Elizabeth brought two slices of strawberry shortcake for Kate’s birthday. They sat together in the living room, eating cake and drinking coffee. Kate had already given half of her slice to her son.
Jay was playing outside in the garden, the cake long since finished and already forgotten. The neighbour’s cat — Jay couldn’t remember Skritchy’s name — was in his arms. Skritchy was squirming and unhappy, but Jay kept the cat’s legs down and claws tucked away.
Inside, Kate spoke animatedly, punctuating what she said with her hands: “He’s such a good boy.” And, “It’s been amazing watching him grow.” Also, “I wish I could be that innocent again. You know: not to have the weight of the world on me.”
Jay emptied out his school-bag and dropped the cat into it. Skritchy yowled, but Jay just ignored him.
“Mrs Shaw says that he’s making friends easily, which is such a load off my mind. But then he’s so sweet; who wouldn’t like him?”
Jay also slid his dad’s hammer — the odd looking clawed one with the rubberised handle — into the bag’s side pocket.
“I only want what’s best for him, you know? But then they put such shit on the news: Jay could walk in at any moment and see that crap. Or the internet! I’m scared we’re not protecting our children enough.”
Elizabeth looked at her watch and wondered if she’d stayed long enough to be polite.
“They’re so sweet!” Kate said. “Jay does the cutest things.”
When Elizabeth left she waved (for Kate’s sake) to Jay in his tree-house, but he was too busy to notice her.