He refuses to hear, striding on down the lawn. His ungainly trainers, bought a size too large for him to grow into next year at big school, threaten to trip him nearly every step, but he stomps onward.
"Max! Where are you going?" Ellie is tugging his arm to slow him. "Max.".
He stops, and turns to his younger sister.
"I'm just going. Away from them." He waves his arm back towards the house and, as if he were a conductor drawing music from an orchestra the sounds of angry shouting rise once again from the dining room. Even leaving his lunch uneaten and pushing through the patio doors into the garden hasn't stopped his parents yelling at each other.
"It's always the same. Every bloody weekend." Ellie looks fearfully toward the house as he swears. "They pretend like it's a nice family lunch, then they just row. I've had enough."
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. Just go away from here for a while."
"What should I do?" Ellie's voice is trembling, her eyes wide open and watery. The pale of her face, full of uncertainty, contrasts the lurid Disney characters that gambol gaily across her t-shirt.
Max breathes deeply, looks at his feet and closes his eyes. He holds his breath for a long moment, long enough for them both to hear the shouting stop, as if silenced by his stillness. He smoothes the front of his shirt with his hand, exhales slowly, then opens his eyes to look once more at Ellie.
Don't worry Ellie. Come with me. Let's o and play in the treehouse for a bit". He smiles softly. Slipping an arm around his sister he steers her towards the bottom of the garden.