I wrote my name in the steam. Condensation dripped from the letters.
‘Is it ready yet?’ Kate called.
I wiped the mirror with a flannel. ‘Nearly there.’
I made figure-of-eights in the steaming water with our ancient loofa, stirring in the Christmas bath salts. We had an old chest packed with bath bombs, bath salts, soaps and talc. Kate said we should give the lot to Oxfam, have a proper clearout.
‘I don’t think starving people in Africa care much for your mango body scrub.’
‘Very funny,’ she said, pulling a face.
I sloshed in some blue bubble bath.
‘I think I’ll take over now,’ Kate said. She was flushed from cooking tea. ‘I’m not doing a grill ever again. I stink of sausage fat.’
‘I don’t mind.’
‘No, I bet it’s your private fantasy having a woman who smells like a greasy spoon.’
Kate’s fringe stood to attention where she’d blown to cool herself.
‘I’m perfectly capable of running a bath,’ I said.
‘You mean running a water fight.’
‘The boys enjoyed it,’ I said.
Kate sighed. ‘The landing was like Niagara Falls that night.’
‘Bit of an exaggeration.’
‘It’s easy being popular with them, isn’t it?’ Kate said. ‘Turn the taps off.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
She rolled back her sleeve and lowered her elbow into the foam.
‘How far do I go till I hit water?’ she said. ‘Or is it all foam?’
She rolled her eyes and turned the cold on full. It was always too hot when I did it, as if I was trying to scald my own kids. Water gushed from the cold tap, cutting a slit in the foam. Kate marched into the living room, took Owen’s DS off him, snapped it shut, and shuffled him by the shoulders. Owen dug his heels into the shag pile, leaning back. We had a dog like that who wouldn’t go near the vet’s. His claws dug into the car seat like fish hooks. I swear he could smell the disinfectant three streets away.
‘Keep an eye on him,’ Kate said. ‘And have a word with him.’
‘Have a word about what?’
‘He says he’s being bullied. That’s your area. I do everything else.’
At seven Owen was already getting bashful. I had to turn away while he kicked off his socks and pants, before sinking into the water. Owen was sitting, knees to chest, staring at me. There wasn’t a ripple in the bathwater.
‘You alright, buddy?’
‘Do you like baths, Dad?’ he said.
‘Yeah, I guess.’
Owen nodded, thoughtful.
‘You get washed, mate. Dad’s just next door for a minute.’
Owen stared at me. ‘Dad, what was your school like?’
‘Alright, I guess.’ The bathroom door snagged. A pair of Owen’s pants was caught between the door and the lino. I yanked them free. ‘Cool pants,’ I said.
Owen smiled awkwardly.
‘No, they are really.’
He didn’t look convinced.