In the summer, I go to play-scheme in Armada Court. Armada means something to do with ships in another language. Not sure which language. We had a trip to Rochester on the mini-bus. The mini-bus went past our flats. I saw my mum walking along. There was a man with her. He had on a raincoat the same like her one; sort of browny colour, like envelopes. They walked into our flats together. I didn't say about seeing them when I got home. Rochester was a bit boring.
One day, after I'd been back to school for a bit, I had a bad tummy all of a sudden. Mrs Mitchell who collects the dinner money gave me a lift home in her car. She was ringing the doorbell for ages before Mum come out.
Mum said thank you very much to Mrs Mitchell and took me inside. The man that I saw before was in the front room. He was putting his coat on. Mum let him out and said, 'Sorry about that.' He said, 'Can't be helped.'
Once she shut the door she looked at me and said, 'Gas man.'
I followed her into Mum and Dad's bedroom. She was having a tidy up. There was a funny smell. I said about how I'd seen the man before. She looked a bit cross and said, 'Don't be daft, love. He's the gas man.'
I said about when I was on the minibus and I saw them both wearing the brown coats and they looked like secret agents on a mission. She smiled and sat on the edge of the bed, and touched me on the head like Father Breen does. She said, 'It is a bit like that. A secret mission. Top secret. You mustn't say about him to anybody.'
I said, 'Alright then.'
She said, 'It's a bit like a game, only serious. Most important of all, you mustn't ever tell Dad. Promise?'
My tummy got better quite quick. I didn't see the man for a bit, but I think there was still things going on in secret. Me, Mum and Dad were watching telly after tea. The tumble drier was going and Dad got cross because the noise was putting him off watching his programme. He went in the kitchen and pulled the plug for the drier out of the wall.
When he come back in, he sat on the sofa at the other end from where Mum was sat. He said to her, 'That's the second lot of sheets you've done this week. Christ knows why you need to change them so much.'
Mum didn't say anything. She looked embarrassed. When Dad stopped looking at her, she looked at him, staring really hard at him, like she was trying to guess what he was thinking.
If I pressed my ear up against the wall after bedtime, I could hear bits of what they were saying. Every night I'd listen to them. They weren't biffing and banging about like people do on the telly. Sometimes they wouldn't say anything for ages except, 'Where's the remote?' and, 'Have you seen TV Quick?' In the end, my ear would get sore from pressing it against the wall and I'd give up and go to sleep.
One weekend they sent me to stay over Nan's. Nan is nice, but like Dad says, she can be a bit daft. She forgets stuff, and she can't hear you but she doesn't say pardon. She just pretends she heard you in the first place. When she took me back on Sunday Mum and Dad were sat on the edge of the sofa.
One day Mum picked me up from school and instead of going home we went to the park. The man in the brown raincoat was there. He was sort of hanging about, looking like he'd just been told off for doing something naughty.
He pushed me on the swings for a bit. Whenever I swung back, I could smell him. He smelt a bit like Dad just after he's had a bath. We sat on the bench. The man's name was Noel. He didn't hardly say anything.
When we were walking back from the park, Mum and him went ahead a bit. I couldn't hear what they were saying except one bit just before he turned off to catch his bus. He said, 'I am making an effort. I just don't know any kids.'
At home, Mum asked if I liked Noel. I said he was alright. Then I went and played in my room. When she came to tuck me in later she looked at me and said, say for instance Dad had to go away for a little bit, on a special secret mission. Say that happened, who would I want to stay with, him or Mum?
I said, ‘Why would he go off on a secret mission?’ He works in Dixons.
She said, ‘Well, have a think about it.’
Have a think about what?
Next time I saw the man, Mum and me were getting some bits for Christmas on the market. I saw him first and told Mum, but she said not to wave because we might blow his cover. He was holding hands with a lady. Mum said that was his boss at MI5. I asked why they were holding hands. She said the lady was pretending to be his wife. Then she looked at me like she does when she's trying to tell if I'm fibbing. And I wasn't.
I was getting fed up with the game. It was getting boring. I didn't want to play anymore. I think the man with the coat got bored too. One day I heard the phone ringing in Mum and Dad's bedroom, then I heard Mum talking and she was getting upset. She was making a noise like she couldn't breathe. I crept into the hall and listened on the other phone.
Mum said, 'You know what I want, don't you?'
He said, 'I can't give you that. I always made that clear.'
Mum said, 'Is it because of you-know-who?'
He said, 'No. It's not that. I can't be with you just now, that's all.'
The phone went dead then. I went back in my room in case Mum came out and caught me.
I never saw him again. Not even out and about like on the market that time. I don't know where he went. Me, Mum and Dad went to Disneyland not long after. The France one, not the one in America. Disneyland was brilliant. I wish we could go again.