I stood in front of the sink, up to my elbows in soapy dish water, and scrubbed furiously at the burned pasta that caked the bottom of my best pan. I am never ever letting Daniel in my kitchen again. Ever.
“Mummy! Uncle Dan tooks the wemote again!” Nate’s three-year-old voice pounded through the house into the kitchen.
“Oh for the love of God.” I muttered, hastily drying myself off and walking into the living room to see what all the fuss was about this time. Daniel, my twin brother, was slung haphazardly across the couch, dangling the TV remote in one hand while pushing Nate, my son, away at arm’s length with the other. So much for him coming around to ‘help me relax’.
“Daniel James Marks! Just what do you think you’re doing to your nephew?”
Dan’s head snapped in my directions so quickly that I wouldn’t be surprised if his neck cracked. A guilty smile spread across his face as he took in my stance; hands on hips, eyebrows raised, lips pursed angrily, and foot tapping against the floor impenitently.
“Hey Stels. Aren’t you meant to be washing up?”
I glowered at him and his stupid cheeky smirk. “Aren’t you meant to be playing nicely with Nate? You know, setting a good example, teaching him manners; all that jazz.”
“I am teaching him manners!” he cried in earnest. “It’s only polite to let your uncle have control over the TV at all times.”
I grinned evilly. “I’ll be sure to tell Uncle Max you said that next time he comes for a visit.”
Dan paled in colour slightly, and while he was distracted, Nate made a last-ditch effort to grab the remote and dived at his stomach, arms outstretched. Unfortunately for Dan, three year olds tend not to have the best aim in the world, and instead of landing on his stomach Nate crashed into his more…southern regions. To his credit, Daniel didn’t make all that much of a fuss about it—but the look on his face would have been absolutely hilarious were it not for the small twinge of pity I felt for him.
Nate took this as a sign of victory. He scooped up the remote from where Dan had dropped it on the floor, happily changed the channel to CBeebies, and was immediately engrossed in an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends. Personally, I don’t see what all the fuss was about in the first place: Formula One, Thomas & Friends, same basic principle, right?
With a resigned sigh and a shake of my head, I decided to leave them to it and get back to the dishes. I smiled softly to myself as I entered the kitchen and the sounds of yet another scuffle drifted in from the lounge.
“But Uncle Daaaaaaan!”
“No ‘but’s Squirt; respect your elders.”
I snorted and rolled my eyes. He was one to talk about respect.
If three and a half years ago someone had told me that this was how I would be spending my Saturday nights in the near future, I would have laughed in their face and called them crazy. Of course, at fifteen, I hadn’t exactly planed on getting pregnant and dropping out of sixth form. But life’s funny like that, it doesn’t really give you many options. True, when I found out I was pregnant I could have had an abortion, (my parents would sure as hell have been a lot happier if I had), and the thought did cross my mind more than once during the early months, but I could never bring myself to do it.
Nathanial was the best thing that ever happened to me—even if his conception was a memory I’d rather not visit—and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. He truly was the main man in my life. My only regret was that he could never grow up with his father. I didn’t even know how I was going to explain things to him when he was old enough to start asking questions, which was probably a lot sooner than I’d like to think. After all, how do tell your little boy that his daddy is a rapist and lives in a place called prison?