Ally gave Peter a steely stare, a look he dare not engage.
“Give me that water pistol now,” Ally demanded, holding out her hand.
Peter shuffled forward. He risked a quick upward glance to his mother’s face before returning to the safety of shoe-gazing.
Ally felt bad for giving her only son these glowering looks, especially when he wore his best ‘who, me?’ expression. But discipline was something the boy sorely lacked.
“Give,” Ally repeated the instruction, maintaining the forceful tone in her voice.
The Super-soaker 2000 felt quite heavy despite being nearly half-empty. Ally wondered how her little 7 year-old tearaway could carry it when it was full.
“Now go next door and apologise to Mrs Compton for soaking her cat, then get straight to bed.” Ally gestured towards Peter’s bedroom window, then added as an after thought, “and no Television.”
“Aw Mum! David Beckham’s on the telly later. Can’t I watch that?” Peter pleaded.
“No. No Television, no supper, and no bed-time story.”
Peter’s bottom lip began to quiver. “I hate you,” he screamed, and ran upstairs slamming doors behind him.
Ally emptied the water pistol then placed it in the confiscated toys cabinet.
He doesn’t realise it now but I’m putting him on the road to better things, Ally told herself. Ally knew this was for her own good too, because she’d let Peter get away with too much since his father abandoned them.
And last term’s warning at school for disruptive behaviour was never far from Ally’s thoughts.
Peter sulked all through breakfast, but it was a different story after school. He seemed much happier, and better behaved.
“Mum, after dinner can I help wash the dishes?” Peter said before cleaning his plate of remaining greens.
Keen to go with this positive flow Ally rewarded Peter with 30 minutes television after he helped clean and dry the dishes. When the 30 minutes were up Peter promptly went to his room to do his homework.
Ally couldn’t resist peaking around the door to make sure he wasn’t playing computer games. A floor board creaked and Peter turned around.
“Hi Mum. How many sides has a decahedron got? It’s the only question I can’t answer. Look.” Peter held his maths homework aloft.
Blimey, thought Ally. There’s proof if I needed it.
“Erm, I think it has 10, but check it in the dictionary to be safe.”
At bedtime Ally tucked Peter in and read him his bedtime story.
“As you’ve been a good boy today I’m going to let you have your water pistol back, on the condition you don’t spray Mrs Compton’s cat again.”
Peter threw his arms around her neck and hugged tight, and Ally held him close to her, keeping the embrace for as long as she could.
The next day, just after 1pm, Ally received a phone call from the school secretary requesting Ally to come and see the Headmaster. Something to do with Peter and his behaviour.
Ally’s heart sunk, and a list of scenarios scrolled through her mind, but they were all versions of one: Peter was in trouble again. This time it could be suspension, or worse, expulsion. Just as things seemed to be improving. This is the last straw, Ally decided.
When Ally arrived Peter was already sat outside the Headmaster’s office.
“What have you done this time?” Ally yelled as she stormed down the corridor.
“I haven’t done anything, Mum, I promise,” said Peter, shifting in his chair and hiding his hands behind his back.
Ally wanted to say, I know you’re lying, and as soon as I find out what you’ve done you’ll be grounded for weeks and ALL of your toys will be confiscated and only a modicum of control stopped her.
“Show me your hands,” Ally demanded.
Peter was slow to respond, and looked down at the ground as he showed his palms to his mum. Guilty! Peter’s fingers were stained red. The cliché was lost on Ally.
“Why do you do it, Peter?” Ally said, wiping away an unexpected tear. “I am trying to bring you up right and this is how you repay me.”
Ally wiped a tear away, surprised by her instant change of mood.
“But I really haven’t done anything, mum. Honest.” Peter was close to tears too.
Sniffling into a tissue Ally remarked, “Your Dad was always trouble. I thought I could bring you up better without him but I was wrong.”
Peter stood up and hugged Ally, reminding her of last night’s affection. How close we were to a break through, and how wrong was I.
“Mrs Robins?” asked the secretary.
Ally prised herself free from Peter’s embrace and cleared her throat. “Yes.”
“Mr Parker will see you and Peter now.”
The secretary held the Headmaster’s door open. Immediately Ally clocked the Supersoaker 2000 on Mr Parker’s desk.
“Mrs Robins, Peter, please sit down.”
Ally gulped hard while managing a polite smile. She felt Peter’s small hand grip hers. His touch made her realise how clammy her palms were.
“Mrs Robins, this weapon was confiscated from Peter at playtime.”
“I’m sorry Mr Parker. I didn’t realise he had taken it into school.”
“Be that as it may, I must take action. I have decided to dock 10 house points and Peter will be in detention at lunchtime for 2 weeks as punishment.”
Ally almost sighed with relief but she could tell there was more to come.
“I would not have discovered Peter’s water pistol if it wasn’t for his ingenious misuse of it.”
“Ingenious misuse?” Ally heard herself say, confused and intrigued.
“Peter’s teacher, Miss Gilder, who suffers from diabetes, collapsed at playtime. Peter soaked her with his weapon which brought her around and she was able to request her medication.”
Surprised by what she just heard, Ally turned to Peter. “What about the red hands?”
“We had art class before playtime,” Peter said.
Ally looked at Peter, unsure whether to smile or wince.
“Peter’s actions may well have saved Miss Gilder’s life, so I’m awarding 50 house points on one condition. The water pistol must never return to school.”
“Oh it won’t!” Ally said as she stood up. “Thank you, Mr Parker.”
“No, the thanks go to Peter today.”
Ally followed Peter out of the room, still holding hands. At the door Ally turned and asked, “Incidentally, how has Peter's behaviour at school been this term?”
As soon as the door closed Ally swept Peter up in her arms, her eyes soaked with pride.