I’m about to get on the tube at Oxford Circus when I feel my phone vibrating in my bag - a missed call, from Eldest. Strange. It’s 2.30 in the afternoon on a school day.
I text him just before descending the stairs: “On my way home, back in the 30 mins.” Then I fret about him all the way, wondering if he’s okay.
When I get off at the other end there's a reply: “I’m really ill, I’m on the way home. Runny nose! Stomach ache, complete exhaustion, about to collapse, really, really ill.” No full stop at the end, I’ve added that, and no answer when I try to call.
I half-run/half-walk up the road. It’s a long road. I’m worried. He might have collapsed on the way back and be lying under a bush on the Common. He might have got run over as he staggered around in a delirious fever.
I reach the house and burst through the door. The alarm isn’t on. Someone is home. I call out. No answer. I dash up the stairs and into his bedroom. Empty. I call out again, then I notice the bathroom door is closed. “Are you in there?”
“Yes,” comes a feeble reply. I let him get on with it and go and make a cup of tea.
He’s says not. He says his stomach hurts and he feels very, very tired.
“Have you eaten today?” I ask, because Eldest has a worrying habit of skipping breakfast and lunch.
“No,” he says. Then he thinks. “I am pretty hungry, I could probably manage soup or something, if you could make it for me.”
“I haven’t got any soup,” I say.