“The UK government announced a nation-wide lock-down on 23 March. People have been asked not to leave their homes unless for essential needs, and gatherings of more than two people have been banned. All non-essential stores, places of worship, gyms, libraries and playgrounds have been closed.
Parks are still open for physical activities such as exercise although groups of more than two are not allowed. The lock-down is expected to be in place until June 2020 although some reports suggest that it may be further extended.”
Bridget and Mark looked at one another, eyes wide. She then turned the telly off, reality sinking in.
“Well, I guess I’m not going into Chambers anytime soon,” Mark stated.
“No, and Daniel rang to say our next season is on indefinite standby. So, what do you say, Mr. Darcy? Would you like to kick off the lock-down with some shagging?” Bridget gave him her sexiest smile, running her stockinged foot up his pant leg.
“Hmmm, let me think about that,” laughed Mark, knowing she was joking. Their son was due to wake from his nap at any moment and he definitely took after his father in that regard; it seemed you could set your watch by his regimented daily activities.
Maybe just to be perverse, Bridget moved over and climbed onto his lap, straddling his legs. Kissing his ear, she whispered, “Maybe a little something to keep you going til bedtime? He may actually sleep for another half hour...”
At that precise moment, they both heard footsteps on the stairs and Bridget moved over to sit very nonchalantly next to Mark, straightening her skirt as she did.
Walking into the sitting room, Billy looked both tired and upset. “What’s wrong, son?” asked Mark, pulling him up and onto his lap.
Sullenly, he replied, “I couldn’t get my shirt right.”
Bridget noticed that his shirt was on backwards, with the race car on the back and not the front, as it should have been.
“Billy, why did you take your shirt off in the first place?” she asked him, concern in her tone.
“I was hot, mummy.”
“That’s okay Billy, we all make mistakes,” she said, leaning over to kiss his cheek.
“Even you, mummy?” he asked, eyes wide.
“Yep, even me and daddy,” she said as she looked over at Mark holding their son. “Although daddy not so often as mummy!”
“Oh yeah, like when you make food that tastes good, but then it doesn’t?” His face was so solemn as he said this that Bridget tried to hide her laughter, instead smiling at him and swallowing her outburst. Mark on the other hand didn’t even attempt to, laughing uproariously so that Billy leaned back and looked at his father as if he’d grown a second head.
At the look he received from her, Mark stood, put Billy down, took his hand and ran from the room, just escaping the pillow that Bridget had picked up and flung at his retreating head.
Mark stood up after staring at his computer screen for what felt like hours. Stretching his arms over his head, he then bent forward and lowered his torso parallel to the floor, trying to work the kinks out of his lower back, feeling the tug on his hamstrings. It had been two weeks of working from home during the lock-down and although he’d never say it out loud, he wished for nothing more than to have Giles or Jeremy come into his office without knocking, plant themselves in a chair in front of his desk and launch into an inane conversation about any number of topics. As much as he was talking on the phone with his team, playing with his son and spending time with Bridget, he was going slightly stir crazy from the forced inactivity and lack of social interaction. He’d have to remember to tell Bridget this over dinner tonight, as she would be thrilled that he actually missed human contact, since she often accused him of being antisocial.
Heading for the kitchen, he detoured upstairs to check on his wife and son. Looking in on Billy, he saw that he was fast asleep, thumb in mouth, his favorite stuffed animal next to him. Stepping back quietly he next went to their bedroom, finding Bridget in much the same position, sans the thumb and bunny. He then went back downstairs, poured himself a glass of water and cut up an apple for a snack. Finishing it, he headed back to his office, with plans to ring Jonathan, to discuss the asylum case he had just been assigned. It seemed that even if most of the world came to a halt, there were always those that needed help and depended on his firm’s expertise during such times.
Rounding the corner, he was stopped short when he saw Billy furiously hammering on the keyboard of the computer.
“William! Stop that this minute!”
Turning to look at his father, he said, “I help you daddy.”
Looking down at his son and feeling guilty for raising his voice, Mark picked him up, sat down in the chair and set him on his lap, seeing what damage he had wrought. Judging by a couple of funny responses from co-workers, an email had been sent with gibberish for the body and the excel spreadsheet he had up on the second screen needed a quick fix of File, DON’T save, meaning he’d lost about 10 minutes worth of work.
Smiling, he figured there was a lot more to worry about than a garbled email or report. He quickly minimized his work projects and launched Billy’s favorite dinosaur game, playfully biting into his neck, causing him to shrilly scream with delight.
After fifteen minutes of play, Mark’s email alert popped up with a reminder of a conference call with the managing partners. He stood up so that he could go upstairs to ask Bridget to watch their son during his call.
“Daddy, I’ll be quiet,” Billy said, very serious, imploring Mark with his big, blue eyes to let him stay.
“Okay, but no talking while I’m on my call. It should only last fifteen minutes. Can you stay still that long?”
Nodding his head yes, he settled back against Mark’s chest, making himself comfortable, as Mark dialed the prearranged number to join the call. About five minutes in, it was his turn to provide the update on his team’s activities. Holding his finger over his lips to ask Billy for silence again and unmuting the call, he launched a several minute recap of each one, touching on all the active cases that were pending. When he was finished, he put his phone back on mute, hugging his son tightly, letting him know what a good job he had done.
“Daddy, what did that even mean?” The baffled way in which he asked gave Mark pause.
“I don’t know, son. I don’t know,” he said with a chuckle.
“That was lovely,” said Bridget, walking up behind them with a glass of red wine for her husband as it was fast approaching five PM. After handing it to him, she wrapped her arms around his neck and chest from behind, encircling Billy, who was still on his lap, in her hug also.
Bridget and Billy were working away on the kitchen table. Billy was drawing pictures of animals as his mother would call out a name, as she leafed through one of her magazines.
“Mummy, next one?” he requested, having just finished a monkey.
“Giraffe!” she yelled out, laughing at his enthusiasm and indefatigable energy. His head immediately bent over the paper, tongue caught between his teeth in concentration. He looks so much like Mark it’s frightening, she thought with a smile, but with my light hair and blue eyes.
Remembering a joke that Jude’s daughter had told her over the phone the previous evening, she chuckled and asked her son if he’d like to hear it.
“Yes! I can tell daddy, if it’s good,” he said, qualifying his statement.
“Knock, knock,” said Bridget, looking at Billy expectantly.
He had heard these ‘knock, knock’ jokes before and had laughed heartily whenever they asked him for a response.
Trying again, Bridget said, “Knock, knock,” looking directly at him, eyebrows raised, trying to help him along with her facial expression.
Still nothing from Billy. His little face was very serious as he stared back at her in silence.
“Billy, you’re supposed to ask who’s there,” she said in exasperation.
“Don’t care. I do not open the door during a pandemic.” He didn’t quite get the word ‘pandemic’ out correctly, but she took his meaning none the less. After hearing his very earnest answer, she started to laugh uncontrollably, thinking he definitely took after his father in his personality.
“Bridget! What in God’s name is this?” Mark called out to his wife, laughing loudly.
Running into the kitchen, wondering what he was looking at, she breathlessly asked, “What’s what?”
Looking pointedly at a plateful of half eaten grapes, he asked, “Why is a half of each grape eaten?” Incredulity showed on his face.
Looking down quizzically, Bridget couldn’t discern why each grape was bitten into and left on the plate. She had told Billy that he could share her grapes with her, telling him he could have half of them. That’s when the penny dropped and she realized that his definition of ‘half of her grapes’ and her definition were two separate things. “Mark, I told Billy he could share half my grapes. I think he interpreted that as he could eat HALF of EACH grape! I’m calling him in here this minute! He needs to understand what I meant when I said ‘half’,” Bridget said, trying not to laugh too hard, but knowing she needed to clarify what she meant to her young son.
“Billy!” she called out, trying not to break character of mother, knowing that she needed to nip this in the bud.
Running in with an expectant look on his face, he asked, “Yes, mummy?”
“William, what did you think I meant when I said you could have half my grapes?” she asked, trying to keep a straight face.
“Mummy, I did what you told me. I ate half your grapes.” It was hard to argue with his logic and she looked at Mark, who was also struggling to maintain his composure, as she knew this needed sorting.
“Son,” said Mark sternly, “you don’t take a bite from someone’s food and put it back on the plate. Not even mummy or daddy’s food. When mummy said you could have half her grapes, she meant take some WHOLE ones for yourself and leave her some WHOLE ones to enjoy. Does that make sense?” Looking over at him, she thought he was going to lose it any moment, his eyes crinkling at the corners, his expression starting to crack. He then nodded his head towards their son, imploring her with his eyes to take Billy from the kitchen.
Catching his meaning, Bridget took Billy by the hand, saying, “C’mon, I think it’s time for your nap.” As they got to the stairs, Bridget overheard Mark’s laughter emanating from the kitchen, at which point she covered their son’s ears as she too laughed out loud. Sometimes it was so very difficult to be disciplinarian to someone they both loved so deeply, she thought wryly.
Lying in bed on a rare Saturday morning when Billy didn’t wake up prior to sunrise, Bridget said to her husband, “What day Lock-Up are we on? It’s all running together for me. Are you up for a virtual happy hour this afternoon with Jude, Giles, Tom, Eduardo, Shaz and Fergus? I’ll ask Magda and Jeremy also.”
Laughing at her lamentation, he reminded her, “You’ve probably talked to all of them by phone more than before the Lock-Down.”
“I know, but I can’t see them. This way, we can all talk AND see each other!”
“Sure, maybe during William’s nap time? Otherwise, I’m certain I can manage him out back in the garden with a glass of wine.” He smiled down at her indulgently, thinking she was truly being a good sport about the forced social distancing. Especially for someone as gregarious as Bridget.
“Oh goody! I’ll set it up for everyone on Zoom. I even know how to stop Zoombombing!” she exclaimed proudly.
“Zoombombing. You haven’t heard of it? I’m surprised with all the video conferencing you do. It’s when uninvited attendees break into and disrupt your meeting.”
“Well, since I don’t set up the calls, I assume someone’s taking care of that,” he laughed in reply.
“I can’t believe Billy’s not up yet. I almost hate to say it out loud, for fear of jinxing us!”
“I think it’s because we let him stay up five hours past his bedtime on Thursday. He actually slept til 6:06 yesterday, instead of his usual 6:00AM,” he said with a chuckle.
“Maybe that’s why he was in a mood yesterday! Do you know what your son said to me?”
When William became “his son”, he knew it couldn’t have been good. “No, please enlighten me,” he responded, pulling her close while kissing the top of her head, enjoying their quiet time prior to the start of another day.
“He asked me what a ‘metaphor’ is? First off, where did he even hear that word and secondly, I’m shocked he could pronounce it!”
“What did you say? How would you explain that to a four year old?” he laughed.
“I gave an example and said ‘My life is a train wreck’.”
“And? I can’t imagine he understood the meaning behind that, did he?”
“He said...‘I know mum, but what’s a metaphor?’”
Silence. She then felt his body shaking with quiet laughter. Leaning up and away from him, she pulled back and glared.
Quickly trying to wipe the grin from his face, he responded, “That’s not at all funny. I’m sure I was never that cheeky as a child!” Not being able to hold it in any longer, he burst out into laughter, eventually having to wipe tears from his eyes.
“Mark! You’re not helping the situation by laughing!” but she too started to giggle, watching him try and fail to put on a serious face.
Changing the subject, Mark said, “What I’d like to know is how he’s ever able to survive a normal school day without 23 snacks. It seems every time I turn around he’s begging for some kind of food. He went completely through a bag of snack carrots by noon. It was hard to find anything nutritious in the pantry after that.”
“Maybe we’re just spending so much more time with him, that we’re now noticing these things? I’m sure it’s not just him that’s so precocious. I honestly don’t know how teachers get through the day. I wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face! I told him a tomato was going to grow in his stomach because he ate some of the seeds and I kid you not, he looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘Nope, because there’s no sunlight, so you’re wrong and uni has failed you’.”
“Bridget, do you think we have a recalcitrant child on our hands?” asked Mark, with dead seriousness.
Laughing at his worry of a normal child’s behaviour, she climbed over and on top of him, saying, “Mark, believe me, the things he’s doing are totally normal for his age. Jude, Magda, Tom and Sharon have divulged much worse about their brood. Now, kiss me before he really does wake up!”
Sighing, he then ran his hands under her nightie, pulling it over her head and off, smiling up at her.