“What’s wrong with you huh?” Beth asks Lena. Lena grizzles in response. “Okay let’s check out that nappy cause you stink kid.”

Beth takes a towel out of the cupboard and lays Lena down on it before grabbing the wipes and a nappy.

“Boys? Where are you?” She calls out as she wipes bright yellow shit from Lena’s thigh rolls. “No wonder you stank girl, this is next level. What has your mother been feeding you?” Once Lena is clean she gives Beth a big smile. “See life’s not so bad is it? Let’s go see what your brothers are up to.”

She takes Lena down the hall to the room right at the end. She pushes open the door, which doesn’t move easily.

“What are you guys up to?” She freezes in the doorway. The little shits! Jim and Noah are frozen on the spot but there room has been completely turned upside-down. The mattresses have been pulled off the bunk beds. The sheets, duvet covers have all been utilised to create some kind of fort. They pulled out all their draws and tipped out all their clothes onto the ground, neatly scattered to cover the carpet.

“Guys!” She looks at them anger in her eyes, last time they did this she was stuck folding their clothes all night and tidying their room before Jenny got home to see it. “Why?” her eyes plead as they hang their heads.

“Sorry Aunty.” Jim the youngest pipes up.

“It’s okay. Really. But Noah, you should know better. I’m not cleaning this up this time. What do you think your Mum will say huh when she sees all this?” the boys look at each other with fear in their eyes. I shouldn’t have threatened them with Jenny. They know I’d never let her hurt them. “Come on, you guys get started on this and I’ll go and make some tea okay?”

“Yes Aunty.” Noah’s face is set in determination. Beth carries Lena down to the kitchen and puts her in the highchair.

“What are we going to have for dinner little grub?” Beth opens the fridge and sighs. Looks like Jenny forgot to get some food again. The fridge has half a carton of milk, a box of tui and some tomato sauce. Let’s hope the pantry is better. To her relief there’s a big bulk bag of pasta and some dented cans with no labels. Looks like we’re on mystery cans again. She pulls two cans out and gives them a shake, trying to discern their contents by the sound they make. No fucking clue, may as well dive in. She pulls the tab at the top of the can only to reveal peaches. Looks like we’re having dessert tonight. The second reveals a tomato soup with mystery chunks running through. There’s a knock at the front door.

Beth opens the door to see Kara from next door.

“Hey Kara, how are you going?”

“Kiaora lovely, I just thought I’d bring you’s some venison. My nephew has come to stay with me now he’s finished up at high school, he’s a good hunter that one. Figured you might need some proper kai aye?”

“Thank you so much Kara. I was just about to cook up some pasta and soup for the kids but yum, this will be so much better. Jenny must have forgot…”

“She does the best she can your sister, with that prick leaving her high and dry like that. You’re a good girl though, you’re a huge help.”

“Want a cuppa?” Beth asks as she takes the bag of venison off Kara.

“Ai girl, I’ll just have a quick one before the neph gets home.” Beth leads Kara into the kitchen who immediately grabs Lena and starts cooing at her. Beth flips the jug on and takes the meat out and places it on the chopping board. What the hell am I supposed to do with this? Beth looks at the meat long and hard and then up at Kara with her brows furrowed.

“Um…”

“Come on girl I’ll show you how to cook it.” Kara passes Lena to Beth and takes a knife from the draw. “See you just want to slice it up into some nice little steaks”. Kara slides her knife expertly through the meat. “You got any eggs?” She raises her brows at Beth.

“No…”

“All good. Grab some flour out and some butter, I’ll call up the neph.” Kara picks up the landline by the kettle and dials. “Hey egg, I need a egg.” She laughs to herself. “I’m next door, the blue one. Yup. Seeya.” She hangs up.

“What should I do K?” Beth asks. Lena starts grizzling so Beth picks her up and starts swaying side to side.

“You just look after those kids girl, I’ve got this.” Kara starts pulling out herbs from the pantry and busying herself. There’s a knock on the door so Beth goes to answer. She balances Lena on her hip and opens the door. Oh my god, he’s so hot. At the door a tall, brown-skinned, muscly teenage boy holds out an egg to her. His tight white singlet, clings to his abs and he breaths heavily.

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