A Matter of Minutes

"Boys. That's enough. Andy, stop annoying your brothers and go outside." Eileen was getting cross with her three sons. They were meant to be doing their school homework.

"Yes, mummy." Andy eagerly headed for the backdoor. He was only six and didn't have much homework. Since he had finished, he was itching to go out and play.

"Don't go far. Lunch will be ready soon." Eileen gave Andy a glare as he shut the door.

Eileen was a 36-year-old, solidly built lady with dark hair worn in a style for 1962. She stood at the kitchen window preparing lunch. Soon Andy appeared sauntering up the driveway, but her attention was drawn back to the veggie soup.

"Mummy, I'm finished." Called out Darrell. He was the fair-haired middle son, aged 8 years.

"All right. Pack away your things. Lunch is nearly ready. Cameron, love, how are you going? Nearly finished?" She asked. Cameron was the eldest at ten.

"Nearly mum. These sums are a bit hard." Cameron had been agonising over some fractions for the last ten minutes.

"Daddy will be home soon. I'm sure he would love to help you out." Eileen quickly glanced out the window again. No sign of Andy. He had disappeared up the driveway and she assumed he was waiting at the gate for his dad.

Ten minutes had passed between Andy walking up the driveway and the backdoor opening.

"Hello. I'm home." Bob called out. He was 38 years old, six feet tall with black hair, which was beginning to recede. Bob was a mining engineer and he worked for the multinational oil company BP. He had been given an amazing opportunity to go to England for six months, on a secondment, from BP's Australian subsidiary.

"They've got a part for the van. Should be ready by five today." Bob placed his hat on the stand and took off his overcoat. It was April and there was still a chill in the air.

"Where's Andy?" Eileen noticed Bob was alone.

"I didn't see him. Where is he?" Bob looked around the room and noticed his two other sons packing up their homework.

"He went up the driveway to wait for you." Eileen wiped her hands on her apron and headed towards the backdoor. Bob grabbed his coat and opened the door.

"You stay here. I'll go and retrace my steps. He can't be far." He was out the door before Eileen could reach him. Darrell jumped up and ran for the door.

"Where do you think you're going?" Eileen grabbed him by the jumper.

"Can't I go and help." He was trying to worm his way out of her firm grip.

"No. Let's have lunch. Daddy and Andy will be back soon." Eileen was trying to hide her concern.

Bob walked the quarter of a mile back into the small village of Weybridge. Looking down the side streets as he went. He called into the garage where he had been earlier. The old Bedford van, he bought on arrival in England, had broken down. So, he had come to the garage, shown them the broken part and they had agreed to get a new part in for him later that day.

"Mr Staples. What brings you back again? I said the part wouldn't be in until later." The garage owner, a big burly man covered in grease and engine oil, walked out to greet Bob.

"No, I haven't come for the part. My son, Andy, have you seen him?"

"How old is he?" The garage owner scratched his head.

"He is only six. I missed him on the way home and now can't find him."

"No. Sorry Mr Staples, haven't seen any lads around here."

"Thank you. Please let me know if he does turn up." Bob turned to walk back home.

"Hope you find him soon." The garage owner waved and went back to his job.

Eileen and the boys had just finished their lunch, of veggie soup and bread, when Bob returned home.

"Darling, where is he?" Eileen's voice sounded desperate.

"I don't know. I must have missed him by a matter of minutes. He was not at the garage." Bob and Eileen came together for a quick embrace. The other two boys watched on not really knowing what was going on.

"We've had lunch. Yours is on the table. I'll go out with the boys and check their favourite playing spots." Eileen gave Bob a peck on the cheek. "Come on boys. Let's go for a walk." The boys jumped up from their chairs and ran to the backdoor.

"Wait. Put your coats on. It will start getting cold soon." Eileen helped Darrell with his coat and then put on her own. When Cameron was ready, he opened the door for them.

"Bye. We will be back soon." Eileen called out as she passed through the door. Bob watched as they left before turning his attention to his lunch.