‘Please, bethy, for me?’
The vice-like grip on her hands was not threatening; if anything, the slight tremble betrayed Poppy’s desperation. It was the first time in a long time she’d shown so much determination. Poppy had never been a fragile person. Growing up, her big sister had been brave and happy, energetic and kind.
A true reflection of their parents, especially their mother. But trauma had left its mark, in the curve of her shoulders, the timid movement of her body and the permanent shadows in the creases of her eyes, like dark stains on her soul.
‘But I can’t leave Hudson and Dad.’
Beth Walton glanced over at her son on his elephant-print play mat, his wooden blocks strewn around him. Drool oozed down his chin, soaking into his blue jumpsuit, his cheeks glowing red as he focused on chewing a block as if he were a puppy and it was a tasty bone. Poppy’s surprise visit had interrupted Beth’s routine and she’d forgotten to put on his bib.
‘Especially now he’s teething. His temp’s all over the place and he’s cranky,’ added Beth.
‘Dad’s always like that,’ said Poppy, scrunching her nose up enough to move her black-framed glasses.
‘Look, it’s only for a weekend,’ Poppy continued in her best imploring tone. ‘I’ll stay here and look after Dad and Hudson. I’ll clean the house, I’ll do everything. Please, sis, you know what this means to me!’ Her shoulders dropped along with her grip on Beth’s hands. ‘I can do this, Beth.’ Poppy rifled through her bag and took out a pamphlet…