THE RIGHT ATTITUDE. Opening of a novel in progress. (383 words)
Lois stood in her kitchen in dolly-bird boots and a skirt above the knee. She was looking through the window just in time. The woman drew up at the curb and Ruth stepped out, pulling her satchel with her. The woman, another mother, waved and Lois waved back.
The point, though, was not to see this woman – kind though she was to offer a lift at the end of every school day – but to look at Ruth. Lois’s heart rose. As her daughter came up the drive in her school blazer, one side of her body dipped with each step. This morning the limp had been in both legs; she’d dipped on both sides. A roll, a sailor’s gait in an eleven-year old going to school.
The reason was a mystery, despite their trip to the surgery yesterday. The doctor had been tight-lipped – ‘cautious,’ was his word – and this had left Lois’s nerves turning. Would the problem get worse? She must appear untroubled for Ruth’s sake; not shift whatever was happening in to a drama. In any case, the limping might get better.
Although it was hard to stop observing, Ruth mustn’t feel monitored. So, as her daughter approached the house, Lois looked instead at their cul-de-sac and the other modern houses across the way.
Ruth came in through the back door, via the garage. The up-and-over was left open to let Lois go in and out with the Mini and Ruth leave muddy shoes or wellingtons outside the kitchen. She was a child who enjoyed going for walks.
‘Hello, poppet. All right?’
Since yesterday, when the doctor had said he couldn’t diagnose the limping and she must see a specialist, most of Ruth’s conversation had become single-worded. That was the trouble with an intelligent child. She did well at school but could pick up the unspoken as well as Lois could herself.
Ruth said, ‘I’ve got maths for homework.’
This sounded better – a full sentence of information.
‘Have some tea first.’
‘What is there?’
Lois was moving towards the fridge. ‘Mushrooms on toast.’
A snack until Malcolm came home when she’d cook a proper meal and they’d all eat together.
Ruth nodded and went to hang her blazer in the cloakroom, and when Ruth’s back was turned, Lois watched.