It is Saturday morning mid-January in Sydney. The sun pours into my stuffy second-floor two-bedroom apartment. Every window is open, but the heat soars into the high twenties already.
“It is going to be another stinker,” calls Charlie, my boyfriend, from the steamy bathroom.
Charlie and I live on the north side of the Harbour Bridge with my five-year-old son, Morgan. Our relationship is new and we currently balance four children and three homes between us.
“Go, go Power Rangers!” sings Morgan from the living room.
Morgan sits inches from the television. He relishes the usual Saturday morning run of kid’s shows on Channel Nine. He laughs and imitates his onscreen heroes.
I lie in the bedroom and flip through Vogue. I feel restless. The humidity is relentless. Heavy traffic bustles along the highway to the south. A neighbour starts his lawnmower. I want to shut the windows. I feel agitated by the noise and heat.
“Let’s go somewhere,” I call to Charlie.
Charlie pokes his head around the corner. He is dressed in his towel. Razor foam froths on his chin. Sweat beads on his forehead.
“What are you thinking?” he inquires.
“A drive? We could get brunch down at the Northern Beaches?
The Northern Beaches stretch thirty kilometres along the meandering tree-lined coast to the north of Sydney. Quaint towns pepper the sandy white coastline. Boho-chic cafés, restaurants, and homeware stores line their streets. Scantily clad surfers parade next to stiffly dressed city dwellers. Avalon nestles at the top of the sandy coastline overlooking the Tasman Sea. The ideal brunch spot.
“How about Avalon?”
“Perfect!” I respond.
We clamber into the scorching car and blast the air. I sit in the passenger seat. Charlie takes the wheel. I swivel to check Morgan. He squirms in his booster seat.
“Morgy, did you bring a toy to play with?” I ask.
“No.” he spits.
Charlie unfastens his belt and leaps from the car. “I’ll get his Transformer,” he calls from the entrance.
“I want the blue one!” Morgan screams.
Charlie returns with the silver one.
A pleasant breeze greets us in Avalon. The main street bustles with weekend activity. Colourful stalls line the narrow footpath. Vendors bargain cheerfully with morning shoppers. People smile and chat. Morgan scorns. He is irritable, agitated, flustered and hungry.
Thud! The Transformer slams into a shop window and falls to the pavement. Morgan stomps and grunts. Charlie scoops the toy from the pavement and points it at Morgan.
“This better stop now, Morgan,” he warns. “You throw this again, and it goes in the bin! DO-YOU-UNDERSTAND?”
Charlie hands the Transformer to Morgan.
“Come on Morgy,” I plead. “Let’s have a fun morning. Please don’t spoil it.”
Morgan squints spitefully. I grin hopefully.
We wander past the stalls and stop beside a Fedora vendor. Colourful hats stack high on a white tablecloth. Charlie plucks a blue one from the pile. Three elderly women chat nearby. They smile at our little family.
“That suits you, babe,” I say.
Whack! A sharp pain scores the back of my knees. The three elderly ladies gasp. I spin to face Morgan. His arm is extended. A smirk smears his face.
Charlie swoops and snatches the Transformer. He turns and marches to the garbage bin. Charlie holds the toy high above the bin. He opens his hand. The Transformer clunks to the bottom.
Morgan shrieks and throws his weight at the metal bin.
“I warned you, Morgan,” Charlie yells.
“You’re not my Dad!” Morgan screams.
Morgan kicks and yells as I drag him away from onlookers. “I want my Transformer!” Tears flood his eyes and run down his blotched red cheeks.
We stumble to a nearby café and take a seat near the door. Morgan seethes and fumes in his chair. His crossed arms squeeze his chest. He grunts and kicks the table leg.
Charlie and I glance around the café. Uncomfortable patrons glance back.
“Maybe we should just go home?” I suggest.
“I think it’s best,” Charlie replies.
We pull Morgan from his seat and head to the car. Morgan wails from the back seat as we tear out of town.
It gets worse.
The loud sobs from the back seat turn to rage. Morgan swoops at me and scratches my arm with his fingernails. I swivel to face him. Bloodshot eyes glare at me.
“Fuck you Mummy and your fucking boyfriend!” Morgan screams. He writhes and lunges towards me.
Morgan lances again. He strikes my elbow with his fist. I cry out. “Stop, Morgan!”
“Fuck you!” He screams.
Morgan rages as we speed along the highway. He strikes me again and again and again.
We finally reach home. I am in tears. Morgan is exhausted. Charlie is pale.
I take Morgan’s hand. I lead him up to the airless apartment. I perch him on the bench. I look at his tired face. I feel utter shock and dismay. I seep hurt and anger.
I dollop dish liquid onto a dessertspoon and hold it to Morgan’s purses his lips. I force the spoon inside.
He splutters and spits at me, “You fucking bitch!”
I yank open the fridge. I remove a small red chilli. I look straight at Morgan. I grab his chin with one hand. I rub the hot chilli over his tender pink lips with the other. He wails. I lift him from the bench. He whimpers and darts into his room.
I slump onto the couch and cry.