The Shattering Cookie: Keri and her mum.

Hello, internets! For your next The Shattering cookie you said you wanted Keri hanging out with her family, and you shall have it!

Mild spoiler warnings, of course.

I got home just as Mum was leaving for work. “Morning, Keri. How was dinner?”

“Good,” I said. “The snapper was good.”

“Oh, lovely. Is Janna’s friend nice?”

“Yeah. Bit flash, maybe. He’s staying at the Chancellor.”

Mum nodded, a gesture that might have meant she wasn’t paying attention, but could equally have meant she was taking it all in for use at some later date. “Your dad called while you were out. He sends his love.”

Dad was at a major roadwork site three hours into the center of the island, on one of the mountain passes. It was too far away for easy commuting, so he and his mate Hone were staying in Hone’s RV.

“Oh. Good.”

“And I said hello from you.”

“Won’t you be late?” I said, making motions toward the door. All this conversation was starting to wake me up, and I had plans to sleep for another hour. I sure didn’t want to do any more lying on my back and looking up. I’d already memorized the position of every glow-in-the-dark star.

Mum patted her French roll and gave me a professional smile. I didn’t like the face she put on for work: smooth foundation, pale pink lipstick, and carefully arranged dyed hair. With her laugh lines and crow’s-feet neatly concealed, she seemed much less my mum and more a construct of some sort — a champagne-blonde Chancellor cyborg.

“Keri, love . . . are you sure you don’t mind about Christmas?”

No Christmas this year, she’d said when Nanny Hinekura asked us about it after the burial. No, I can’t do it, no.

“I don’t mind.” This was sort of a lie. I understood what it was to want everything to stop, but even if we didn’t have a tree in our own house, we couldn’t avoid Christmas, because it was everywhere else. The streetlights had their tinsel decorations, and the hotel lobbies all had massive displays, and all the trees along the waterfront were strung up with lights. Christmas came up every time we turned on the TV or the radio or stepped into a shop. We’d even gotten two days into our own home Advent calendar, opening the little cardboard doors for the chocolates inside.

One for me. One for Jake.

After we got back from the tangi, I took the calendar into my room and ate every piece, including the big chocolate manger behind the door for Christmas Day. It made me sick, which felt right. The crumpled calendar was the only piece of Christmas left in the house, and it was lying under my bed like a piece of trash.

“I hadn’t gotten around to getting presents anyway,” I added, and that was completely the truth.

“Me, neither,” she said, which I knew for a fact wasn’t true at all. “But I mean . . . you can still go down to your grandmother’s, if you like. It’s not too late. All the cousins would be happy to see you.” Mum and Nanny Hinekura did not see eye to eye, so this offer was a big deal.

But now I had to stay to find out who’d murdered Jake. Even before, I hadn’t wanted to go. I couldn’t think of anything worse than being surrounded by all those family members, so conscious of the one who was missing.

“Nah, it’s okay,” I said.

“Well . . . I’m working on the twenty-fifth.”

“But you had the day off.”

She checked the fold at the back of her collar. “It’s triple time. We could use the money.”

She didn’t meet my eyes, and I thought, Whoever did this to my mother is going to pay.