She plagues me with questions first thing in the morning as I wipe noses and squirt inhalers with the boys.
“But when will you phone?”
“Phone, phone, phone.”
“Oh I know! You'll phone after nine? Will you phone at nine? Mommm!”
“Er no. Her mum said she'd phone us at mid-day.”
“Oh no that's gonna take forever.”
“Indeed, but we'll find something to do in the meantime.”
“Mean……time….mean….time……mean…….time.” I make a quick dash to the garage for a couple of boxes of tissues to assuage the sea of snot. My pre-teen in is mid pout, as she has experienced a sharp learning curve this week. Adult conversations have been the order of the day, but we need to tread carefully. If you ban a friendship you guarantee eternal adoration. “She probably won't phone until even later………like yesterday…….” I see the cogs turning. She's getting there all by herself. “You know dear, it's probably not fair for her to come for a sleepover tonight anyway.”
“Why? That is sooo not fair!”
“Look at them! They're coughing and sniffing…….”
“That's o.k. we'll be in my room. She won't catch it.”
“Um……tell you what…….I will have to tell her mum that the boys are ill and then she can decide.”
I am disconcerted that she agrees immediately, no hesitation, ever the optimist.
We spend the day quietly but in a very noisy manner until the telephone rings in the mid afternoon.
“Hi Natalie! Just a quick call as she’s still asleep, up all night on the innernet with her sister.”
“Oh hello,” I glance at the clock, “I just thought I'd better let you know that the boys are ill with colds, maybe flu.”
“Oh sorry. Poor little guys. I'll bring her round when she wakes up.”
“Well I just thought that you should know that they're ill in case she catches it.”
“She'll be o.k.”
“She's got a great immune system.”
“Hmm that's good to know. Pity the boys haven't fared so well. No school for them on Monday!”
“They're <span style=”font-style:italic;”>that<span style=”font-weight:bold;”></span></span> sick?”
“Ooo yes. I wouldn't be surprised if they're off school for a few days.” I hear silence on the other end of the line. I dither whether to fill the air with mindless chatter or keep quiet whilst calculations are made. I am ready for the 'she can come here' option. I have spent an inordinate amount of time working out how to extract myself and my family from this escalating debacle. I need to stick to my guns but I have a strong need to ensure that I do not slight an innocent child.
“You know Natalie howabout we do it next weekend?”
“Thank you for that, but I'm afraid we have the boys' sleepovers then.”
“Great! One more would make it a party.”
“It probably would, but I'm a bit tired these days so we're trying to limit the number of play dates everyone has. I hope you can understand.”
“Sure. I'll leave it a week then.”
“Thank you.” She's already clicked off the line. I am left with the notion that I have only bought myself some time. A second wave is on the way, building momentum, ready to bowl me over.
Better dust off my surf board.