The first time you realise your parents are unhappy it’s the middle of summer. The pools are overcrowded with red-skinned shiny-faced people. Heat is visible in the air. You spend your days lying on cool wooden floorboards under the fan. Through closed eyelids, you watch the panels creak and bend and think about what would happen if the screws came lose. The heat builds into the tension of the household and every room is stifling. You step under cold showers with all your clothes on and walk out dripping across the carpet. Your sister is too hot to get mad. She blinks slowly at you from across the room and sits quietly, watching the wet footprints evaporate.
Rain falls in sudden bursts. The water surges down the gutters and you and your sister race Lego men through ferocious storms and raging currents; blue against red. Water streaks down your faces and drips into your mouth as you both run beside the gutter, shouting wildly. The words overlap into a single sound. Panic rises inside you when the race is nearly ending and you’re sprinting to reach the drain before the Lego men. The thought of one of them falling through the bars terrifies you but you’re too embarrassed to tell anyone.
Three of your friends have birthday parties during the holidays. The first two are at MacDonald’s where you all beg for extra chocolate sauce on your sundaes. The third one is held at the water park just outside of town. Your sister claims that people sneak in and put razor blades in the slide during the night. Your mum tells you it’s a lie but you repeat the story to everyone you know anyway. At the water park there are only two slides; one slow and winding and the other with sudden steep slopes. You go with your friends to collect a mat and see a list of rules hanging against the wall. Rule Number Eleven: No Glass or Sharp Objects Allowed near the Pool.
Your friend’s mum drives you home at the end of the day. She asks if you’re looking forward to going back to school next week and you say sure. She tells you your top is pretty even though it’s just a blue singlet your mum bought in the Boxing Day sales at Target. After you step out of the car you wave goodbye until your friend and her mum disappear around the corner. You stay standing there until your sister opens the front door and yells at you to come help with dinner.