not that kind of surprise…

that little fella was wandering about when I was on hols in California – I snapped him on my phone and then stepped back and watched from a few metres away for a while after that – he did nothing, except look impressive. And yes, he is a tarantula.

This story is about another surprise….take a read…

THE invitation comes by text.

Hey Ma, want to come and have dinner with me. Next Tuesday. I’ll cook.

Would I?

Would I indeed?

You betcha!

I drive the hour to his place, park the car across the street and as I walk across to his block of units, I smell – hanging in the air in all its lusciousness – coconut, lime, the pungency of ginger and…is that lemon grass?

I’ve been anticipating this since the invite came, end of last week, and right now I am so totally in the moment; that heightened sort of feeling, when your back is straight and tall and you feel strong and vulnerable at the same time. When you’re Maria in The Sound of Music, and I must have done something good is the refrain echoing in the backblocks of your subconscious. When everything feels easy and exactly as it should. This is me, now, heading across the concourse to Tim’s apartment. In the dimming light there is a man poking about, a broom in his hand. That’ll be George, I think, and I’m pleased to know it. Pleased to know that Tim has told me that little snippet of apartment living. I smile at George, but he misses it, lost in his own thoughts. I want to say to him, hey, smell that? That’ll be Tim cooking for sure. I’m his mum. I want George to know I know of him, the self-appointed caretaker and busybody, and I want him to know Tim loves me, that I am the sort of mum who gets invitations to dinner. That dinner, smell it?

I buzz at the access door to the apartment block and the door makes that clunking sound to signify I have been given access. Tim meets me just outside his apartment, drying his hands on a tea towel before wrapping his arms around me and kissing my cheek.


You betcha. It smells divine.

He pours me wine, we clunk our glasses.

How’s Sarah, I ask. She’s away, in Europe, for a few months. Yes, great, he says. But he’s itching to tell me something else.

There’s somebody I want you to meet Ma. He looks at me with a kind of gleeful anticipation.

I try to arrange my face to hide the disappointment. I don’t want to meet anyone. I want to be with him. Just him. I want it to be the two of us. Having dinner. Talking. Look at me, a mum who gets invited to dinner. Just me. For no reason. I want that.

But now there’s a reason. I have to meet someone.

Who could this person be? Not a Sarah replacement? Noooo, I love Sarah. Tim loves Sarah. Someone from work? A friend? What is that look on Tim’s face? Things are not as they should be and my mind goes into overdrive, processing. Where is this person? Have they arrived already? It sure sounds as if Tim is about to do the introductions but there are only the two of us here. Isn’t there? And Tim’s face; what is with that goofy grin? And how about mine, am I managing to conceal my disappointment at having to share Tim tonight?

I follow Tim’s gaze. The door at the end of the passage begins to open. Who would Tim have in his bedroom all this time? A girl, another girl? Not Sarah. I want that door to shut tight. I feel a disappointment in Tim, that he could have found someone else and be so jubilant, so excited about it. And I feel disappointed in Sarah, why did you have to go on holiday without him? And then I think, who am I to judge? Tim is happy, I can see that.

The door keeps opening and a man steps out. A man? My brain is processing, rapidly, grabbing at what I know, what I think I know, finding the easiest solution – Occam’s Razor-style – for each new bit of information coming at me.

Hello mum, the man says.

Process process.


He’s in South America. He’s in Tim’s lounge room. His arms are around me.

Tim continues to grin madly. At me. At his brother.

Noise fills the apartment. Loud in my ears. Groaning, grunting, an animal keening. Someone is giving birth. Someone is hyperventilating.

My legs give way. The boys stop laughing. Mum, mum, they say. Are you okay? Both of them hold me up. The keening slows gradually, the breath is restored and then the tears start.

I’m outside my body. Even as I feel my face pressed into someone’s chest, I see the pair exchange looks, raise their eyebrows at each other and grin sheepishly. I feel the shoulder shrug.

You okay, now? Tim asks.

Yes, yes, I’m just adjusting. My throat hurts, my head throbs. I feel weak.

That, says Tim as I eventually settle, is the last surprise you’re ever getting.

Lewis and I agree. I don’t like surprises.

I sit on the couch holding Lewis’s hand while Tim gets me a drink of water.

There’s someone buzzing to get into the apartment block.

Ellie, they say. Their sister, my daughter.

Quick, I push Lewis. Hide.



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