“I know it’s a game!” Mum sounds exasperated. “But why does Frank play it all the time? You don’t play it all the time, do you?”
“No.” I’ve played LOC, and I really don’t get the obsession. I mean, it’s OK for an hour or two.
“So what’s the appeal?”
“Well, you know.” I think for a moment. “It’s exciting. You get rewards. And the heroes are pretty good. Like, the graphics are amazing, and they just released this new warrior team with new capabilities, so…” I shrug.
Mum looks more bewildered than ever. The trouble is, she doesn’t play games. So it’s kind of impossible to convey to her the difference between LOC 3 and, say, Pac-Man from 1985.
“They show it on YouTube,” I say in sudden inspiration. “People do commentaries. Hang on.”
As I’m finding a clip on my iPad, Mum sits down and looks around the room. She’s trying to act casual, but I can sense her beady blue eyes scanning my piles of stuff, looking for…what? Anything. Everything. The truth is, Mum and I haven’t done casual for a while. Everything is loaded.
With everything that’s happened, that’s one of the saddest things of all. We can’t be normal with each other anymore. The tiniest thing I say, Mum’s all over it, even if she doesn’t realize it. Her brain goes into overdrive. What does it mean? Is Audrey all right? What’s Audrey really saying?
I can see her looking closely at a pair of old ripped jeans on my chair, as though they hold some dark significance. Whereas in fact the only significance they hold is: I’ve grown out of them. I’ve shot up about three inches in the last year, which makes me five eight. Quite tall for fourteen. People say I look like Mum, but I’m not as pretty as her. Her eyes are so blue. Like blue diamonds. Mine are wishy-washy—not that they’re particularly visible right now.
Just so you can visualize me, I’m fairly skinny, fairly nondescript, wearing a black vest-top and skinny jeans. And I wear dark glasses all the time, even in the house. It’s…Well. A thing. My thing, I suppose. Hence the “celebrity” quips from Rob our neighbour. He saw me in my dark glasses, getting out of the car in the rain, and he was all like, “Why the shades? Are you Angelina Jolie?”
I’m not trying to be cool. There’s a reason.
Which, of course, now you want to know.
OK, it’s actually quite private. I’m not sure I’m ready to tell you yet. You can think I’m weird if you like. Enough people do.
“Here we are.” I find a clip of some LOC battle with “Archy” commentating. “Archy” is a YouTuber from Sweden who makes videos that Frank loves. They consist of “Archy” playing LOC and making funny commentaries on the game, and as I expected, it takes me forever to explain this concept to Mum.
“But why would you watch someone else playing?” she keeps saying, baffled. “Why? Isn’t that a complete waste of time?”
“Well. Anyway.” I shrug. “That’s LOC.”
There’s silence for a moment. Mum is peering at the screen like some professor trying to decipher an ancient Egyptian code. There’s an almighty explosion and she winces.
“Why does it always have to be about killing? If I designed a game it would centre on ideas. Politics. Issues. Yes! I mean, why not?” I can tell her brain’s firing up with a new idea. “What about a computer game called Discuss? You could keep the competitive element, but score points by debating!”
“And that is why we’re not squillionaires,” I say, as though to a third party.
I’m about to find another clip, when Felix comes running into the room.
“Candy Crush!” he says in delight as soon as he spies my iPad, and Mum gasps in horror.
“How does he know about that?” she demands. “Turn it off. I’m not having another addict in the family!”
Oops. It may possibly have been me who introduced Felix to Candy Crush. Not that he has any idea how to play it properly.
I close down the iPad and Felix stares at it, crestfallen. “Candy Crush!” he wails. “I want to play Candy Cruuuuush!”
“It’s broken, Felix.” I pretend to press the iPad. “See? Broken.”
“Broken,” affirms Mum.
Felix looks from us to the iPad. You can sense his mind is working as hard as his four-year-old brain cells will let him.
“We must buy a plug,” he suggests, with sudden animation, and grabs the iPad. “We can buy a plug and fix it.”