Broken

Broken by Ilsa Evans

Book: Broken by Ilsa Evans Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ilsa Evans
back. But he wouldn’t.’
    â€˜Look, Max, I understand that you were angry, but – you hit him. Over a card.’
    â€˜He wouldn’t give it back,’ repeated Max in a mumble.
    â€˜And when the teacher told you to go to the other side of the playground you refused to. And then you chased after him and hit him again. Is that right?’
    â€˜I s’pose.’
    â€˜Max, be honest, don’t you think that was a little . . . extreme? Wouldn’t you have been better off going to a teacher in the first place? Or even waiting till you got home and telling me? I’d have rung the school up for you, you know’
    â€˜I s’pose.’
    â€˜And now you’ve got a detention after school. Your first detention. Why didn’t you give me the slip yesterday for me to sign?’
    â€˜I dunno.’
    â€˜And do you realise we’ll have to tell Dad so that he knows you’ll be late?’ Mattie, who was watching Max carefully, noted the widening of his eyes even as he kept his gaze averted. ‘Would you like to ring him to explain?’
    â€˜Me?’ Max finally made eye contact, with a devastated look that tore at Mattie’s heart. ‘Do I have to?’
    â€˜I think you need to take responsibility, yes.’
    â€˜Mum, please.’ Max grabbed at her hand as the words bubbled out of him in a torrent. ‘Please don’t make me. I won’t ever do it again, I promise. You can do anything you like to me. Anything. But Dad’ll be soangry so . . . mad. Especially coz Joshua’s a bit smaller than me – only a bit. But Dad always says don’t hit people smaller and I did. Mummy, please.
Please
?’
    Mattie waited till he wound down before picking up the small hand that had clutched at hers. ‘Okay listen. I went up to the school this afternoon and spoke to your principal before the bell. And I explained that we had a few things on and asked if he could give you the detention next Tuesday after school instead. And he agreed.’
    â€˜Mum!’ Max’s face lit up as he took in the implications of this.
    â€˜That’s right. So your father doesn’t have to know. But –’ Mattie held up a hand as Max opened his mouth – ‘I’m warning you, if you ever,
ever
get into another fight like this again, you’re on your own. So promise me never again, understood?’
    Max nodded eagerly and threw himself against her chest, wrapping his arms around her tightly Mattie hugged him back, touched by his relief. And by her role as saviour, even though she was honest enough to acknowledge, with guilt nibbling at the edges of her pleasure, that she was playing dirty by using his fear of his father’s disapproval to her own advantage. And it suddenly occurred to her that, if this was a competition, she was in the thick of it. And probably always had been.
    Â 
    M attie’s second pregnancy was so entirely different from her first that it was difficult to even think of it as the same condition. Instead, it was like an illness that ravaged her body, assaulting her with new side effects at every turn. From morning sickness that lasted a full six months, to fluid retention, to pre-eclampsia. In the last three months she even developed carpal tunnel syndrome, which forced her to sleep with her arms strapped into splints, so that she lay as if crucified, arms spread, eyes staring at the ceiling, with her belly growing ever larger by the week
.
    She moved into the spare room halfway through the pregnancy, because the nights had become an endless stretch of restlessness during which the minutes slid past in slow motion, and Jake being next to her was just one more burden. She became slow, and dull, and depressed. Plodding through each day and doing just enough to survive. Weighted by gravity and fluid and unshed tears
.
    Then it was over – eight weeks before it should have been. And Mattie would have given

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