I arrive at work and Jono says, “Sit down, Darcy, we need to talk.”
He makes us each the Jono Special: three teaspoons of coffee, one and a half of Milo, one teaspoon of sugar. 66% water, 34% milk.
We sit opposite each other at the table. He has wheeled over Sarah and Adam and lifted Bethany up onto a chair, giving her a toy purple cellphone to keep her attention.
He says, “I’ve brought you all here because I only want to tell this story once.”
He says, “I’ve met a woman she’s a French teacher and I think she’s The One, but she just wants to be friends. She came over on Thursday night, which was nice, and I bragged on to her about how I’ve had half my bedroom furniture on the driveway all week ready to move out and it hasn’t been rained on and hasn’t been taken. I said to her, ‘The thing about being Jono is that probability is always on your side.’”
I finish my coffee and 8am starts to feel a little more bearable. I go to get a banana from the kitchen while Bethany tells Jono, “I have a pretty phone! I have a pretty phone!”
“Yes, you do have a pretty phone. I think I hear it ringing, who’s there?”
I sit back down.
“So then the next morning, what do you think happens?”
“I have a pretty phone!”
“Well there’s still no rain, so I’m guessing someone took the stuff?”
Sarah laughs. Adam starts to rock and make quiet moaning noises, but that’s what he does when he’s happy.
“Well, beautiful ladies and charming gentleman, you’re not going to believe this, but someone broke into my flat in the early hours of the morning and took a laptop, a camera, a wallet, even some candy! And they took the furniture from the garden.”
Bethany says, “Even some candy!”
“Yes, even some candy! And I’m just sitting in my room laughing at myself for having been so cocky the day before, when guess who shows up?”
“Even some candy!”
“The robber! Gross skinny white guy (no offence Adam). He comes sneaking back in again, but I see him and I call my flatmate and we chase him down the street and then there are two alleys. I check one and my flatmate checks the other, and there’s no one down the one I check so I go to the one where my flatmate is, and what do you think I see there?”
“My chest of drawers! Sitting in someone’s garden.”
“Oh wow! Oh wow! Even some candy!”
“So we go knock on the door and the guy’s flatmate answers and we tell him what’s up, and go meet the guy who took our stuff, and he turns himself in! Lets us call the police, and take back all our stuff…”
“Ha.” I imagine his smug smile as everything went his way.
Bethany shouts, “Oh wow! Oh wow!”
Adam flails his arms and knocks Jono’s halfdrunk coffee across the table, but it slides along upright without losing any liquid.
Sarah and Jono laugh.
Jono says, “So today, I’d like you all to call me Batman instead of Jono. Even if you’re not a talker, you can just think of me as Batman in your head for a while.”
Bethany falls off her chair on purpose, and lies on the floor listening intently to her phone beeping.
I say, “So, Batman, tell me about The One?”
He says, “Movie day everyone! Should we watch Madagascar or Ice Age?”
Bethany says, “No.”
We wheel Adam and Sarah into the lounge, close the curtains and turn on the TV.
Jono says, “You want a lesson on how to play a movie on this TV?”
I take the remote and start Ice Age playing. He snorts, “No, then.”
Bethany throws her plastic cellphone across the room. It rustles Sarah’s hair as it passes close to her head. Sarah laughs.
“Bethany! Careful!” I say, hearing the shrillness of my own voice.
“Hey, lovely Bethany, come sit with me on the couch and we’ll have a chilled out time.” Jono falls backwards onto the black fauxleather, and then smacks the seat beside him. She cuddles into his side and watches the screen for a while as he fiddles with her hair.
“Has Sarah been washed yet?” I ask, “She looks like she’s still in her pyjamas…”
“Nah, it’s the weekend, we’re taking it easy.”
“Okay, I might give her a wash and change if you’re okay with these two?”
Sarah laughs as we make the wobbly transition from her normal chair to her commode chair, and laughs even harder when shampoo runs into her eyes. She goes quiet as I lift each breast to wash underneath it, and laughs again when I kneel on the tiles to reach up and clean her bottom.
“All done, love, let’s get you dry.”
When we get back to the lounge again, Jono has tipped the clean washing onto the floor and put Bethany into the washing basket. He holds the two handles and swoops her through the sky. He says, “Put your arms out in front of you. You can be Superman like how I’m Batman!”
Bethany reaches out sideways instead and shouts, “Bird!”
He puts her and her basket gently onto the couch. She leans forward so that the basket falls to the floor with a bang, trapping her underneath it with her head at a funny angle. She laughs, and Sarah joins in. Adam somehow kicks off his shoe and it hits the wall next to the television with an even louder noise than Bethany had made on her landing. Bethany crawls out from under the basket and I slip off Adam’s other shoe and take them both to his room. Tracy is on for the night shift, and she’ll leave angry Postit notes on the staff signin book if she turns up to find anything where it’s not supposed to be. If I lose this job, I’ll end up having to move back in with my parents.
When I get back to the lounge, everyone but Adam is gone. I hear a giggle from the girls’ bedroom and start walking that way to investigate. Jono comes out from hiding behind an open door, picks me up and swings me over his shoulder. He carries me into the bedroom, where the girls are laughing and waiting, and then puts me onto a high shelf and shouts, “You’re in jail!”
Bethany goes to find her purple phone and presses a few buttons saying, “Police! Police!”
I ask her if she’ll be my lawyer, but Jono lifts her up onto the shelf too.
He says, “You ladies are just too pretty. It’s a bit much for an early morning, all these beautiful women in one room. I have to hide you away for a while. I’d put you in there too, Sarah, because you’re too beautiful too… but you’re a big girl and it’s my off season. These two are enough lifting for one day.”
Bethany falls off the shelf on purpose, and Jono steps forward and catches her.
“See! Batman. Probability.”
I wriggle around until my legs are out from under me, and then slide off the shelf until I’m standing on the floor. “I’m going to give these other two their showers. And I’m guessing you haven’t done breakfast? Or meds?”
“Are you okay? Sorry…” He fidgets with his shorts pocket.
“I think when I was carrying you I accidentally touched, like, your…”
“Oh I didn’t pick up on that.”
“Okay cool. We’re cool. Batman!”
He swings Bethany upside down over his shoulder and runs out of the room.
Jono steals my iPod to take selfies with Sarah, and she moves her arms for the first time all day, to poke at her own face on the touch screen. He shows her how you can change the filter, to make your face look sunshiney and bright, or worryingly bluetinted. She laughs.
Bethany swoops in sideways and grabs the iPod from his hand. She runs into the bedroom, and a few seconds later I hear, “This is dedicated to the niggaz that was down from day one,” at top volume.
“Oh my god Bethany, you’re too young for GFunk!” I find her hiding under the bed and lie down beside her to try and wrestle the iPod out of her hands.
I can hear Jono in the lounge singing along, “Niggaz on a motherfuckin mission. What up niggaz and niggettes?”
Adam shouts his approval at the level of excitement. I finally wriggle the iPod out of Bethany’s hands and stop the song. I say, “What music do you like?” She says, “Frozen.” I turn on the Beach Boys and open up the iPod’s camera again to distract her.
Jono is back in the kitchen, sitting up on the bench, he says, “Yeahhh, GFunk. I didn’t think you’d be into that!”
“My boyfriend put that on there. He wakes me up in the morning with Nate Dogg and Warren G.”
“I’m glad you have a boyfriend. Is he lovely?”
I’m wiping miniscule crumbs off the bench, annoyed with myself for not being able to relax.
“I can’t stop thinking about how my One doesn’t want me. We think the same way, we’d be so right, it doesn’t make sense to me that she can’t see that.”
“Nah I’m sorry I’m a bit off today, she’s just on my mind, you know?.”
“People are the hardest thing to stop thinking about.”
“Man, I think you’re right. Ugh. Love.”
He rolls a cigarette and says, “I’m going out to the garden to hang out this washing,” raising his eyebrows as he speaks, as if I might not understand his secret code, “Can you keep everyone entertained for a while?”
I sit with Adam and Sarah, and watch out the window as he paces up and down the lawn, taking long gaps between drags. When he comes inside he says, “Do you want to pluck my eyebrows before or after you give the kids lunch? Monobrows aren’t attractive.”
I laugh. He hands me a pair of silver tweezers and says, “I’m serious.”
After lunch, I begin plucking the hairs from above his nose.
“Don’t look so worried. All I want is two separate eyebrows that look pretty much the same.”
I make a five millimetre gap in the middle. He goes to the bathroom and comes back asking for four times the width.
“This is weird for me. You’re close to my face, gazing into my eyes. It’s intimate.”
“I’m gazing at your eyebrow, Jono, because for some reason we’ve become a beauty salon.”
“Hey, Sarah! Adam! Are you watching this? We’re still caring for you, because my pain is your entertainment.”
Sarah and Adam keep staring at the TV.
“You’re not being very entertaining about it, to be honest, you’re just breathing really deeply.”
“Sorry if I have coffee breath!” He says.
“I’m sure we both do.”
Bethany comes into the room laughing hysterically, my now silent iPod in her hand. She gives it to Jono and he leans away from me, cackling.
They laugh together for a while, and then Bethany says, “Boobs! Boobs!”
Jono says, “Definitely.”
He hands me the iPod, and on screen is a selfie taken in my bikini on Christmas Eve. “I bet Bethany hopes to have assets like yours when she’s older.”
“This is so not worksafe.”
“Don’t even ask about the photos on my phone right now.”
“Oh god, oh god! Boobs!”
“Bethany do you want a turn plucking some hairs out of my arm?”
He gives her the tweezers and she rummages them through his arm hair for a while, looking delighted.
He goes to the bathroom to check whether his eyebrows turned out even, and doesn’t come back for twenty minutes.
“Hey have I told you how wonderful you look today? Tired eye bags actually really suit you. You’re radiant, your smile is amazing. You’re a caring person. Your boyfriend is lucky to have you.”
“What do you want, Jono?”
“I want you to know how much you mean to me.”
“And what else do you want?”
“I’ve been receiving some pretty provocative snapchats this afternoon from a lady who is not The One but is apparently a lot more interested in me than The One will ever be. I finish work at 4:30, but that feels like a long way away. You finish work at 3:00 and tick tock tick tock there’s only about an hour until then. I happen to know she’s naked right now, so… like, probability, you know.”
“I’ll stay longer, it’s fine, so long as we can change the timesheets.”
“Will your lovely boyfriend mind not seeing you for an extra ninety minutes?”
“My lovely boyfriend is not seeing me until Monday.”
“You really are a beautiful girl. Beautiful!”
He lifts me under the knees and back and says, “This is how you carry a bride.”
In the lounge, he drops me onto the couch next to Bethany and says, “Now, chill.”
Ice Age is playing again, it’s been on repeat all day but I don’t know a single thing that’s happened. I can hear him in the kitchen, behind the behind the bustle of animated talking animals, whistling as he washes dishes and mops the floor.