“I’ve put your tea on the table. I’ll join you in just a sec,” Helen said amidst the chiming of crockery being placed on the draining board.

James spotted Helen’s cup of tea on the table next to his, although it wasn’t a cup it was a mug. It was easy to tell the two teas apart. James liked his milky, he said it was like a big cuddle before bedtime. Warm milk with a little extra flavour. Helen however preferred a splash of milk, enough to make it look like a proper cup of tea but not too much to dampen the caffeine hit.

James carefully slid the pill out of his pocket as he sat down at the table. He was scared about what he was about to do. Scared about being caught rather than the consequences.

“Could we have some biscuits to dunk?” James said, forcing a smile on his face when Helen turned around. “It is my birthday.”

She smiled, nodded then walked over to the pantry. The pantry was in a recess at one end of the kitchen, out of the line of sight of the kitchen table. James quickly dropped the pill into Helen’s tea. He didn’t anticipate there would be a reaction. The tea started to froth slightly. Far too much not to be noticed. Helen started making her way towards the table with James’ favourite Ginger Nut biscuits.

He could feel the panic rising inside. “Could I have the Hob Nobs today? I feel like a grown up.”

Helen stopped in her tracks. She took a second to process this. “Aww, my little boy is growing up.” She smiled and returned to the pantry.

James had no choice. Without any teaspoons or any other makeshift cutlery he placed his finger in Helen’s tea and began to stir. It was hot, burning hot. He grimaced but took the pain and carried on stirring. Thankfully it didn’t take long for the froth to dissipate.

It was a bit too long for James to mask the pain though. He removed his finger but let out a little cry.

“Are you alright?” Helen asked as she approached the table.

“The tea was a little hot.”

“Blow on it first then silly. Anyway the biscuits will help.” She opened the packet of Hob Nobs and pushed them towards him.

“Aren’t you going to have any?” James said when he realised the pill may have also changed the flavour of her tea. “It is my birthday,” he repeated, tilting his head, trying to be as cute as he could.

“OK then.” She smiled. She picked up a biscuit, dunked it and then placed the dampened part of the biscuit into her mouth. She sucked the tea out of it before taking a bite.

James watched, holding his breath. It all appeared to happen in slow motion. He soon snapped out of it though when Helen gestured for him to eat.

He ate the biscuits mechanically, like a production line. Take the biscuit, dunk for 1 second, place in mouth, bite and chew. Repeat until biscuit is consumed. He continued this process whilst keeping an eye on Helen.

She sat back in her chair, cradling the mug in two hands and began to drink. James’ production line hesitated for a moment as he tried to judge her reaction. A quizzical look appeared on Helen’s face as she looked down at her tea.

James’ heart began to race. I’m going to get caught, he kept thinking to himself.

“How about we go to see a film and get some ice cream before we go to the go-kart track for your party?” Helen said cheerfully.

“Th – that would be great.”

“OK, finish up and then go and get ready.” Helen polished off her drink and took her mug to the sink.

How long will it take? he wondered, but as he thought that he heard a crash. Helen stumbled dropping her mug on the floor. It shattered sending shards all over the kitchen floor. She tried to walk on, but fell hitting her head on the breakfast bar.

James shot up from his chair and raced around to see her. She was now lying on her back. She had blood dribbling from her forehead where she had hit the breakfast bar, and bloodied foam drooling from her mouth.

“What have you done?” she struggled to ask. It was her last breath.

James didn’t know what to do. What had he done? He could feel his heart ripping through his chest. He ran straight up to his bedroom. As he went past his bed he instinctively picked up his letter from his mum. He sat in the corner of his room on the floor rocking back and forth, banging the back of his head on the wall. He was shaking, crying, gulping for air.

After several minutes he tried to regain his composure. He took the note from his mum out of his pocket and lay it on the floor. He opened the letter and placed it beside it. He hoped his mum’s words, his mum’s love would comfort him.

He stopped rocking. He stopped crying. He stopped breathing. The handwriting didn’t match.