The Near Miss

The Near Miss by Fran Cusworth

Book: The Near Miss by Fran Cusworth Read Free Book Online
Authors: Fran Cusworth
her anytime.’
    Grace could not miss the generosity of this; the even-tempered and popular Clare had little patience for Lotte’s princess-like tantrums and could have expressed no such wishes about her neighbour. ‘Thank you.’
    â€˜No, really. Since my sister left her husband, we don’t see as much of the cousins. Clare’smissing them.’
    â€˜How is your sister? The property settlement done yet?’ Nina was always keen to learn all the details on people’s divorces. ‘Such a brave thing to do!’
    â€˜Lotte really seems to have hit it off with the new boy,’ Verity interjected eagerly. ‘You know, the one whose mother saved Lotte in the accident.’
    This dogged return to the accident would have irritated Grace, except that she, too, was baffled by the strength of her daughter’s attachment to Skip. Lotte had not really had a friend before. She had had competitors for toys, people to dominate, obstacles to her will, but not someone you would call friend. Playing with Lotte was not something other children clamoured to do. Nor had she ever been very interested in other children, until now. But Skipper! Lotte drew pictures of them together, she talked about him, she ran to him when they arrived at kindy. Lord above, she apparently defecated with him. Could it get any more intimate, at age four?
    â€˜She does seem to have found a kindred spirit,’ she said.
    â€˜And the going to the toilet together! How funny!’ Verity whispered. Great, so the whole kindy knew about it already. ‘I had a friend whose daughter did that. With her neighbour’s kid. Would hold on until he was around.’
    â€˜Oh?’ Maybe it was normal.
    â€˜Not anymore, though. Child psychologist helped.’ Ah, apparently not normal.
    â€˜Oh, that’s overkill,’ said Anna. ‘They’re kids, for God’s sake. Lucky Grace isn’t the type to stress over something so perfectly natural.’
    Grace checked her phone in the hope of some reprieve. ‘Of course not.’
    â€˜He’s a sweet little boy,’ said Verity.
    â€˜Apparently the mother lives on a commune,’ Nina said. ‘And the father? Separated?’
    â€˜Lives on a commune?’
    â€˜I think that’s what they said on the TV show, isn’t it? When they screened the accident?’
    â€˜Yes,’ confirmed Nina. ‘Commune.’
    â€˜But . . . no.’ Grace felt the unease she generally did when talking about Melody. ‘She’s in one of those one-bedroom apartments on Chawton Street, the crappy brown brick ones. She used to live on a commune, up north. The TV show got it wrong.’
    â€˜So are you guys good friends now, too?’ Nina was undoubtedly asking permission to talk in a negative way about the new mother, but just feeling her way.
    â€˜Noo, although we did have her for dinner. To say thank you. But not really. We’re very different.’ Grace, labouring under her unwelcome burden of gratitude to Melody, found herself eager to hear Nina’s thoughts on the new mother, hopeful they may somehow lessen her debt.
    â€˜ Very different!’ Nina rolled her eyes meaningfully, and Verity and she cackled in a way that indicated that this conversation, about to be rolled out for further consumption right now, had begun in private elsewhere. ‘She’s—’
    â€˜No, I think they’re very similar,’ said Anna, gathering up her bag. The statement was so astounding that everyone stared at her.
    â€˜Who?’ said Verity.
    â€˜Grace and Melody, of course. Very alike. Gotta grab some groceries before kindy, I’ll see you at pick-up.’
    Grace turned back to the other two, eager to hear their opinions on Melody, but they had been derailed by Anna’s departure and were now remembering errands they also had to run before pick-up. Grace found herself suddenly alone with their empty coffee cups,

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