My dad got down on his knees. He reached forward and placed his hand on my shoulder.
‘Me and your mum,’ he said, 'Well...' As his face scrunched up, searching for the right words, I looked to my mum. She was sat quietly in the corner, all red-faced, and teary.
I knew something was up as soon as I'd got home from school.
‘You’re getting a divorce?’ I said.
‘Woah woah. We’re not ... we’re not getting a divorce,’ my dad assured me. He glanced at my mum, but she didn’t notice. Her face was stuck in sad-toddler mode and it was directed at me.
‘Things haven’t been too great between me and your mum though,’ he said, ' so I’m going to be in the doghouse for a while.’
He ruffled my hair and gave me the everything’s-going-to- be-okay smile, and I gave him my best I-believe-you smile back.
The thing is, when he said he was going to be in the doghouse I thought it was an expression, like when somebody tells you that they fell head over heels in love, or that they shit a brick, but I was wrong. That night he took a small camping light, a sleeping bag, and a magazine into the doghouse. When I told him it was just an expression he laughed me off and said I was too young to understand.
Our garden was long and the doghouse was at the bottom. My dad built it himself for our two border collies: Zach and Maisey, and now he was moving in with them. I remember that when my dad built the doghouse he argued that it was too big for just two dogs. I figured if anything this proved his point.
I thought ... they'd be back together within a week or two. Every time I came home from school, I hoped I'd see them in their dressing gowns, drinking tea, holding onto each other, refreshed, and ready to love each other again, but after two months he was still out there.
He wasn't allowed in the house, so it was my job to take the food out to him. Every time I went I was amazed. Since he'd been out there, he'd moved in a sofa bed, a small TV, a mini-fridge, a box for his clothes, a small bookshelf, a lamp, a kettle and teapot, a biscuit tin, his dumbbells, his whisky, his incense sticks, and his Ernest Hemingway poster.
To make room for all of his stuff, he'd pushed the dogbeds up against the back wall. Apart from not being able to stand up in there, it seemed comfortable, cosy even.
However my mum wasn't taking it so well. She'd been going about her life as normal, getting out of bed, cleaning the house, and going to work, but everything she did, she did with her face still red and teary, like the whole thing had only just happened.
One night I made her some tea. I went into her room and found her at the window, staring down the garden, at the small light coming from inside the doghouse.
'`They're messy little things aren't they?' she said, 'these things we have.'
The next day, when I got home, I heard laughter. I threw my bag down, and followed the chuckling into the kitchen. My mum was with Zach. She was talking to him about her day at work, gossiping about the other staff, like she used to do with my dad. She was laughing, and he was rolling around on his back.
I gave him a belly rub and he pissed a little bit, due to the excitement. He didn't even notice. He just looked at me with his sweet little black and white face, and my mum giggled whilst she mopped it up.
That night Zach slept on my mum’s bed with her. She spooned up behind him. She was happy to have something there to cuddle, and Zach, well he seemed happy enough to sleep on a memory foam mattress.
My dad was still in the doghouse with Maisey, and it was him who suggested that they go on a double date. I don't know where they went, I only saw them drive off. It must have gone well though, because when they got back, they made plans to do it again.
Christmas Day was always a little different. In previous years it was the only time we’d let Zach and Maisey in the front room. We’d even wrap up little toys and treat s for them to open. My mum said that this year would be the same, and she let my dad and Maisey in for the day. We opened our presents, drank Buck’s Fizz, and played with party crackers. As the dogs clawed at their wrapped up meaty treats, we ate our Christmas dinner and watched Christmas films.
Like every Christmas, it went quicker than the last. I went to bed that night, leaving the four of them in the front room, barking and laughing.
When I woke up the house was quiet. The warmth of the day before had gone. I wrapped myself up in my dressing gown and went downstairs.
The living room was a mess. Half-eaten buffet food and near-empty wine bottles scattered the floor, along with chewed up bones.
I made some tea and took it into my mum's bedroom, but she wasn't there. Instead Zach and Maisey were sprawled out on the bed. They looked at me and wagged their tails.
'Morning,' I said, confused.
Maisey climbed down from the bed and nuzzled her nose into my dressing gown. I went up to the bedroom window and looked out into the garden. I sipped from the tea and I found myself smiling, because the doghouse light was on.