Excerpt from Short Stack

Dylan shifts. “Yes, well. I’ve got Billy.”

I stare at him. “Yes, I can see that, Dylan. Why don’t you tell me something that isn’t blatantly obvious.”

“I can’t take him to the dentist with me. I can’t watch him and have dental work done.”

“Oh, okay,” I say quickly, my brain turning over the choices. “So you could ask—”

“I’ve already asked everyone,” he interrupts. An impish look crosses his face. “Help me, Gabriel Foster. You’re my only hope.”

I stare at him, aware that my mouth has fallen open. “Quoting Star Wars won’t help you. You can’t be serious.” I gesture between us. “Out of everyone in Jude and Asa’s lives, you’ve arrived at me as a babysitter. How is that even possible?”

“I agree it’s not ideal.” He pauses. “Or sane.”

“Hey,” I say crossly, but he carries on. Of course he does. Dylan is relentless.

“But you’re the only one. Asa’s away, and Jude’s taken a modelling job in Barcelona.”

“I thought he’d packed in the modelling.”

“He wants to buy Daddy a very special birthday present,” Billy says, leaning against me with his sharp elbow digging into my ribs. I shift him slightly so he doesn’t gouge his way through to the bone. He smiles at me. “He’s buying him a very big picture.” He looks slightly perturbed. “I said a Lego castle would be really good, so we’re giving him that as well because I think a castle is better than a picture. Especially that picture which doesn’t even have any knights in it.” He nods firmly like a tiny king who’s been appeased. 

My lip twitches, but then I come back to sanity. “It’s madness.”

Dylan nods. “I know that. You know that. Alistair knows that. Do you know who doesn’t?”


He gestures at Billy. “Him. You were the first person he wanted to be with.”

“Then he’s as barmy as you.” I look at Billy, who has taken a Hot Wheels car out of his pocket and is absorbed with pushing it up and down my arm. Unbidden, a sense of warmth edges through me. Fuck knows why it makes me happy that a very small person who doesn’t even have all his own teeth wants to spend time with me, but I can’t deny it does.

“Okay, I’ll look after him, but don’t say I didn’t lodge an objection on the grounds that this is utter lunacy.” I relent when I look at Dylan and see the pain and concern on his face that he’s trying to hide. “Don’t worry, darling,” I say robustly. “We’ll be absolutely fine.”

“Really?” he asks doubtfully.

I nod very firmly. “Yes. It’s only for a few hours, and then you’ll be back with us.” I look down at Billy. “How bad could a few hours be, Billy?”

He looks up at me. “Quite bad,” he says in rather a judgemental manner for such a small person.