by Jenny

I was balancing the baby on my hip, handbag on one arm and shopping basket on the other when my phone rang. The supermarket was crowded and with Alice screaming bloody murder in my ear it was already a little overwhelming.

I somehow managed to get the phone out of my pocket, tuck myself a little out of the way in the crisp aisle and swipe the green ‘pick up’ button to answer it.

“Hey Lucy - sorry, I’m just in the supermarket- can I call you back? It’s a bit manic.”

“Oh you’re already there? Great. Listen, are you at the big one with the pharmacy? Can you pick up Dad’s meds? That seeping discharge is back and the on-call doctor wants to put him back on the suppositories.”

“To be honest I’ve got my hands full here -” I began, but she’d hung up before I could get the words out. With a sigh I pocketed the phone, gave Alice a jiggle and whizzed around for the rest of my weekly shop - cereal, soup, yoghurt, bread, nappies and three bottles of chardonnay.

At the checkout Alice made a grab for a chocolate lolly shaped like a pig, which I put in the basket along with a Mars bar and a bag of mint imperials for me. The bored girl at the till flashed me a sympathetic half smile as I struggled to get my card out, juggling bags, bottles and baby, but then her face lapsed once again into bored antagonism as I struggled away.

The queue for the pharmacy took ages, but I finally reached the front of it, gave Dad’s name and the lady handed over his bag of pills. I’d call in on the way home and drop it off.

Lucy opened the door when I arrived. I smiled at her as I rummaged in the shopping bag, still jiggling Alice who was sticky with pig chocolate by now. Brown smears decorated her seashell t-shirt, legs, face and hands and she was squirming like a mad thing.

“Thanks for doing that - I really hope these sort him out. Coming in for tea?”

“Better not - I need to get this one in the bath, she’s a mess.”

“Ok, thanks - see you later.”

Back at the flat, with the shopping put away and Alice happily bathed and bedded I finally sank back into the sofa’s welcoming arms, closed my eyes and began to relax. I fished around in my handbag for the checkout treats I’d picked up and slipped a mint imperial into my mouth with a smile.

And immediately spat it back out. It was revolting - chalky and bitter and disgusting - like when you get the paracetamol tablets without the sugar coating and they sit too long on your tongue...

And then horror flooded through me.

I reached for the phone, but as my fingers found it, it had already begun to ring. Lucy’s name flashed up angrily at me and I stared and stared as it vibrated and screamed for me to answer it - to explain. Poor Dad...

A moment's hesitation, then I swiped the red ‘hang up’ button, threw my phone back in my bag and opened the Mars bar instead.