10 - As if it were ever really that simple.

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Then.
Madden woke up before my alarm the following morning, so I had even less sleep than I anticipated to prepare myself for a full day of work. Thankfully, my mum was awake early too, so she happily took him so I could get ready.

She looked looked slightly less hungover than she did most other days. She asked me how long I would be working today, and whether I wanted a lift to work instead of having to walk in the already scorching late-December heat. I accepted gratefully seeing as I was exhausted already, and also because I knew those short car rides to and from work were some of the few opportunities I had to actually spend time with her where she was just my mum: unbelievably beautiful — even with the constant hungover vibes she sported every day — kind, considerate, inquisitive, and wanting to know and be a part of her teenage daughter's life.

When she was like this, sometimes I could just forget our lives at home, and pretend for a few minutes that she was just my mum, unbroken by the recurring 6'4" nightmares interrupting our otherwise peaceful dreams every day.

She asked about my plans for the weekend, and I reminded her that I was working all day so would be late home again tonight, and that my friends and I were having our Christmas barbeque at the park on Sunday. Her face lit up a little when I reminded her of the barbeque, probably because it was an easy opportunity to get us all out of the house and away from my stepfather for a while.

She asked if I could take the kids with me, which I had already planned to do, but said yes as if I hadn't. My mates knew we were a package deal nowadays. They would all be off playing and occupying themselves anyway, and Madden was a very cute kid so they were happy to pass him around for a cuddle, so long as he kept his bowels in check.

I told her she was welcome to come too if she wanted, but she said she was busy and had things to do. I don't know if that was actually the case, but I respected her enough to drop it and not push the subject any further. She offered to make some food during the day to take to the barbeque, and would pick up some drinks as well this afternoon so we already had everything we needed. She seemed energised by our outing, and I was glad she had some purpose to occupy herself with. I worried a lot when she didn't.

We didn't talk at all about the events of the night before. I knew nothing I could say would make anything better for her, and she knew that no apology would ever cover what we had to endure with him. We both knew it was there, even if unsaid. A silent secret bonding us together, and a hope that one day all would be forgiven and forgotten.

As if it were ever really that simple.

I opened the doors at Greenies and got to work, busily starting the machines, emptying the beans into the grinders, organising the sweets in the glass display cabinets and getting started on baking some new batches of things we were low on. Hunter usually did most of the baking, but he had been teaching me whenever I wasn't occupied with customers so I could help out, too.

I probably should have felt weird about being so young and having the responsibility of opening the shop on my own, but it never occurred to me to question it. It just felt natural.

I was completely in my element, especially on those early mornings when you could still see the sun rising through the front window, creeping over the mountain tops in the distance and draping everything in a warm summer glow. I knew a few regular customers who often came in early just so they could experience it, too; sitting back with a coffee in our little indoor forest of hanging baskets filled with draping orchids, rhipsalis and hoyas, soaking in the sweet scent of freshly baked cookies and cakes that filled the air. It was absolute bliss, and I was happy that there were other people around to appreciate the beauty of it too. Moments of purity deserve to be acknowledged and experienced with company.

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