The first is my loving wife, my beautiful and Successful Other Half, whose reasonable disappointment in my all-too-frequent thoughtlessness and insensitivy throws me to my knees and propels me to crawl over proverbial broken glass by way of abject apology.
The other is my stepdaughter, Daisy, who has been in my life since she was one year-old and hitherto has been far more responsive to my unrelaxed attitude to discipline than I have been to her occasional Tweeny strops.
Until yesterday. Yesterday, she got the upper hand, cilmbed to the moral high ground and put me firmly in my place with flashing-eyed contempt and a withering disappontment that I’ve experienced a thousand times from her black-eyed mother.
But I can’t complain. My punishment was richly deserved.
It had all been going so well. I’d collected my two sons from school and had them both snacked and homeworked by the time the big hand was pointing to the six and the little hand was pointing to the four. Dinner was prepped, and I even had a bottle of wine chilling for the homecoming of She Who Pays The Mortgage.
In fact, so chuffed was I with this orgy of organisation, I emailed The Wife to brag about it.
‘Brilliant,’ she said. ‘And you collected Daisy from school, too? You deserve a glass of wine.’
‘Collected Daisy? No, not yet. She’s at ballet ’til 5.15. Will get her then. As usual.’
‘Er, no. It’s cancelled this week. Remember? You told me last week and I told you this morning.’
‘On my way,’ I wrote.
I stuck a boy under each arm, carried them down to the car, then whizzed up as fast as the traffic would allow to Daisy’s school. But when I got there, she was nowhere to be found. I saw a friend of hers.
‘Have you seen Daisy?’ I panted.
‘No. I think she left ages ago.’
But another friend said: ‘Try the second floor. She might be there.’
I ran up the stairs, three at a time, neglecting my other children in the back of the car, and checked each room.
No. No. Yessss. At last!
There she was, sitting in after-school homework club, chatting away wth a friend…until she saw me.
‘Where. Have. You. Been?’ she said, her brown furrowing into exactly the same shape her mother’s furrows.
‘I’m really sorry, chick. I completely forgot ballet was cancelled.’
‘You. Mean. You. Forgot. Me. Like I mean nothing to you,’ she replied.
Clearly, she had been schooled in the fine art of putting me in my place, a lesson learned by obversation through her mother. But my God, it was effective.
‘No, of course I didn’t forget you. I forgot about ballet,’ I muttered.
She folded her arms. Stared at me. Then stomped off down the stairs and got into the car with her brothers.
A moment later I was at the steering wheel. ‘Are we cool?’ I simpered.
‘You forgot me. I bet you wouldn’t even care if I didn’t exist,’ she replied.
Pull back the bow, fire an arrow into my heart.
‘Of course I care,’ I crawled.
And this was how it went for the 15 minute journey home. I made dinner. She ate it. But didn’t say a word.
Until finally, she piped up. ‘Kee-eee-thhh…’
‘You know that game I’ve been after, you know, the one on TV I’ve mentioned a few times?’
‘Well, do you think I can get it sometime? Sometime soon?’
And then the penny dropped. She wasn’t annoyed me me at all. She had simply found my Achilles’ heel and was digging away at it with her Tweeny guile to get something she wanted.
‘I’ll tell you what,’ I said. ‘You can have it on one condition..’
‘You tell your mother that you loved staying behind at school because you managed to get your homework done. Deal?’