It was a cool morning, a year after the tragic death, accompanied by the gentle singing birds and tickling breezes. Andrew was preparing breakfast, which happened to be toast and coffee with strawberry pastries. Gordon was taking a shower and the twins, now seven years of age, were sitting at the table drinking chocolate milk. Michelle was ready as well and she was using her phone at the table.
The only person missing was Mia but she clumsily strode out of her room as soon as Gordon stepped out of the bathroom, dripping wet.
“It’s ticking,” she yawned as she made her way in the shower, clothes in arms.
“What is ticking?” Michelle asked, looking up.
“Clock,” Mia replied sleepily as she slammed the door shut.
Michelle shrugged and went back to her phone. Sam, however, poked a question as children like to do.
“Michelle, what’s Mia saying?” he asked, slurping the milk out of the straw.
“The clock’s ticking,” Michelle answered, smiling lightly at him.
“Tick-tock, tick-tock,” Aaron giggled.
“Yeah, like that,” she laughed, ruffling his head.
“Good morning, Michelle,” Gordon said, as he sat at the table, “Morning, Andrew.”
“G’ morning, Gordon,” Michelle nodded.
“Morning, bro,” Andrew smiled, pouring out the coffee in the cups, “Hey, want to help me out?”
Gordon put up his hands in defense. “Don’t ask, dude. It’s Mia’s turn to help today.”
“Gordon, don’t be so lazy. Mia is in the shower,” Michelle sighed, turning back to her phone.
“And all Michelle does is stare at the phone all day long,” Gordon huffed.
“Guys, behave,” Andrew scolded.
His word was final then. Since he was the oldest, they had to obey him by all means. Michelle and Gordon could just roll eyes at each other before turning away and Sam giggled.
“Andrew scolded Sissy,” he giggled.
Gordon smirked and nodded. Michelle frowned angrily.
“Andy, tell him to shut up this instant,” she hissed, clenching her fists tightly and staring at Andrew.
“Sam, Michelle’s feeling bad. Do be quiet,” he groaned.
“But you did scold her!” Sam snickered.
“That’s history. Now I’m telling you to shut up. And, Sam, if you disobey, you know I won’t like it.”
Aaron nudged Sam hardly and he shut up quickly.
The bathroom door opened and Mia walked out in a blue, knee-length frock and white stockings.
“Morning, Mia,” Aaron waved.
“Hi, Aaron!” Mia grinned as she seated herself beside Gordon.
“Good morning, sis!” Sam smiled.
Andrew put coffee mugs in front of everyone and then beckoned Mia towards him.
“It’s your turn to help at breakfast, Mia. Come on,” he said, pointing at the plates of pastries.
She exhaled reluctantly but stood up and served the pastries around. Andrew told her to fill the water jug while he served the toast and so she did it.
When they all finally sat down to eat, Mia said quietly:
“Andrew, the clock is making a horrible noise.”
Andrew looked at her. “What’s the matter?”
“It is going tick-tock so loudly. I almost can’t bear it!” she cried.
“Tick-tock, tick-tock,” Aaron laughed.
“It’s not funny, Aaron!” Mia shouted.
“Mia, keep your voice down,” Michelle warned.
Mia was about to protest but Gordon cut her off. “How loud is it?”
“Uh, pretty loud…” Mia whispered.
“Like bong, bong?” Andrew asked.
“Something similar,” she agreed.
“I haven’t heard it,” Michelle frowned, “So it must have started this morning because when I woke up, the room was pretty quiet.”
“Clocks go tick-tock, not bong-bong!” Sam cried in a moment of childish confusion.
“Oh, Sammy, it is just an expression for the bad mechanics of the clock,” Michelle explained, patting his chubby cheek as she spoke.
“Yeah, Sam, a clock can’t really go bong… it is a clock, not tongs,” Aaron laughed.
“Back to topic. Andrew, it is a real bother. Can you fix it?” Mia pleaded.
“I’ll see when I get back from work,” Andrew answered.
“Is it malfunctioning? Showing the wrong time?” Gordon asked.
“Nah, just that noise, Gordon,” Mia answered, finishing her coffee.
“Oh my God, Andrew, why did you give me this coffee?” Michelle wailed suddenly.
“What happened?” Andrew frowned.
“You know I don’t take coffee without cream… Oh my God, I can’t drink that!” Michelle groaned.
“You are so darn picky!” Gordon exclaimed in disapproval.
“Gordon, cool down, bro,” Andrew pacified before flares of argument erupted.
“Mom knew I only took cream coffee,” Michelle stated.
“Yeah, she also knew you don’t take salt with your egg. Man, you’re such a weirdo!” Mia grunted.
“That is a fact,” Michelle agreed, ignoring her displeasure.
“Mom used to give strawberry pastries too,” Aaron grinned sweetly.
“But Dad gave me my jam scones,” Sam added.
“Mom didn’t like jam,” Gordon laughed.
“The only thing she liked was her Italian clock!” Michelle exhaled in a dry manner.
“That darned clock….” Mia muttered.
“Mom’s love and pride!!!” Sam and Aaron sang in unison, holding back laughter.
“Okay, that’s enough!!” Andrew banged the table suddenly, quietening everyone up. “Mom and Dad are gone. They are dead. And I would not like to hear a single thing about their past. You all know that brings sadness and you guys just carry on talking without a single thought! My God, what jerks!”
Sam and Aaron’s eyes started filling with tears and they cuddled each other. Michelle put her arm around them but she was shocked too. Gordon and Mia exchanged horrified looks and Andrew stood up to put his pots in the dishwasher.
“I’m done too,” Michelle sighed, picking up her almost empty plate and filled cup.
“Now eat up quickly. The bus arrives in ten minutes and I expect the four of you ready by the time,” Andrew said, pointing at his sisters and the twins. Because Michelle was in the ninth grade, she went to the same school as Mia, Sam and Aaron. Gordon, who was in high school now, went to another place near their school.
There was some mumbling, but the table was soon cleared in the next five minutes. Michelle went to touch her face up in her room and she nearly screamed out of shock when she entered. As soon as she stepped in, there was a loud banging sound and Michelle jumped back in alarm. Sure enough, it was the clock. Michelle’s annoyed eyes glared at it and she shook her head to show great dislike.
“My God! Mia was right. You’re being a real bother!” she cried, grabbing her makeup kit and began walking out, “I definitely can’t do any heck of a job till you get fixed!”
So she did her makeup in the boys’ bedroom and put the kit back in her bedroom quickly. As Michelle waited for the bus to arrive, she decided to have a word with Andrew.
“Andrew, that clock is killing me. When will you fix it?”
“Soon. Tomorrow, I think,” he answered.
“I can’t sleep in that noise!” Michelle cried.
“I will think about it after work,” he consoled.
“You better,” she threatened vaguely with a tiny smirk.
After that, she didn’t linger about much because Sam had spotted the bus coming from the next street. He was jumping around and making noise like a monkey. Aaron told him to shut up but he ignored him, so Aaron pushed him. That shook Sam who, being a vigorous fighter for his age, hit him. Mia, who was finishing a poem for the literature competition at school, saw that and screamed.
Gordon came running and told the twins off but they kept making faces at each other. That brought in Andrew and Michelle. Michelle didn’t have a really strong grip in the family but it was her that Sam obeyed the most- and, since he had such a spirit of combat, only Michelle could bring him to heel.
Aaron had a hurt tooth and he was crying with all his might. To shut him up, Andrew got him a strawberry pastry as a bonus with his packed lunch and Aaron gladly shut up.
Gordon would leave the house when Andrew would, so that Andrew could drop him at his high school and go to work when he had. So, the four children started bidding their older brothers goodbye as they left and, on the way out, Mia cried:
“Don’t forget the ticking of the clock!”
Andrew groaned, “Yes, I will! Now shut up and go to school! Mich, please take care of them!”
Michelle laughed as she blew a kiss at the house, “Don’t worry, bro! I got it!”
And the yellow bus clattered along the street and out on the grey road, disappearing from the mansion’ view.