The moment Alex passes through the doors, the heat bears down on her, pressing heat against her. She considers turning around, just to feel the slap of air-conditioning hit her one more time.
She adjusts her daughter so that more of her hip takes the weight of the exhausted toddler. Ben grips three of her fingers with one hand and immediately flings his other hand up and over his eyes. There'd been no need for a hat this morning, and certainly none needed inside the air-conditioned centre. But now, she regrets not thinking ahead.
She also wishes Doug was here, just so she could share her wit with him. She should have thought ahead about Ben’s head. But he was now overseas, living his best life.
She could feel Lucy's thigh stick to the expose skin of her hip. Droplets of sweat form on her daughter's face in the stark mid-afternoon sun.
She bundles the kids into the shade of the car. She opens the doors, starts the engine. If it’s high thirties outside, it’s high fifties in the car. She reaches across the steering wheel to turn the A/C to full bore and wind the windows down.
From the insulated shopping bag, she pulls out two icey-poles and gives them to her children.
The day had started well enough, considering the over-night temperature was warm. She'd had multiple windows open during the night, and against her better judgement, had the doors wide open as well. The only thing protecting her were the screen doors, but she figured everyone else was too fatigued from the heat to be bothered to rob a poor single mum who didn't have air-conditioning.
Alex pulls out an icey-pole for herself and is happy it’s the bland lemonade flavour. She couldn't handle Ben demanding she not eat the orange flavoured ones. As the coolness numbs her already dry throat, she is grateful that most of the day was free. Free seating at the food courts, free amusements provided by the centre, including blow up balloons that were made into sausage dogs. All she paid for was food and the cinema ticket. She was relieved when both Ben and Lucy slept in the chilled air as she watched a rom-com that now, a mere hour after, she can't recall much about the plot.
With the food in the fridge, Alex runs the bath, with the cool water filling with her hopes of the kids sleeping through the night. She'll pull out the mattresses and set them all up in the lounge room and have all six fans she owns aimed directly down on their sleeping bodies.
With the heatwave forecast to last another two days, she isn't sure she'll last that long. There are only so many times she can force her kids to wander the aisles of the various shops without touching the clothing or breaking the expensive items.