‘Quickly, Ben!’ I glance out the bedroom window, hearing a car drive past. ‘Phew, it’s not her.’
‘I don’t know why you turn into a Kim and Aggie mash-up when your mum visits,’ he grumbles, tossing his dirty socks into the laundry basket.
‘I do not,’ I object, resenting that. I don’t. Obviously, I want my house to be presentable, but it’s not like I want it gleaming. ‘Ben!’
‘What?’ He spins around, eyes bulging.
‘There’s a used earbud down by your bedside table.’ I cannot even believe it. ‘My mum’s going to be sleeping in this room.’
‘Calm down. You’re going to keel over before she gets here.’
‘I will if you insist on cleaning your ears and chucking the earbuds on the floor. Can you pick it up?’ I grab a pair of dirty knickers next to my dresser and throw them in the basket before Ben sees.
‘Fine,’ he disposes of the earbud with an overdramatic arm movement, ‘happy?’
I exhale emphatically, imagining my mum’s steely glance at the unwashed windows. Maybe I should ring up a window cleaner, say it’s an emergency. How much would that cost? She’s coming in an hour. They might do it if I pay double.
‘I think that’s good enough,’ Ben says, surveying the room with a vaguely pleased expression.
‘We haven’t changed the bedsheets yet,’ I reply. ‘And then we’ve got to deep clean the bathroom.’
Ben’s jaw drops.
‘You do the sheets, and I’ll do the bathroom,’ I say with a sigh, grabbing the ever-reliable Mr Muscle. The toilet is disgusting. With a grimace, I lift the seat and try to breathe through my mouth as I notice the yellowed stains and small dark hairs. It’s not like I don’t ever clean. I do. But since we both work full-time, and since Ben isn’t the cleanest person in the world, I barely have time to keep everything in order, let alone polish the house every week. Which is why my mum springing her arrival on us for a few days has twisted me into ‘a Kim and Aggie mash-up’. After scrubbing the toilet bowl, removing stubborn limescale, failing to get the bath tiles to shine, and tugging copious amounts of hair from the plugholes, I fall the floor with exhaustion, half-heartedly wiping at some dust on the floor. ‘Ben, how are you getting on?’ I call out. Is he on the phone? ‘Ben?’
He heaves a sigh and pokes his head around the bathroom door, wearing a pitied look you’d give your poorly puppy.
‘What? Did the window cleaner say no?’
‘She’s not coming,’ he says, wincing.
‘What do you mean she’s not coming?’ I leap to my feet.
‘It’s next week apparently. You got the dates wrong.’
This time my jaw drops. ‘I’ve flossed the whole house. She has to see it!’
‘She will, next week…if it stays clean.’ Ben kisses my forehead. ‘Let’s put our feet up.’
‘I do not want to see one sock out of place this whole week.’ I shoot him a warning look. ‘And no biting your fingernails and flicking them on the floor.’
He holds his hands up. ‘Can I shave now?’