Marta and the Bug (3-4)
Next morning, while Marta was eating breakfast her mother said: ‘I’ve arranged for you to stay with your father again this coming weekend. I’m afraid I’m going to be busy. Do you mind ?’
Marta usually visited her father every second weekend. She thought of James and his angry face; she asked her mother why.
‘A friend is coming to visit. But don’t worry, I’ll be available if you need to call.’
All day at school Marta thought about her mother’s ‘friend.’ Since her dad left and the new situation had taken over their lives no one came to visit the house other than her grandma and grandad. During the first few weeks after Marta’s dad left, Marta’s mom had cried a lot and said she didn’t want to see anyone ever again. Marta felt hurt when she said this and her mom had apologised. Another time gran and grandad stayed at the house for three days just to make sure Marta’s mom was ok. Occasionally her dad ventured
inside the house so her parents could have one of their periodic discussions in the living room, although these visits were becoming less frequent. Marta didn’t know what they talked about because she was always told to go upstairs and play in her room. There was never a visit from a ‘friend’. Perhaps it was a good thing that her mom had found a friend - a woman she could talk things over with. Perhaps it was a sign that her mom was finally adjusting to the new situation.
Later, when Marta arrived home and she was changing out of her school clothes she noticed something on the wall of her bedroom. It was a bug – the same kind of bug that had flown into the house through the living room window. Slowly she edged forward. The bug was motionless, high up above her desk. She wondered if it was the same bug – if it had returned to see her. She liked to think that it was. But she knew there were probably many bugs of that type flying around, even though she’d never seen one before. How did it get in to her room, she wondered ? The door and window had been closed all day. Had it remained in the house since last weekend and entered beneath the gap in her door ?
She stood on the desk chair with her magnifying glass to get a closer look. The bug didn’t move; it was as if it were sleeping. The splash of yellow on its shell seemed even brighter than before, the red antenna thicker than she remembered.
‘Food’s ready’ shouted her mother. ‘Coming’ she replied. She climbed down from the chair and checked that the window was properly fastened. Then she firmly closed her bedroom door and went downstairs to eat dinner.
Marta’s father was in a subdued mood when he picked her up on Friday evening. They drove to Gillian’s house in near silence. What’s more, for the first time since the start of the new situation, he didn’t pass Marta the remote control when they pulled up outside the iron gates. He pressed the button impatiently three times, as if he was desperate for the gates to open quickly. But the gates parted just as slowly as they always did. It didn’t matter how hard you pressed the button or how many times you wriggled your fingers. It was only pretend magic after all.
The door to the twins room was closed when Marta made her way to the box room. She knocked gently. The girls opened the door. Marta asked if James was with them and they shook their heads. Then she asked if they’d like to see something – something that was very special. The twins smiled and nodded in unison. Marta placed her rucksack on the floor and unzipped it.
She rummaged inside for a moment before revealing a large glass jar. ‘Look
what’s inside’ she said. The twins leaned forward. ‘It’s an insect’ said one
and they began to tremble and dance around in mock fear which soon gave way to giggling. ‘Can you see its red antenna ?’ said Marta, trying to re-capture the twins’ attention. They peered once again into the jar. ‘It flew into my bedroom and I captured it. I’ve had it for a whole week.’
‘Can we touch it ?’ one of the twins said. Marta shook her head. ‘It isn’t allowed. If you touch it, the bug gets angry and sprays mist clouds into the air. The mist makes you cough and go mad.’ For a moment the twins weren’t sure whether Marta was joking with them. When they decided that she wasn’t, they ran back into their room, screaming and coughing - a noise that made Gillian shout: ‘What on earth is going on up there ?’
While eating dinner Gillian received a phone call from James. He was staying at a school friend’s house for the weekend. Gillian told him that Marta had arrived and asked if he want to say hello. James refused.
Marta asked if they were going to take a trip to the seaside but her dad shook his head, saying that he’d looked at the weather forecast and it didn’t seem appropriate. Then Gillian got up and cleared her plate from the table even though she hadn’t finished her dinner.
Later, while Marta was sitting in her box room doing homework, her dad came to see her. ‘The twins say you’ve brought some sort of insect with you’ he said. Marta took the glass jar out of her rucksack and showed him.
Marta’s dad took hold of the jar and looked long and hard at the bug.
‘When its wings open it looks really scary’ Marta said. ‘But it’s very sweet. It won’t harm you or anything.’
Her father’s brow furrowed and he said: ‘You really shouldn’t keep it, Marta.’ She asked why not. ‘Well, for a start, Gillian thinks it’s not very hygienic, having bugs in the house. And anyway, isn’t it a bit cruel ? The bug should be free to do what it wants, not locked away in a jar. Look, why don’t you take the twins into the garden and let it fly away ?’
A few minutes later her dad escorted Marta and the twins into the garden. Marta unscrewed the lid then lay the jar on its side so the bug could crawl out. The twins watched. They were already in their pyjamas even though it was only five pm. ‘Where will it go ?’ said one. ‘I’m not sure’ said Marta. ‘Really, it belongs in the garden at my house. That’s where all its brothers and sisters are.’
Marta’s dad said: ‘Insects don’t think that way, Marta. They’re not bothered where they live. They don’t think about family in the same way that we do.’
The bug began to crawl towards the open neck of the jar, stopping abruptly once it reached the glass lip, as if curious about the unfamiliar surroundings. Then it spread its wings.
‘Look’ shouted one of the twins. ‘It’s going to fly!’
Sure enough, the bug lifted itself into the air. The twins screamed with joy as the bug rose above them, twisting in the air, trying to determine its true direction. They were all looking up now, moving with the bug as it hovered, then lurched one way, then another. Eventually it set its true course and, as if caught on a current of wind, was swept across the garden, disappearing behind the old wooden shed. The twins squealed with glee.
‘There’ said Marta’s father putting his arm round her. ‘Now your bug has found itself a new home. Let’s all go inside, it’s beginning to get cold. Come on girls!’
On Sunday evening her dad dropped Marta off at home. He seemed happier than he’d been when he’d collected her and she wondered if it was because things were better between him and Gillian. She waved as he drove out onto the road, then went inside. ‘I’m back’ she shouted. She went into the living room. Her mom was sitting in an armchair. A man was sitting opposite her.
‘Marta’ said her mother, ‘I’d like you to meet my friend, Anthony.’
Anthony stood up. ‘So, this is little Marta’ he said in a deep voice. ‘I’ve heard lots about you.’
He extended his hand.
Marta looked Anthony up and down. He was wearing jeans and a brown corduroy jacket. His hair was thick, wavy and black. His beard was speckled with grey.
She turned to her mother. ‘I’m very tired’ she said ‘I’m going to sleep now. Goodnight.’
Lying in bed she could hear her mother and her man friend moving about downstairs. She expected her mom to knock on her bedroom door but the knock never came. Marta picked up her rucksack and unzipped the top. She reached in and pulled out the large glass jar. She unscrewed the lid, placing it on her bedside table. Then she held the jar above her head.
Resting at the bottom of the jar was the black bug. At Gillian’s house she had left the box room’s window open all weekend and the bug had returned, like a tiny, magical companion, just as she knew it would.
Go to parts 5-6: https://www.abctales.com/story/kilb50/marta-and-bug-5-6