Garry switched off the engine and looked towards the house. He’d hoped that Bea would be out for her run so that he could jump straight into the shower, but the lights were on. He sniffed his shirt for any lingering trace of Maggie’s perfume. As far as he could tell, there was nothing incriminating.
Since he and Bea had no children, the toddler sitting at his kitchen table was a surprise.
His wife appeared from the walk-in larder. “I was just getting him a biscuit,” she said, handing the little brute a chocolate biscuit.
“Whose kid is this? Who’s here?”
“She’s nipped out to see to her dog.”
“His mother. She left her dog tied up outside. She’ll be back in a minute.”
“I just came in. I didn’t see a dog. There’s no one outside.”
“Maybe she took it into the woods for a poo.” Bea stroked the boy’s glossy dark hair. “Isn’t it nice to have a little visitor?” She wet a sheet of kitchen towel and cleaned chocolate from the boy’s face.
Ten minutes later, Bea was still happily fussing. Garry went to the window again. It was almost dark and there was still no woman or dog in sight.
“Stop pacing, will you?”
“If she’s gone into the woods, her bloody dog must have constipation,” said Garry.
“Well, she’s bound to come back for her bag.”
“Her bag? You think that’s what she’d have to come back for? Where is it?”
Bea went into the larder and came out with a hefty sports bag. She dropped it at Gary’s feet and flounced back to the child. Bea’s peevishness and his own growing impatience were going to collide soon. However, that was of less concern than why she’d hidden the bag in the larder.
“When did she arrive?”
“Lunchtime,” said Bea. “I gave him scrambled eggs and toast. Would we like pasta for tea? What do you think?” The questions were directed at the child.
“Hang on. This woman came four hours ago, left her baby here and said she’d be right back. Is that it?”
“He’s hardly a baby, Garry.” To the child, she prattled, “You’re a big boy, aren’t you?”
Garry took out his mobile. “I’ll call the police.”
“Don’t be silly. Why would you want to do that?”
In rising panic, Garry became aware that his mouth was dry and his palms weren’t. Bea’s story was ludicrous. Surely, this couldn’t be what it was beginning to look like. Bea had come to terms with her infertility years ago… hadn’t she? Okay, she was a bit hands-on with other people’s children sometimes, but she wasn’t insane.
Garry opened the sports bag and tipped the contents onto the floor: baby clothes, a crocheted blanket, toiletries, toys, shoes, more clothes. Basically, your complete baby kit. Bea came across and surveyed the mess. She picked up a stuffed tartan horse that was obviously well played-with, and waved it in front of the child.
The boy opened his eyes wide and reached for the toy. “Dada! Veux jouer dada!”
“Garry! He’s calling you Dada!”
“No,” said Garry. “He just wants to play with the gee-gee. Dada’s French for gee-gee.”
“Really? Well, I wouldn’t know, would I? You scoot about all over the place and never take me anywhere.”
“On business, Bea. Besides, you never want to go anywhere.”
Garry picked up a tiny sweatshirt from the pile: the label was French. A jacket: French too. He approached the boy, who looked up and grinned at him. Black hair and green eyes. Not often you saw those together. It was years since he’d got that flurry of ‘missed’ calls and clichéd texts from Sandrine: Il faut qu’on parle. Seriously? We have to talk? He never, ever responded to one of those. Why would he?
Avery Mathers keeps bees and monitors moths in the Scottish Highlands, but mostly he writes. He has an MA and an MLitt in Creative Writing from the University of Aberdeen. His flash fiction and short stories have been published in Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Friday Flash Fiction, 101-Words, 50 Give or Take, Triclops, and others.