Ethan quietly tiptoed out of Dylan’s bedroom and headed downstairs to the back garden where Ivy was already relaxing in the hot tub. ‘Hey sweetie! You were right, this tub is excellent. I’ll never buy another house without one!’
Laughing, Ethan quickly changed into his trunks and slipped into the hot tub next to his wife.
‘Did Dylan get off okay?’
‘Yeah, out like a light after his story, bless him. Robbie?’
‘Same! We’ve got two good kids there, Ethan.’
‘I’d prefer it if one of them would stop tampering with the plumbing!’ Ethan laughed in spite of his annoyance, splashing a few bubbles away from him. ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do with that one!’
Ivy grinned. ‘I just wish he’d own up to it. We need to get him to admit responsibility.’
‘It’s strange though, he always seems genuinely shocked when we confront him about it…’
‘I know. Perhaps he’s going to be a world class actor when he grows up.’ Ivy giggled, nudging Ethan. ‘I can just picture your face when that jet of water hit you! Hilarious!’
‘Oh, be quiet! Just because the worst that’s happened to you is a couple of whoopee cushions!’ Ethan groaned. ‘Besides, it only got me because you were taking your time in the bathroom!’
* * *
‘Wow Mr. Blaine, it’s a good job you came to see me today! Someone’s been stuck in a fashion timewarp, haven’t they?’
Sugar Bijou, stylist to the stars, appraised Ethan’s attire scathingly, snapping her chewing gum and adjusting her sunglasses. Ethan could feel himself blushing. He knew that he should have come here sooner! He was so behind the times, practically left on the rubbish heap…
‘Right, so let’s take a look here. You’ve got quite a good complexion for your age, should compliment most colours… We’ll have to disguise that gut you’re getting! Let’s see, we’ll need something casual, but with a bit of structure to give you some support around your middle.’
Ethan clutched his stomach self-consciously. I’ll have to up my sessions on the treadmill to forty five minutes he thought miserably.
Over the next hour Ethan tried on countless items of clothing in all manner of combinations, with Sugar barking orders and roughly adjusting jackets and trousers, pulling Ethan in every direction as she made sure everything laid perfectly on him. Finally, the stylist and the client settled on a simple pair of black jeans, coupled with a red t-shirt layered with a grey hoody and a black blazer.
‘Wow! I look so much better now! This style overhaul was definitely way overdue. Thank you so much!’ Ethan could hardly take his eyes off his reflection. Sugar nodded approvingly.
‘That’s quite all right, Mr. Blaine. Now if you’ll just sign here for the payment…’
Ethan quickly scrawled his signature, trying not to look at the price of his consultation. Still, it was worth it! ‘Thanks, Ms. Bijou! I’ll recommend you to my bandmates!’
Back at home Ethan basked in Ivy’s compliments over his new look. He decided that the rest of the band really did need to hear about the stylist, thinking that they could perhaps hire her for their next tour. Opening the laptop so that he could email Andy and Leon about Sugar Bijou’s genius, Ethan nearly had a heart attack as a neanderthal seemed to burst out of the screen!
‘Oh, flapping-flamingo-gnoming-llamas! DYLAN!’ Ethan willed his heartbeat to return to a normal rate as Dylan came slowly up the stairs.
‘What is it, Dad?’
Ethan pointed sternly at the laptop. ‘Well?’
‘Dylan, please! You’ve got to stop doing this! The occasional prank might be funny, but this is non-stop!’
‘But it wasn’t me, Dad!’
Ethan sighed, rubbing his temples and trying to remain calm. ‘Well then. Who was it, Dylan?’
‘It was Puzzle!’
‘Puzzle?! Oh, come on Dylan! I know you’ve got a vivid imagination where Puzzle’s concerned, but you are insulting my intelligence if you expect me to believe that! Now, I want you to go to your room for the rest of the day, and you’re grounded for a week.’
‘But Dad, I’ll miss scouts!’
‘Well then maybe you’ll think before setting up a prank next time!’ Ethan walked off to his own bedroom to use the laptop there, knowing it would be safe to use. As his door shut, Dylan felt a tapping on his shoulder. He knew who it would be.
‘Puzzle! You promised!’
‘I asked you not to do any more pranks! You’re getting me into trouble!’
‘Please, Puzzle! I’m missing scouts all this week because of you!’
‘Puzzle sorry. Puzzle play with Dylan?’
Dylan sighed. ‘Looks like I haven’t got much choice, have I?’
‘Dada! New clothes!’ Robyn carefully slid down off the beanbag chair she’d been perched on and tottered over to her Dad’s outstretched arms, beaming her face off.
‘Thanks for noticing, Robyn! Hey, your walking is getting better every day, isn’t it!’
Robyn nodded solemnly. ‘I practise lots.’
Ethan laughed. ‘Well, maybe you’ll grow up to be a runner!’
‘But, but…’ Robyn’s face creased up with sadness. ‘I wanna be a fairy…’
‘You can be whatever you want to be, my darling!’ Ethan cuddled his daughter close as her face brightened up. ‘Just as long as you’re happy. And I’d prefer it if you wouldn’t copy your brother’s pranks…’
‘Whatsa prank, Dada?’ Ethan groaned!
* * *
As Ivy rubbed her shampoo into her long hair, her eyes tightly closed, she was confused. Usually the air filled with the sweet scent of jasmin and honeysuckle, but… That was odd. It smelled different… Kind of bitter, a bit like ammonia… Squinting, she looked down at her fingers. They were covered in suds… Bright blue suds!
Crying out, she jumped out of the shower and wiped the water from her eyes, staring at her reflection. Her hair was blue! Bright blue!
‘What on earth?! How the heck!?’
Screaming, she leapt back into the tub and picked up a different bottle of shampoo, smelling it first to make sure that it wasn’t tainted too! Frantically scrubbing at her head, she breathed a sigh of relief as the temporary colour slipped from her hair and down the plug hole.
After drying and dressing, she headed downstairs where Dylan was sat engrossed in the television. Picking up the remote, she switched the television off.
‘Mum! I was watching that!’
‘I know you were, but we need to have a little chat. Mummy was just having a shower. Can you guess what happened to Mummy?’
Dylan shook his head, but visibly slumped. Ivy took it as a sign of guilt. ‘Now, I don’t know exactly how you managed to dye my hair bright blue -‘
‘Your hair went blue?!’ Dylan’s face filled with wonder, as Ivy’s grew stern.
‘You know full well it did. Dylan, you have got to stop pulling these pranks! Both me and your father have had it up to here! Go to your room.’
‘Oh, but Mum!’
‘No buts! Room! Now! And no TV or computer for a week!’
‘What! But what am I going to do for the whole week, if I can’t go out or -‘
‘You’ll find something! Play with Puzzle, it’s what you do most of the time anyway!’
‘Only because I’m sent to my room every single day,’ Dylan muttered as he stomped out of the living room. Ivy sighed as she watched him go.
‘What on earth are we going to do with him, Ethan?’ Ivy hugged a pillow tight to her chest, thinking about Dylan. ‘He’s just so out of control…’
‘I can’t understand it. I rang the school today to speak to his teachers, find out how he behaves there. They said he’s a great kid, always gets on with his work, is friendly with the other kids in his class, and definitely no pranks there. So why at home!?’
‘Maybe we’re just bad at controlling him,’ wailed Ivy, plumping up the pillow and putting it behind her head so that she could comfortably slam it against the headboard in frustration. ‘It’s the only explanation!’
‘I just don’t understand why he keeps on trying to blame that bloody doll of his,’ said Ethan, mostly to himself. ‘He’s far too attached to that thing.’
‘You’re right. Maybe we should throw it away?’ Ivy said hopefully. Oh, how she wanted to be rid of that thing! Ethan shook his head, thinking.
‘No, no. That wouldn’t be the right thing to do. He just needs to get a sense of responsibility, that only he is responsible for his actions and their consequences. When Robyn grows up he’ll start blaming her.’
‘But what can we do?’
Ethan took a deep breath. ‘I was emailing Andy earlier. Did you… Did you know that he used to go to a boarding school?’ He felt Ivy stiffen beside him.
Ethan pretended that she was asking about Andy. ‘Yeah, when he was really young, before I met him at high school. His parents moved about a lot, but rather than disrupt his schooling they enrolled him in a boarding school. Fort Starch?’
‘The military school?!’ Ivy sat up. ‘You have got to be kidding!’
‘Just hear me out, Ivy. Andy’s spoken very highly of his time there. It’s not some draconian institution, with drills at dawn and warfare. They focus more on discipline, about consquences to actions, on responsibility… Sound familiar? Plus their results in terms of grades are second to none.’
‘But he’s my baby! I can’t just send him away!’ Ethan slipped an arm around Ivy and hugged her tight.
‘I’m not saying this is what we’re definitely going to do, Ivy. We need to talk about it first. But we need to do what’s best for Dylan, what’s going to give him the best head start in life. Plus, I think it would do him good to get away from that doll of his…’
Ivy nodded sadly. ‘We’ll talk about it. Oh gnomes, Ethan, I feel like such a failure…’
‘You’re not a failure, Ivy! You’re a brilliant mother! He’s just a little free-spirited, that’s all. We just have to help him shape himself a little. We’ll do what’s best for Dylan. That’s the important thing.’