I PRESS?play. “Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.” The parcel wends its way in a clockwise direction. Noel. Emma. Billy. Maria. Me…
This morning I was at Heathrow, waiting for a flight and buying shirts in case I had to be away for a couple of days. I certainly couldn’t have left the house with overnight paraphernalia. Hormones a-popping, Emma would have brought my career, perhaps my life, to a premature and ugly end.
“Dad. Dad! That’s cheating.”
I realise I’ve been holding onto the parcel for even longer than Noel and Billy. Apologetic, I pass the parcel to Noel. Endeavouring to let him go at the first layer, I reach for the iPod but accidentally hit skip instead of pause. Noel reluctantly passes the parcel to Emma as “an oink oink here and oink oink there” is seamlessly replaced by Elvis confessing, “We’re caught in a trap, I can’t walk out.”
I press pause and fiddle with the iPod, disengaging the shuffle function. Emma strips away a layer of last week’s Sunday supplement to reveal a superhero toothbrush. “Cool,” says Billy. “Oh, mum, I wanted that,” says Noel. Emma looks daggers at me. If only she knew the full story.
The music recommences. “Oranges and lemons say the bells of St. Clement's.”
Feeling sick to the pit of my stomach, with my flight boarding and with Emma’s “Come home early on the day” echoing, I realised I had three possible phone calls to make; the client’s CFO, Sandy and home. The order and outcomes were crucial. Life-defining.
“When I grow rich say the bells of Shoreditch.”
“Herr Dr. Ringel, it’s David Cashman. I’m about to board a plane at Heathrow but I just wanted to talk to you first. I have a son. Noel. He’s six today. And I really need to be at home tonight.”
“Here comes a chopper to chop off your head.” Pause.
Noel squeals with delight and tears at the parcel. A metal model Spitfire emerges. “Wow dad! Neeeeoow. Takatakatakataka.” Noel strafes Billy. Billy takes flight, chased by Noel.
As the dogfight ensues, Emma and I catch one another’s eye. She smiles and allows her hand to flutter above her belly. I realise that Maria is watching us.
“Hey, come on boys. Boys!” I say, distracting Maria.
Later, as Maria gives Noel and Billy their dinner, Emma asks, “Aren’t you glad you made it home early this evening? I am. Hope it wasn’t tricky.”
“No, no” I insist. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
l Continued next week.