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Excerpt From 'Grown Ups' - New Release From Author Marie Aubert (My Stop on the Blog Tour)





BLURB


Ida is a forty-year-old architect, single and struggling with a feeling of panic as she realises her chances of motherhood are rapidly falling away from her. She’s navigating Tinder and contemplating freezing her eggs – but tries to put a pause on these worries as she heads out to the seaside family cabin for her mother’s 65th birthday. That is, until some supposedly wonderful news from her sister sets old tensions simmering, building to an almighty clash between Ida and her sister, her mother, and her entire family.


Exhilarating, funny, and unexpectedly devastating, Grown Ups gets up close and personal with a dysfunctional modern family.


CHAPTER ONE


Other people’s children , always, everywhere. It’s

always worse on the bus, when I’m trapped with

them. My back is sweaty and I’m feeling irritable. The sun

streams through the dirty windows, the bus has been full

since we left Drammen, and more people pile on in Kopstad

and Tønsberg and Fokserød, they’re forced to stand in the

aisle, swaying as they hold on tight, in spite of the supposed

guarantee of a seat for every passenger.


In the seat behind me, a father sits with his child, a boy of about three, maybe,

he’s watching videos on an iPad with the sound turned up,

garish children’s animations. The music is loud and tinny,

the father tries to turn the volume down every so often but

the boy howls crossly and turns it back up again.

I feel queasy after trying to read my book, and the battery

on my phone is almost dead, so I can’t listen to a podcast

either, all I can hear are the plinky-plonks of the metallicsounding

melodies. As we approach the Telemark tunnel,


I can no longer hold my tongue and turn to face the father,

he’s a young hipster sort with a beard and a stupid little man

bun. I flash him a wide smile and ask if he could turn the

sound down just slightly, please. I can hear the snappiness

in my tone, he can tell that part of me is relishing this, but

they can’t sit there on a full express bus in July with the

sound blaring like that, they just can’t.


‘Uh, sure,’ the hipster dad says, then rubs his neck. ‘I

mean, is it bothering you?’ He speaks with a broad Stavanger accent.

‘It’s a bit loud,’ I reply, still smiling.


He snatches the iPad from his child’s hands with a surly

look on his face and the boy starts wailing at the top of his

lungs, surprised and furious. The old couple sitting in front

of me turn around and flash me a dismayed expression,

not the child and his father, but me.


‘That’s what happens when you won’t let me turn the

sound down,’ his father says. ‘It’s bothering the lady, so you

can’t watch anymore.’


The bus turns into the petrol station, where it’s scheduled

to stop for a comfort break and coffee stop, and the

boy lies prostrate across the seats, wailing, as I pick up my

bag and hurry down the aisle leaving the sound of crying

behind me.


Kristoffer and Olea are waiting at Vinterkjær. Marthe isn’t

with them. Kristoffer is so tall, Olea so short. She’s due to

start school in the autumn, I think she looks far too little

for that, slim and delicate. ‘It’s good to see you,’ Kristoffer says. He gives me a long

hug, wrapping his arms around me and squeezing me tight.


‘You too,’ I say. ‘Look how long your hair is now, Olea,’

I say, tugging gently on her ponytail. ‘Olea learnt to swim yesterday,’ Kristoffer says.

Olea grins, revealing a gap where four top teeth had

once been. ‘I swam without Daddy holding onto me,’ she says.

‘Wow,’ I say, ‘did you really? That’s brilliant.’‘Marthe took a picture,’ Olea says. ‘You can see it when we get back.’


‘I’m guessing that Marthe was lounging around by the

water’s edge,’ I say, putting my bag in the boot of the car.

‘Yes,’ Olea says, looking delighted in the back seat. ‘She

was being really, really lazy.’ ‘We don’t say things like that, Olea,’ Kristoffer says,

starting the engine. ‘You know that.’


I turn to look at Olea and wink, whispering to her:

‘Marthe is a bit lazy.’ Kristoffer clears his throat.

‘I’m allowed to say it,’ I say. ‘I’ve got special permission

to make jokes about that sort of thing.’


It’s so tempting, it does Marthe good to be given a kick

up the bum every now and then, and it’s so nice to wink at

Olea, to make her giggle and watch as her eyes grow wide

with glee at how funny I am. We drive along the coastal

road, and I tell Kristoffer about the hipster dad and the

boy with the iPad at full blast.


‘And people got annoyed with me,’ I say. ‘I wasn’t the

one making the racket. The boy’s dad was really grumpy

about it.’ Kristoffer has a familiar scent, it’s the cabin, paint, saltwater, body.

‘It’s not always easy to calm them down, you know,’ he says.

‘But you didn’t let three-year-old Olea sit on a packed

bus with an iPad at full volume,’ I say.


‘Well, no,’ Kristoffer replies. ‘But people get so annoyed

at children, they don’t know what it’s like. You have to let

kids be kids.’ Kristoffer is always saying things like that, let kids be

kids, it’s important to listen to your body, things like that.

‘But there’s a difference between crying and having the

volume turned right up,’ I say.


I realise I’m trying too hard; I’m exposing myself now,

revealing that this is something I don’t understand, and

Kristoffer shrugs and flashes a smile.


‘Having the volume turned right up on a full bus,’ I repeat.

‘Breathe into your belly, Ida,’ he says, patting my thigh.

I open my mouth to speak, but I stop myself, he’ll never

get it anyway. I can tell Marthe, she tends to agree with

me about things like this, it annoys her when Olea makes

a racket. There’s something else I’ve been meaning to tell

her too, not as soon as we arrive, but tonight, after we’ve

both had a few glasses of wine and Kristoffer is out of the

way, when he’s off putting Olea to bed, then I’ll tell her.

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