They've been gone almost a whole week now, and the whole house feels their absence. Moses asks for Johnny all the time. The dishes pile up higher than usual before someone stacks the dishwasher. He has to hunt around in the washing basket for socks in the morning. His mum hasn't smiled properly in days. All she does now is check her phone constantly and snap at everybody.
None of this adds up, if you ask him. Vanessa's not the type to just leave the country because of an argument. His mum? Yeah, definitely. Only she wouldn't take any of the kids with her. She'd go on her own and drink herself into oblivion in a French pub and probably post photos of it on Facebook. But Vanessa's not vindictive and petty like that. She's sensible and reliable; his mum's always saying so. So why would she just up and leave and not contact anybody?
From the corner of his eye, he sees his mum lift her phone and flick through whatever apps it is she checks every five minutes to see if Vanessa's been in touch. She sighs and flings it to the other end of the sofa. He doesn't know why; she'll be on it again before long.
"D'you really think Vanessa's in Disneyland Paris on her own?" he asks. "Like, honestly?"
Her eyes flicker to his briefly before rolling. "Well, how would I know, Noah? Since she hasn't bothered her behind to let me know where she is. I've just got to go on what Tracy tells me." She sighs. "She could be in flaming Timbuktu for all I know."
"Yeah, but, that's not like Vanessa." He fiddles with the dog-eared corner of his French homework. "Why would she do this?" She remains strangely silent on the subject. "Is it all 'cause you didn't turn up at the wedding because of whatever you and Ryan were doing?"
She twists in her seat, frowning at him. "Oh, yeah. Course it would be my fault, wouldn't it? Saint Vanessa couldn't just be in a strop over nothing."
"Mum, you left her waiting like a right idiot at that registry office. She was so excited in the taxi on the way and then you just didn't turn up." He laughs and shakes his head. "I was surprised she didn't just dump you again after that. She definitely wasn't happy about it, was she?"
"Look," she begins, in that condescending tone she uses that really gets on his goat. "When you're a grown up, Noah, you might actually understand that adults have to deal with things a bit more complicated than deciding what to spend your V-Pounds on in Minecraft, yeah?"
He ignores her words. "But she stuck around after that. So something must've happened to make her decide to go away on your honeymoon without taking you."
She turns her back on him and slouches down on the couch. "Well, your guess is as good as mine, kid."
He sighs and returns to his verbs. His mum's putting up a good front, but something tells him that she's not too sure that Vanessa would do this either. But if she's not in Paris, then where is she? He's tried texting her, but he's had no response. Which is weird too. Even that last time when she properly split up with his mum, she was still dead nice to him and Sarah. Told them she'd always be there for them. And now nothing? It's not right.
Barely two minutes pass before his mum leans over and retrieves her phone, starting the same cycle over again.
He sighs and tries to concentrate on his homework.
He doesn't succeed.