Monday morning in the Clemence household and never had the axiom appearances can be deceptive been more appropriate or on the nose.
It seemed like the average American homestead in all its particulars, as if the gods of domesticity decided to create the ultimate example of what middle class family life could and should be.
A harried and somewhat frazzled mother was going about her business, frying bacon and eggs, whilst simultaneously making a packed lunch for her husband. A meal he would ultimately never consume.
Said husband, a sombre looking and broad-shouldered man, was sat, attentively reading the morning paper, occasionally taking sips from a cup of coffee.
Another, younger man, their son, rushed in, heading straight to the fridge and pulling out a bottle of orange juice. He opened it up and swigged down huge mouthfuls of ice cold liquid, some of it splashing down his chin and onto his t-shirt.
“Greg!” His mother exclaimed. “What have I told you about drinking straight from the bottle? We have these things called glasses; you could try and use them once in a while?”
“Sorry, Mom.” He replied, between swigs. “I’m in a hurry.”
Then, a young woman entered the room. She was wearing a school uniform, a slightly provocative and risqué example of the type, and she was carrying a pile of books.
The mother, known by everyone bar her children as Annie, handed over a plate of bacon and eggs to her husband, Ray.
“Thank you, honey.” He said, quietly.
“Do you want some, sweetheart?” Annie asked her daughter, Kim.
“No thanks, Mom, I’ll just have some cereal.” She replied, clambering up on to a high stool, flashing more than a little leg as she did so. Her mother had spoken to her about the uniform, questioning its appropriateness, but Kim was nineteen and beautiful, and she liked showing herself off a little. What could any mother do?
Annie passed her a box of corn flakes and Kim poured herself a bowl.
“Do you want a lift to school, Greg?” Ray asked.
“No, I’m okay, Dad. I’m getting a lift from some of the guys. Jake Dalton’s just passed his test, and his folks got him a car to celebrate.”
“Don’t expect similar generosity from your parents.” Ray stated, coolly.
“Awww, come on!” Greg moaned, somewhat in jest, somewhat in earnest. “I’m going to need a car!”
“We’ll talk about it at a later date.” His mother said, in a soothing, pacifying tone. “You haven’t passed your test yet.”
“Okay, well I’m outta here.”
Greg quickly kissed his mother on the cheek and hightailed it out of the room. The remaining family members could hear the front door slam shut, as he left the house behind.
“You still want a lift, sweetie?” Ray said to Kim.
“Yes, thank you, Daddy.” She replied, in her best sweet-little-girl voice.
Annie didn’t say a word, but internally she was metaphorically rolling her eyes.
I bet you’ll buy her a car, she thought to herself. Even after what happened.
Kim Clemence was the apple of her father’s eye, and always had been. Technically, she was the oldest, born a couple of hours before her twin brother. And she had been a daddy’s girl right from the start. Ray had doted on her, without restraint or an iota of shame. He had spoiled her rotten, giving her pretty much anything she had wanted. Kim had always had her father wrapped round her little finger.
Now, more than ever.
Although, if Annie was being brutally honest, she had a similar devotion to her son. No parent admits to having a favourite, and Annie would never confess the fact to another living soul, but Greg had always been her special little boy. She loved them both, of course she did, and she would do anything for either of them, particularly so after the accident, but there was just something about her son that made her love him that little bit more.
He was so open and caring, in a way Kim had never been. At least not with her mother. Greg would always welcome her with open arms, a huge grin on his face as she enveloped him in a warm hug. When he was younger, he would sit on her lap and cuddle her for hours. Even now, he was so much more tactile and affectionate than his sister.