The pasta spiral bounced off the wall and onto the floor. The dog ate it. Milly watched him, wondering obscurely what the dried dog food pasta bits were actually made from. She doubted it was pasta. The dog took the spiral to the corner of the room and lay down, holding the pasta between his feet and licking it.

Milly checked her watch again. Another minute had passed. Using the fork, she fished out another spiral and threw it against the wall. It bounced off and behind the stove.

‘What the hell are you doing?’ Milly’s mother stood at the door, hands on hips.

‘Checking that the pasta is ready. When it’s ready, it sticks to the wall.’

‘I’ll stick you to the wall in a moment. What about all the rats that will come to eat the mess you leave?’

Milly shrugged sullenly. Her mother marched across the room and stirred the sauced in the pan. She made a small sound of approval in the back of her throat. Milly handed her mother a clean spoon and her mother sampled the sauce. Taking a moment to savour the flavour, she reached for the salt.

‘Go wash your hands and set the table.’

Milly slouched out. Her mother waited until she was gone and put the salt down. The sauce didn’t need salt. It was perfect. Better than her own.

She fished out a piece of pasta and threw it at the wall. It stuck. She raised an eyebrow, grabbed the pasta and dropped it on the floor for the dog. Milly was getting too good at cooking. Soon, there would be nothing left for her mother to do.



‘Oh, geez, there must be a million of them.’

Frank stood at the door of the kitchen, his shoulders hunched and his face squinting with disgust. Maureen came up behind him and put her head under his arm. She whimpered at the sight of the black columns of ants pouring in and out again from the window.

‘What do we do?’ In her mind, she was fighting back the need to blame him. This time of year, the ants always came out. She stood the jam and honey in dishes of water, and kept all the condiments in the fridge. After his Christmas party last night, Frank came home and had jam on toast in an attempt to soak up some of the copious amount of alcohol he’d consumed. He left the butter, the jam jar and the lid on the bench, and now they were barely visible beneath the ants.

‘Hot water, I suppose. It’ll kill them.’

‘The bucket’s in the laundry.’


‘Are you going to walk over that lot to get it?’ Maureen pointed to the ground, where three thick lines of ants lead to a half slice of toast on the floor. The kitchen was tiny. There was no way either would get across without stepping on some ants and having them run up their legs. ‘I’m not getting bitten on my patooti again, Frank.’

‘Hey!’ Frank grabbed her and held her tight. ‘Anyone bites you on your patooti and they’ll have to answer to me.’

She knew he was trying to make light of the situation, but his morning-after breath made her cringe away, her eyes watering slightly. Letting her go, he grunted his disapproval and strode across the kitchen.

‘I’ll take care of this. Go curl your hair or pluck your legs or whatever you women do.’

First she felt a wave of guilt, but she repressed this and ran to the bedroom to dress. Whatever she did now would incur his sulking later – she might as well do something she wanted, and what she wanted was a cup of tea with her sister. She’d come back for lunch and clean up the mess he’d leave when he gave up halfway, as per usual.



The grass was warm beneath her legs. Gill leaned back, her hands on the hot concrete of the footpath behind her. Her eyes were closed, and she felt the heat of the sun on her face and neck. The light through her eyelids was red. She took a deep breath, but got a nose full of fumes from the traffic on the highway in front of her.


Kaz slapped Gill on the arm.

‘What?’ Gill sat up, annoyed. She’d been thinking of him again, but didn’t want to talk about it with Kaz. Didn’t want to tell her about the kiss, or what he said after.

‘Bus is coming.’

Kaz stood and pulled her uniform back down over her shorts in a most inelegant way. Gill sighed and stood beside her.

‘What are you smiling at?’ Kaz accused. ‘You know you’ve got your presentation in English first up.’

‘Ah, crap.’ Gill frowned slightly. ‘I haven’t prepared anything. What should I do?’



‘Fake it. What’s it on?’

‘Underage drinking.’

Kaz snorted. ‘Like you don’t know anything about that.’

‘Hey! It wasn’t me who ended up puking in Dani’s mum’s rose bushes last weekend.’

‘Shut up.’

‘Just saying.’

‘Yeah, well, at least I don’t sit around thinking about some guy who I’ve got no chance with at all.’

Gill pulled a face at Kaz, wanting to tell her that she did have a chance with him, in fact, she was with him until eleven last night, but she’d promised to keep it a secret. His face popped into her mind and she smiled again.

‘Oh, god. You’re so pathetic.’

Gill ignored her, staring out at the traffic, thinking of him.


Late Again

Late again. He sat on the step of the main school building where the office lady could see her through the window, just like she’d told him. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he wasn’t taking home his art project. It was big. Each student had to make a poster, but Ian wasn’t prepared to be the same as the others. He had made six posters and when they were put together, they made one big poster. Mrs Palstead said she was impressed, but he saw her roll her eyes as he presented it to the class and he knew that she didn’t like it. Now, the six posters were rolled up and being held together with a plastic bag from Aldi.

On top of this, they were doing tennis in class, and Ian had brought his racquet from home. It was in his dad’s special Slazenger bag. The one that held three racquets and strapped over his back. Ms Whip, the sports teacher, had told him it was not necessary for him to bring the racquet at all given the school had a full set (although she didn’t mention that it was Ian’s family who had donated them from his dad’s sports shop) and that it was a concern that something would get damaged or stolen. She also said that he should know this, as she had told him the same thing about his brand new soccer boots and his iPod Touch.

Now Ian sat on the top step with his posters in the Aldi bag, his Slazenger tennis gear, and his schoolbag filled with all his books. Mrs Palstead said he didn’t need to take them all home, but he liked to be certain. Besides, if he didn’t have all his books when he did his homework, he tended to panic a little.

The black convertible pulled into the ‘No Standing’ zone outside the school gate and his dad jumped out and ran over to get him.

‘Sorry, mate, I just – what’s all this?’

‘I’ve got some homework.’

His father picked up the Slazenger bag and looked at him.

‘What’s this doing here?’

‘I had tennis today.’

‘The school has racquets. I donated them. Remember?’

Ian looked at his feet. His father slung the racquet bag over his shoulder and continued.

‘Mate, this is a very expensive bag. Don’t bring it to school. Now, let’s go. I only hope I can fit all this in.’

The boot on his dad’s car was broken. It had been for ages. Ian had hoped he would be picked up in their Land Rover, but no such luck. In the end, the tennis racquet and his bag sat on the floor under Ian’s feet, then he was strapped in and the posters were wedged in on top of him. He could barely move, and could only see out of one corner of the car window. As his father drove them away, Ian was sure he could see two of the teachers looking out a window and laughing. Ian wished he could see past the posters so he would know what they found so funny.