She was younger than Michael by 4 minutes. Usually it’s the older one giving orders, but Laura had ‘milking it’ down to a T. She played up most around dad. After he left, she stopped.

At least that’s what Michael thought. Mum and Sally didn’t seem to notice, and anyway, it was 20 years ago, so get over it already.

Sally could get over anything, Mum said. Like when that big kid pushed her into the drink fountains. She waited till his back was turned, then dacked him in front of all the Year 7s. Michael heard his big sister, clear as a bell: “When you’re done being a dickhead, can I have my five bucks back?”

Sally was tough. Michael always wondered how they were related. But with Laura, he could tell. They had dad’s features. Mum’s smile, but Dad’s laugh, how he remembered it anyway.

Michael looked across the table at his dad’s eyes. Dad’s nose. Dad’s cheekbones.

“What you looking at, shithead?” Dad’s colourful vernacular.

Laura’s voice snapped him back to their greasy table, lingering taste of Whopper in his throat.

“So, what you gonna do?” he asked, pinching her last fry. He shrugged. No big deal, you know?

“Bit old to be asking that, don’t you think?” Laura sounded resolved, but her jiggling foot gave it away. “I’ll have it, but Jarrod can get fucked.”

“Does he know?” She didn’t have to answer. Secretly, Michael was pleased this would be a reason for them to break up. Better no dad than Jarrod.

“Let’s put this in perspective,” Sally had said, after the last family Christmas. “He showed up hungover, hadn’t showered, spews on Mum’s kalanchoe, and yells at poor old Michael for bumping into him. Never mind he still owes me money. He’s gotta go, Laur.”

Whatever happened to finally convince Laura now, in spite of the baby, must have been big. Michael suddenly felt guilty for being happy. He stood up.

“Hey, let’s go pub, play pool. I’ll get you a Virgin Mary.”

“Haha – dickhead!” But it was Laura’s first smile since they arrived.

Experimenting with style – integrating backstory with narrative.