it. I want you to be brave and strong when you grow up. Not quitters. Not spineless, or weak willed like the men on my side of the family.’
She turns back and starts the car.
‘Things will be different with you. I’m not going to give you the chance to fail. So you can complain all you want, Joseph Finebeck, but you’re going to Aunt Livy’s and you’re going to learn something from it.
She backs out of the drive.