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‘I am not!’
‘You are too!’
‘No, I’m not!’
‘Kids . . .’ Sunny said, in his most soothing tone.
‘Mother?’ Angie appealed to Bette.
‘Jesus . . .’ said Kit.
Sasha burped monstrously and squealed, ‘It smells of pineapple!’
She breathed this fruity gift all over Solly the dog, who was sitting beside her on a bench seat. Bette, meanwhile, was making camomile tea and trying not to laugh.
‘I’m not playing with her any more,’ Ben said, folding his arms.
‘See?’ Angie pointed at him then made a megaphone from her hands. ‘Bad loser!’
‘Ben,’ Bette said, putting her finger up to warn Angie against saying any more, ‘you were beaten fair and square. Angelica, stop gloating. Sasha, burping is rude.’
‘Solly likes it,’ grinned Bette’s youngest. ‘He licked the inside of my mouth.’
‘Oh my lord,’ Kit said, looking ill at the very thought.
‘You know he licks his own ass?’ Ben told his little sister.
‘You can’t say that!’
‘It’s a fact!’
‘That’s enough!’ Bette said sharply. Silence fell. ‘Now, look. It’s almost ten o’clock and you have a decision to make. Keep fighting and go straight to bed and make Sunny and Kit never want you to visit ever again – or settle down and play one more game as if you actually like each other.’
All three of her children stared at her, like it was a real choice.
‘So, what’s it gonna be?’
‘Rapidough,’ Bette told Tina on the phone five minutes later.
‘Oh, I love that game!’
‘Ben chose it.’
‘Yes, he did.’
Tina gave a little whiny moan, a sound of longing, thinking about the scene Bette had just described to her: the Porter-Kennard clan, all chaos and noise, getting to stay up late one more Sunday night before school resumed.
‘How was your day?’ Bette asked.
‘Good,’ Tina replied. ‘Mae Martin is exactly what you’d expect. Smart, charming. I’m gonna love working with them. And Alice sends her love, and Runa found new ear pods for me, so I’m all set.’
Bette laughed. Tina lost ear pods on almost a weekly basis. Runa was Tina’s PA and all-round miracle worker. It always made Bette relax when she travelled with Tina.