"I really appreciate this."
Wrist adorned with heaps of gold-coloured clanking bracelets, Tania waved an impatient hand. "Go. You don't want to be late on your first day. I still can't believe you got that job in like ten minutes time. First interview too."
"They're called boobs. I borrowed your push-up bra," Abbey muttered as she fastened her watch. "Jesse, get off the back of that chair. You're going to break your neck. Come here."
The black-haired boy was currently balancing precariously on tiptoes on a chair that he'd pulled up against the windowsill. He was trying to catch the caterpillar that was perched on the glass, but he lacked a good five inches of reach. Shooting the caterpillar a forlorn look, he sighed heavily and jumped off the chair, causing it to topple and his mother to have a near heart attack. How he'd managed to reach his fourth birthday without breaking every single bone in his body was still a mystery to Abbey. It seemed to her the kid was constantly trying the boundaries of every law known to humankind, his latest project called gravity.
Abbey applied a last layer of mascara to her lashes, then screwing the top closed, glanced around the small room that she shared with Tania to make sure she hadn't forgotten anything. The space wasn't much, but they made do, or would once Abbey actually started making some money. The flat consisted of one living room, combined with a kitchenette and crammed with a large second-hand four-poster bed around which they'd draped a curtain to offer Tania some privacy. Abbey and Jesse shared a bed in the only bedroom, which wasn't much larger than an oversized closet. Actually, no more than her single bed and a small cabinet overstuffed with clothes fitted inside, along with a bucket for dirty laundry since the bathroom was too small. They'd built shelves all over the walls to create some form of storage as there was no space to fit a closet. They couldn't keep living like this, and Abbey knew it. Jesse ought to have his own bed at the very least, his own space.
"Got everything?" Tania blew on the toenails of her left foot, painted a bright coral pink that Abbey reckoned absolutely clashed with her red hair.
"Keys, money, cell phone, ID, résumé, passport photos, tissues, lip gloss. All here." Suddenly nervous, Abbey threw a look at Tania. "Right. He shouldn't be too much trouble. Just make sure he eats and doesn't come near anything hot or toxic. You know how Jesse is. I checked the rooms and cleared them as best as I could, so it should be fine. Still you never know –"
"Hon, we'll be alright. You've said all of this already. It's not the first time I'm looking after a kid, you know. Had three brothers and a sister I used to sit." Tania shot her a quick smile, while deftly applying the last coat of nail polish on her toenails. "Now go get your ass in gear or you're going to miss the bus."
"Yeah." Abbey planted a kiss on Jesse's head, smoothed down her skirt. "I better get going. Thanks again, Tan. I know you're busy."
"No way. I need all the distraction I can get, and this guy is just too cool. We're going to play games all day long," Tania said, capping the bottle of nail polish. She grinned when Jesse's eyes filled with excitement. "Grown-up games."
"Just…" Abbey paused, shrugging on her navy jacket over the crisp white shirt she wore. "Don't let him hear –"
Tania raised a thick painted eyebrow that contrasted sharply with her red-dyed straight bob. "Don't worry. I'll have him out of earshot and within eyesight." She rose and picked up the empty plates left from breakfast. "Bye."
"Can we go search for caterpillars?" Jesse asked, kicking the rung of his chair with his sneakers.
With a last smile that was so tense it could have cracked, Abbey closed the door behind her.