She's winding me up. He could have been in the Ringed City by now. Henri moved closer to the doorway, kitchen towel in one hand, a glass in the other.
He caught his sister's glance reflected in the mirror, and suddenly the glass left Henri's hand and sailed on an arclike trajectory through the air, where it met the edge of the mirror, shattering into a nebula of small crystal sparks.
A heavy, dark mist rushed over Henri, and he waded through it, clambering up the stairs, swimming into his room. He fell on to the bed, exhausted.
He buried his face in the duvet while fiery tears of shame fretted the rims of his eyes.
Eight o'clock and the house was quiet. Mum would be home soon. Henri was feeling calmer and his eyes were dry, but he couldn't shake a sense of dread in the pit of his stomach.
He wondered if Astrid had cleaned up the glass. Probably not. She would tell mum all about his outburst as soon as she walked in the door. The evidence on the floor would add to the drama.
The sudden doorbell made him jolt, and Henri bolted downstairs expecting to see the creepy boyfriend with the greasy hair. But it wasn't the boyfriend standing in the hall; it was dad.
Astrid had made it to the door first and now the two of them were standing in the hallway talking in hushed tones. They were standing in the puddle of glass and Astrid was crying.
'It's going to be alright,' he could hear his dad saying soothingly, 'She's okay. She'll be home in a little while.
I'm just here to see if you need anything, and I will wait with the two of you until she's back.' He glanced nervously at Henri, before turning his attention back to Astrid.
'What's going on?' Henri asked, looking at the two drooping figures in front of him. Neither of them would meet his eyes. Then his dad took a deep breath, growing taller, and he ushered both children into the living room where he motioned them to sit down.
'Henri,' his dad scraped his throat, 'Your mother has been in a car accident. It happened on the way home from work. But she's alright. She didn't get hurt too badly, and she's going to be home soon.'
Henri looked at his sister, who was sitting in her favourite armchair with her knees drawn up to her chin. Why won't she look at me? Henri couldn't wrap his mind around what was happening.
He looked at his dad, who was sitting next to him on the large brown sofa. His face was tinged with yellow and grey, deep lines criss-crossing his cheeks like a road map.
His dad stood up and started to pace the room. Back and forth he went, between the front and back window. Like a caged lion. A chain-smoking circus lion with dead eyes and dull fur.
Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon he used to do this. At least he had quit smoking. 'What happened?' Henri needed to know more.
'What happened?' To be continued...