Mum made us swear we wouldn’t tell anyone about needing professional bed bug exterimators. Frankston had been particularly warm in Spring, we’d had lots of hot nights and at first, we thought it was just heat rash.
‘What are those red spots on your arm Matt?’ Mum asked, twisting Matt’s forearm under the fluorescent kitchen light.
Matt pulled his arm away and mumbled something about having them all week.
‘I’ve got some too! LOOK!’ Frankie held her arm out proudly. The colour drained mums face as she raced to the Reader’s Digest Family Health collection, pulled out volume 3 and opened it to section four, skin diseases.
“Good grief,’ mum muttered under her breath. ‘ STRIP THE SHEETS!’
For the next week, we were on bedbug watch. Mum was mortified, telling us never to mention it to anyone. I couldn’t for the life of me think what any of us would have done that was so wrong, but when I broke out in an itchy red rash on my stomach and mum started itching too, I blamed Matt straight away.
The rash and itch got worse. While mum was determined to deal with it herself, there was only so much aiming spray cans at our beds and submerging our sheets in a boiling bathtub of eucalyptus disinfectant could do. We were clearly outnumbered. She folded, angrily flicking through the phone book to find someone a company that offered pest control in the south eastern suburbs.
When the pest control unit arrived, they told us how difficult it was to get rid of bedbugs, and how insidious they were, even under a great level of cleanliness- once you had them, they were really tough to get rid of.
‘They breed really quickly and live on our blood,’ offered my youngest child.
‘STOP!’ Mum yelled, our overnight bags at her feet, keys in hand.
‘All I care about is that they’re gone by the time we get back from the city.’