Kate held her breath and tried not to grasp the bag of flour too tight lest it project more white dust out into the air and make her sneeze. The bed shifted above her and she prayed that Ryan would leave so she could work out what she was looking at here.
She felt the weight shift off the bed and saw Ryan’s feet move about on the carpet. Thank God, she thought: he’s leaving. But to her horror she saw the feet moving backwards and two knees descend onto the floor, along with a hand and eventually Ryan’s head.
“Jesus fuck!” Ryan cried at the sight of Kate under the bed, her pale face peered back at him from the gloom and he jerked backwards, his head slamming into the wooden frame as he tried to retreat.
“Hi Ryan,” said Kate, trying to sound casual but finding it near impossible to do. She shimmied out from under the bed, deciding to leave the bag of flour where it was for the time being.
“Kate! Holy shit… you scared the absolute daylights out of me. Good god, what are you doing here? Why are you under the bed?” Ryan was pacing around the room with his hand on his chest trying to get control of his breathing.
“I, um, I was looking for my phone,” said Kate, thinking quickly, “I couldn’t find it this morning so I assumed I must have left it here last night and I… had.”
“Under my bed?” Said Ryan, looking suspicious at her.
“Well, no - Er, in the bathroom was where it turned out to be but, when I heard you coming I thought you might have been a burglar so I hid.” Kate tried to hold Ryan’s gaze with an honest sort of look on her face. His face was softening. Kate supposed that was the great thing about being a colossal screw up was that your weird explanations for things seemed disappointingly believable.
“Right,” Ryan was processing, but his face seemed to have gone back to a normal human face colour now at least, “So…”
Kate stood looking him and decided to take up the offensive to get the heat off her, “Why are you home? I thought you’d be working all day?” Ryan shifted uneasily.
“Yeah, I will be going back in a minute - I just came back to check on something.”
“Something under the bed?” Kate raised an eyebrow.
“What, no? Why would I be checking on something under the bed?”
“Because you came up to your room and then squatted down and looked under the bed.” Kate said matter of factly, trying to channel Polly’s ability to look squarely at someone without blinking and pummel the truth out of them.
“I heard you moving!” Said Ryan triumphantly, clutching at straws.
“No you didn’t, or you wouldn’t have been so horribly surprised when you saw me. Were you looking for this?” Kate reached down and pulled out the little bag of flour. Ryan looked away. “Why are you coming home from work in the middle of the day to get a bag of flour? And why does it had a face drawn on it?”
Ryan’s mouth opened and closed a few times and then closed firmly. He nodded to himself and then spoke, “It’s Casey’s school project. She has to treat it like a baby for a week and she was supposed to bring it back today to school but she forgot it, and so I was popping back to get it and take it in for her.”
Kate waited in silence for a moment. The silences were always where Polly caught her out if she was lying, she knew the pressure of the silence would make Kate crack and talk eventually. Ryan looked firm though. Kate supposed he lived with Polly so was used to this method and would have a stronger backbone than she did. Or, he was telling the truth.
“So,” she began, “If I talk to Polly about this later she will agree that Casey forgot her school project today and that’s what this bag of flour is about?”
Ryan looked to the window and then back; looking worried again. He’s lying, thought Kate. “Yep.” He said. Kate pulled out her phone, keeping the screen shielded away from Ryan so he couldn’t see about the dead battery.
“Ok, so I’ll just text Polly and say… don’t worry love, I know you’re concerned Ryan is cheating on you because of those keys and now I’ve found him coming home to your marital bed in the middle of the day but it’s ok it’s all about -“
“Polly thinks I’m cheating on her?” Ryan looked horror struck. It pulled Kate up short.
“Well, what would you think if you found her with a set of keys she wouldn’t explain?”
“Oh god, no! I can’t believe she’d think I’d do that - I’d never do that!”
“Well, to be fair to her you are coming home to have weird afternoon trysts with a bag of flour that you’ve drawn a face on so maybe she’s not totally crazy?”
Ryan’s shoulders dropped and he looked at his feet, “Kate, promise you won’t tell Polly?”
Kate kept her lips tight and shook her head, “Nope, can’t do that.”
Ryan nodded, “No, I suppose not. But listen, I’m not cheating on Poll - I never would. I never would. The bag of flour… it is Casey’s school project. Or, it was… she had to look after it for a week but she was awful at it - really bad and I ended up sort of looking after it a bit for her and keeping it dry and stuff and… oh my god this is so dumb, I got really attached to the little bastard. Polly said I should put it in the cupboard to use and I… I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud to another adult, but… I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t want to eat him. So I put him under the bed where Polly wouldn’t look and I thought, I’ll just leave him there until I’ve got over this weird… thing.”
Kate was trying her hardest not to laugh at the thought of Ryan falling in love with a bag of flour. Sure, didn’t the man have enough children that he didn’t need to be looking after more? That was a good point she thought, so she said it out loud.
“Sure, don’t you have enough children that you don’t need surrogate floury ones, Ry?”
Ryan laughed to himself a little bitterly, “Ah you’d think wouldn’t you? But… ah in for a penny in for a pound. Well, that’s where the keys come in see. And I really don’t want Polly to know about this until I get over it, but… I’m dying for another baby. Kate I’m so broody I can’t think straight. And a few months ago Poll asked me to take all of Rhys’ baby stuff down to the charity shop and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I don’t know what came over me but I got it all in the car and I started out into town and I just didn’t want to get rid of it so… so I hired a storage locker and it’s all just sitting in there. I just need this feeling to pass and then I’ll do what she wants but I’m just not ready. I feel like a complete mad bastard crying over bags of flour and going and looking at a weird little cupboard full of hand me downs but… oh god I’d love another kid.”
“No! She seems so delighted to be back to working finally, and look at this place… where would we put another kid? I just need to get it out of my system. Four is definitely enough. But I can’t stop thinking about the potential of who that fifth little guy might be?”
“Plain or self raising.” Said Kate, giving Ryan a warm smile, “Ah Ryan you dope. Why don’t you just talk to Polly? She’ll understand. And it’ll be better than her thinking you’re cheating on her.”
“I don’t want to ladle pressure on her. If she knows how I feel then she’ll start feeling guilty and she shouldn’t - there’s no way she would realistically be having another kid. No, I just need to get this out of my system. Please don’t tell her Kate.”
“Well, what am I going to tell her? I’m meant to be here spying and looking for clues. I’d say I’ve done bloody well.”
“You sneaky witches… I don’t know Kate, can you just tell her you didn’t find anything? I’ll think of a way to explain the keys and set her mind at rest. I don’t want her worrying.”