26th March

Red Sauce

The phone rang just as she’d got the children to the table.

‘Stay there,’ she said. ‘I’ll be with you in one second.’

‘No you won’t,’ Chelsea said.

It was a recorded message about mis-sold insurance. She hung up and went back to the kitchen. She counted out the fish fingers, four each, the less brown ones for Sam.

‘Who was that?’ Chelsea said.

‘Wrong number.’ She couldn’t be bothered explaining.

‘What’s a wrong number?’ Sam asked.

‘It’s when someone phones someone but they make a mistake and get someone they didn’t mean to.’

‘That was a lie,’ Chelsea said.

‘What was?’ She put peas on Chelsea’s plate and baked beans on Sam’s because if you put peas on his he wouldn’t eat anything else they’d touched, which would be everything.

‘You couldn’t have been. You hadn’t even gone by then.’

‘What are you talking about, Chelsea?’

‘You said you’d be with us in one second but you already were with us and you couldn’t get away and come back that fast. So it was a lie.’

‘It wasn’t a lie, it was an expression. It meant I’d be back very quickly.’

‘But you didn’t know that. You didn’t know it was a wrong number. It might have been Harry.’

‘It wasn’t Harry.’

‘But it might have been and then you’d have been away for hours.’

She slid oven chips from the baking tray onto the plates.

‘No I wouldn’t.’

‘You would and our tea would have got cold or gone on fire.’

‘Can I get red sauce?’ Sam said.

‘You’ve got baked-bean sauce,’ she told him.

‘That’s not red, it’s orange,’ Chelsea said.

‘It’s tomato. It’s the same thing.’

‘That’s another lie,’ Chelsea said.

She slammed the tray on the hob. In the tiny room it sounded very loud.

‘That’s enough, Chelsea. I don’t lie to you. I never lie to you. Don’t you dare say I do.’


‘I should think so. Eat your tea.’

The phone rang again. She made herself not go for it. The children didn’t eat, waiting for her to move. Eventually it stopped.

‘Was that a wrong number too?’ Sam said.

‘No,’ she said. She started to cry.

Reader: Leah Byrne
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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