“Hi Monty,” Jackie looked up at his half painted face.
“You made it,” Monty swung around to face her. “I was wondering if your mum had changed her mind,” before spinning back to face the large lit up mirror.
“We got here this afternoon. I’ve been helping Mum.”
“You feeling better about this trip?” Monty asked as he smeared white paint on his face.
“I guess. I just was getting used to everything, you know,” Jackie twisted her hair between her fingers. “When I lived with Auntie Lou, it was just the two of us. Living with Mum is so different.”
“I bet it is! Your Mum has her own way of things.”
“Yep, she does. But I’ve never had brothers before. And they’re kinda cool, you know. They do stuff with me, look after me. They even got me a magpie from a nest. He’s so cute, and he eats from my hand, sleeps in my room. I’m gonna miss Jacko too. I called him Jacko, after me.”
“That’s original,” Monty faced Jackie with a half smile forming as he spoke. “It will all be there when you go home. You’re not here for that long.”
“Three months. Jacko will forget me. And I like having brothers around,” Jackie’s lashes clumped with tears.
“You’ll always have brothers.” Monty lifted her chin with his fingers. “They won’t go anywhere. Family never does,” he pulled out a kerchief and wiped away her tears.
“Yes they do. I don’t get to see Auntie Lou anymore. Mum doesn’t like me talking about her, or things I did when I lived with her. I miss her a lot.”
“I’m sure your Mum understands that. She wants you to feel happy where you are now, that’s all. Adults like kids to be happy. Look at me. I spend all my time trying to make kids happy. Maybe your Mum is worried that if you think about it, you might get sad.” he asked.
“You are so silly,” Jackie smiled as Monty swung around on his stool.
“Grab that and give it a bit of attention, will ya?” he pointed to a large orange and blue wig. “The brush is on the seat. ”
“Do you think Auntie Lou will forgive me for living with Mum?” Jackie sought the brush as she spoke. “Dad says she won’t.”
“Your Dad is hurt. My guess is he was hoping that you might feel guilty and stay.”
“Hmm, maybe,” Jackie looked down concentrating on the wig.
“She looked after you. Didn’t let you starve I see. You did things together?” he raised his eyebrows in question.
“Yeah, we went on holidays at Christmas. And when I went to the shop, I got sixpence to spend.”
“She loved you,” Monty spun back to face Jackie. “She still does.”
“I miss her. I want to talk to her, see her.”
“Maybe she wants to give you a chance to settle in to your new home. Get used to things. Get used to people. How’s that wig?” Monty held out his hand. “Don’t worry so much. Sometimes adults have to sort out stuff themselves. It takes time.”
“Like what?” Jackie settled into the seat, drew her legs up and hugged them to her body.
“All that with your Dad. They don’t like each other very much, do they?”
“I think they…hate…each other,” she said hugging her knees tighter.
“They don’t hate each other. With divorce people’s feelings get hurt. So they argue and fight, do a lot of stupid stuff. Kids like you get the rough part, stuck in it. Even when you don’t know you’re stuck in it, it still causes problems. Like you going to live with your auntie. See what I mean?”
“I guess so. I didn’t think Mum wanted me around.”
“She just had to work a few things out. You were little, so you won’t know but that was a bad time for your parents. All they did was fight, over everything, you included. Maybe that’s why your Dad did what he did,” Monty shook his head slightly.
“Huh, what did Dad do?” .
“I don’t think I’m the one who should tell you all this,” Monty replied.
“If you don’t, no-one will. Please Monty. Please.”
“Adults don’t always act like adults. Your Dad, well, he figured you were better off with your auntie I guess. Cause one day when he was visiting you, he walked out the door with you in his arms.”
“You mean he didn’t tell Mum,” Jackie sat upright, her mouth twisting.
“No he didn’t. Your mum was doing something and when she came back inside, you and your Dad were gone. I think he took you to your aunt’s and that was when everything got crazy.”
“So why didn’t Mum come and get me?”
“I can’t answer that. Maybe she didn’t know where you were, or she didn’t want to cause trouble. That doesn’t mean she didn’t want you. Maybe she needed to figure out how to get you back so you could stay. Being away from someone doesn’t mean that you don’t think about them or care any less,” Monty ran his fingers through the wig.
“Hmm, I guess so. It’s confusing sometimes. Everyone seems to want you to like them best. Can’t you just like them all the same, without hurting their feelings?” Jackie asked.
“Of course you can. Sometimes they just don’t get it for a while. But they will, eventually.” Monty fitted the wig in place and asked, “So, how do I look?”
“Good,” Jackie paused. “ Monty…”
“Hmm,” he mumbled.
“You’re welcome,” Monty stood up and stretched out his hand to Jackie. “Let’s go find your mum. She’ll be looking for you.”
“Okay,” she said before jumping up and hugging Monty around the waist. “You’re pretty cool for a grownup who wears makeup.”
“And don’t you forget it,” Monty pushed her out the door laughing. “You’re not so bad either, for an annoying kid I mean.”