It’s summer time and it’s sunny in the sky and we live in Sunny Hill and there are dandelions and buttercups all over our front lawn and there are even daffodils under this tree with me sharing my shade. There’s yellow on my feet from plucking the mellow leaves with my toes as I lay on my belly and, there’s even yellow on my chin from resting my head in my hands so close to the buttercups scattered on the ground; so why’s the house still red?
“Maybe it just doesn’t like butter,” she said, shrugging her shoulders at me from her comfy deck chair.
“Where’s your sister?”
“We’re playing hide and seek,” I replied, with my eyes closed.
“Well hadn’t you better find her?”
“She said she needs time to find a good place to hide. Do you think I’ve given her long enough? ”
“Try the back garden,” she said with a wink. I smiled and jumped up from my tum,
“Thanks Gran,” and I ran, through the passage on the right side of the house and into the back garden looking under hedges, behind trees, but she was nowhere to be seen. So I sprinted inside, just missing a bumblebee, and found her sneaking into the special lounge.
“HEY! We’re not allowed in there you cheat!”
“ME? A CHEAT! I play this game all the time at school and you’re supposed to count up to one hundred before trying to find me. Don’t you know anything?”
“You know I’m too young to count up to that much, and anyway, Gran said it was time and I don’t need to be at school yet to know that we’re not allowed in the special lounge. It’s for special occasions only!” The back door clicked open and shut and we jumped, pulling the special lounge door closed just before Gran saw us.
“Dinner time girls.”
“Okay Gran,” we chimed, exchanging serious eyes while following her back into the kitchen.
That evening, even after taking our baths in front of the fire and even by the time we had climbed into bed and even after Gran had kissed us goodnight and turned down the light, my sister was still moody with me.
“Sorry I didn’t give you enough time to hide and shouted at you about the special room,” I whispered; my words feeling tired beneath the dull glow of the lampshade.
“Its not you silly,” she said turning round to face me.
“Have you ever wondered about Dad?”
“Dad died before I was born,” I replied not really understanding what she meant.
“Don’t you miss your brothers now we’ve moved?”
“I guess so.” I realised.
“It must be nice being as young as you.” Her voice was soft as she spoke.
“I love you. Night.” She smiled and kissed me on the forehead leaving me confused and wondering where they could be, wondering how long they had had to hide and hoping that they wouldn’t be too hard to find.
At last, all of the kids were sat down for dinner in the dining room and the smell of food was drifting in from the kitchen. A smell that was just too good for the four hungry bellies, already grown restless from the simple act of waiting, to stay quiet any longer.
“Can’t believe you let my grass snake go,” grumbled Jake.
“It’s cruel to keep it in that tin, you shouldn’t keep creatures that are wild like snakes,” replied Lily in a raised voice from across the table.
“It was pretty cruel keeping it like that,” said Louise.
“Will you two girls stop going on about the snake, Mum’s about to bring dinner in and she could do without you lot arguing,” hissed John.
“I wasn’t being cruel to it, it was my pet, like a dog,” came Jake again.
“Look, we’ll catch another one tomorrow,” reasoned John, “Okay?” Lily and Louise mumbled beneath their breath while Jake smiled.
The table was positioned in the centre of the room and there was just enough space for all of their chairs, none of them the same, to fit around its edge. So with their four backs resting snugly against the walls, the room slowly became a cauldron of smells and childish impatience as they waited.
“Who wants a drink?” called their Mum from the kitchen.
A chorus of “me please” rang out as she stepped into the dining room with a tray of glasses.
“Mum, my tummy’s sooo hungry,” moaned Lily with wide eyes as she grasped her plastic mug in both hands, dropping PJ dog to the floor in the process. Mum scooped up the cuddly toy and placed it back on Lily’s chair.
“I hope PJ Dog’s ready for Granny’s tomorrow?”
“Yes…” mumbled Lily.
“How's your tummy Mum?” asked John.
“Its fine, it’s only a little lump, I’ll be all better soon don’t you worry,” she said, disappearing once again into the kitchen.
“John,” she called. “Could you help me carry the food please?” He smiled and jumped up and, before they knew it, the room had grown warm and cosy as more and more pots and trays of food filled the table, the room finally becoming inescapable as their mum found her seat and eating began.
Lying there I couldn’t sleep, but it was okay, I didn’t really mind because I was so comfy and snug; I was enjoying the quiet, it was nice. Although, the dull lamp did flicker sometimes, which I felt myself growing more and more annoyed by. Staring at the lamp I could feel myself growing tired but with open eyes, still I continued willing it to stop until suddenly, a great big daddy long legs bumped into the glow and I jumped at the shadow it started to throw. It seemed to loom over the bed flickering and flashing at me. The big black shadow rose and fell and it appeared to be getting closer to my head and my heart started going super fast and my breath couldn’t breathe and so I closed my eyes so that it couldn’t get me. I closed my eyes tight but could still hear it thumping against the shade and then thinking it would land on me I screamed and began to cry.
Next thing my door flung open and Gran rushed in and I opened my eyes. Then the big light came on and the shadow disappeared. My other relatives who had come to stay all started pouring in and everyone was telling me that it would be okay. They were saying things like,
“It must be so hard for someone of this age, poor little thing;” and “we’ve got to accept that she’s going to have a reaction, it’s just such a shame I hope this doesn’t destroy her;” and “it must be hard enough when she’s awake the least she deserves is some peace while she sleeps.” They all hugged me a million times and told me that it’d be alright and that they’d look after me. I felt really safe but then at the same time also really scared because I hadn’t ever realised before, quite how dangerous daddy long legs were.
They were too many to be looked after all together by any one of their relatives, and so it was decided upon that it would be best if they went to a children’s home. That way they all got to stay together which had been agreed to be the most important thing for them. However, it was only after a day that Louise was made to decide upon either being with her two teenage brothers or being with her younger sister. She chose to be with her brothers.
Walking to her locker Lily was heart broken by her sister’s decision but didn’t hold it against her. She was their age and would need their support, they had older things in common about which she didn’t know yet. Also, since being here she had received lots of attention for being so young and cute and clever, they said she was the youngest, cutest, cleverest girl there. She had been introduced to all sorts of other people coming to the home, she felt special here.
On reaching her locker though, the tears really started to flow. A postcard that had been sent to her by her Mum, asking her to be a good girl for her Gran, was gone. It was a postcard of ‘The Lillys Of The Valley’. It had painted her bare locker and now it was gone, lost, someone had stolen it and she was devastated. Feelings fell from her eyes and disbelief at the cruelty of others made her arms weak and her chest tight. She felt lost and, on realising that she wouldn’t remain young and special forever, she felt alone and her heart ached. She felt tired already of being this way.
I opened the front door and stepped in from another beautiful sunny day, trudged through to the kitchen and started pouring a cup of orange.
“At last, you’re back from playing,” I peered over my cup and nodded in acknowledgement, spilling orange on the floor as I did so.
“Your Mum’s come to visit you.”
“Brilliant, where is she?”
“She’s in bed.” I finished my orange and started to go back out to play.
“Don’t you want to see her?” called Gran.
“She’s asleep,” I said.
“I think she’d like to see you now.”
“Okay,” I shrugged and we walked into the front bedroom. My Mum was in bed and my sister was talking to her. I noticed a little gap in a section of the wall just as it met the floor and I wondered if a mouse lived in there? It was a room we never went into much so I supposed there could be one and we wouldn’t have known. I decided that after my Mum had gotten up, I’d catch it and show it to my friend who had a pet rat. She’d probably become my best friend then if we both had the same pet. I hugged my Mum for a bit and then I ran back out to play to tell my friend about my Mum being home, about my new pet and about how I thought my Mum would even help me to catch it.
The house was a mess of children’s voices and the speedy patter of little feet as they crashed from room to room in hot pursuit of each other. Doors crashed and chairs fell in their wake and their Mum was fast approaching a headache.
“Kids!” she bellowed, “Will you stop chasing each other indoors! It’s a fantastic day outside, if you want to run around like that then do it out of doors. You’ll break something carrying on like that in here.” Her appeal though lacked appeal in the children’s eyes and the threat fell on thick ears.
“If you don’t stop destroying the house, I’m going to have to punish you all. Now, will you please stop before the whole house falls to the ground, otherwise were all going to be sleeping outside and I can’t possibly stay awake to protect you from the monsters all night.”
“What, you’d even punish Lily? You never tell her off, just because she’s the littlest.”
“Even Lily’s going to be in trouble if you don’t stop, I’m serious.”
However it was only five minutes later when she heard a crash and then a smash and then four little gasps and then silence.
“See what I told you? How many times did I tell you? And now you’ve broken a vase. You’re all in trouble now!”
“Even Lily?” asked Louise.
“That’s right, even Lily’s in trouble this time.”
The four little bodies stood rigid and innocent the way only children can and after John, then Jake and then Louise had taken their telling off and punishment the convicted three stood, eyes on Lily, waiting for their youngest sister to reach the same fate.
“Lily, you’ve been a very naughty girl, I will not accept that sort of behavior inside the house. If you ever want to play like that again, then you do it outside. Do you understand?” Lily nodded and awaited her punishment. She received only a gentle pat on the bottom.
“I never said how hard,” she smiled and laughing scooped Lily up into her arms before carrying her upstairs.
The special lounge was spilling over the edges with people and hushed talking was seeping through the walls. It was a lovely day outside but I felt happiest indoors. I was enjoying all of the attention I was receiving even from people I’d never met before. The strangers didn’t seem so strange because they were dressed the same as everyone else and as the day moved on I became lost in all their talking and eventually fell asleep. The next morning I woke up early and again the weather was wonderful. Therefore, I decided to make the most of it seeing as I’d spent all of yesterday inside and I went out to play extra early, even Gran was still asleep. Wandering around outside for a while I made daisy chains and climbed a few trees but even after all of that none of my friends appeared so I decided to go down to the playground thinking that there must be somebody there.
I eventually reached the playground and was glad when I found everyone. They were all at school but it was playtime and so I played tig with them for a while and then just as they were about to go in and I was about to make my way back home Gran came up behind me.
“Where in the world have you been young lady? I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Do you have any idea how worried I’ve been?”
“I didn’t know. I’m sorry. I just wanted to play with my friends. It's boring on my own.” She bent down and picked me up and then hugging me tightly she carried me all the way home. The next week I was allowed to enroll at school, a whole year earlier than everyone else was allowed to start and, like Gran said, it was for the best because I got to play with my friends every day after that.
The sun shone in the sky and the most perfect yellow light greeted the four children’s reluctantly opening eyes as they rose that morning. Although the sound of moping feet did nothing to reflect such a beautiful day and, as the children packed, Gran had to hold her tears tightly inside her face. Eventually all of the bags and boxes of things were in the car and it pulled away out of the cul-de-sac of Sunny Hill before heading towards a new place for the children to stay.
The journey was a sullen one and none of them, except Lily, really talked much. Their eyes seemed filled with waiting and they looked upon their Gran and everything else familiar with a frightening precision, never wasting their glances on anything that didn’t need remembering. They even managed to stay docile when, after a while, Lily became more and more restless; a tolerance that Lily found strange and soon gave in to by falling asleep on Jake’s shoulder.
However, being tucked up tightly together could never last forever and before they knew it they had arrived and were being squeezed out of the squash of the back seat of the car. John, Jake and Louise stood still, looking and wondering and staying close to their Grandma as they waited to be swallowed up by the new place. But Lily, now awake, couldn’t contain her excitement at opening her eyes to find a great big slide. She ran ahead and climbed up the steps and from the top laughed and said that she was the best at climbing before sliding down. She flew straight off of the end and landed with a bump on her bottom on the ground but her proud smile was not reflected by any of the other’s watching eyes.
Sat on the concrete of our cul-de-sac I watched contently as the boys and girls on their bikes circled round and round in the heat. The ground was warm and my bike lay tired from over use.
“Hey! You nearly rode into that dog poo,” I screamed, laughing at how useless one of them was, zigzagging like an amateur, as if he were two or something.
“Shut up! I didn’t nearly ride into it accidentally. I nearly rode into it on purpose. It’s a dare,” he declared back at me.
“That’s not a dare, that’s easy. Anyone could ride over a lump of poo.”
“Well, why don’t you do it then,” he said.
“Cos it’s stupid that’s why,” I shrugged.
“No I’m not,” I shouted, “I already told you, riding over poo’s easy, there’s just no point.”
“Well then I dare you.” The boy was older than I was but he was a wimp so I felt I shouldn’t care, but I couldn’t turn down a dare and so I accepted.
“You’re a wimp!” I accused, “because you couldn’t do it and I can.”
“Go on then,” he said looking uncertain. I climbed my bike and then circled it once before returning and riding right through the middle.
“See, told you I would, you’ve been beaten by a girl,” and I laughed and rode around really fast to celebrate.
“You’re so stupid, you just rode through poo,” he called.
“Only because you dared me to, it was a dare and I beat you,” I argued back.
“Shut up, I could have done it, I just didn’t want to,” he teased again.
“You were scared,” I said, “You lost the dare and are a scaredy cat. I won.”
“Well, your mum’s dead.”
“No she’s not,” I snapped.
“Your Mum’s dead! Your Mum’s dead! Your Mum’s dead!” he repeated.
“You’re stupid,” I shouted and ran inside to ask Gran.
“Gran… is Mummy dead?” I said as soon as I got inside the door.
“Yes; yes she is…” Her voice was soft as she said so.
“Oh,” I realised; and then ran back out to finish playing.