74. The Inner Light

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Warning - This, and the following few chapters contain harrowing, sorrowful and potentially upsetting themes and events.  

The farther one travels, the less one knows
The less one really knows

Bobbie protests as Minnie pours the water from a small plastic jug over her head to rinse the shampoo out of her hair. She never likes that bit. She often whines when I do it too. Before her grumping can turn into crying, Minnie splashes her fingers in the water, creating bubbles from the soap and distracting Bobbie. She stares at the bubbles, fascinated, even more so when Minnie pops a couple of the bigger ones.

Minnie holds her left arm around Bobbie's back, lightly supporting her, making sure she won't topple over in her yellow plastic baby bath, sat inside the larger bath. Bobbie has started to sit up on her own now, or at least, she tries to. She still flops over like a rag doll sometimes. I haven't told Minnie to hold her like this. She does it instinctively, like she seems to do everything with Bobbie instinctively. I feel awkward and clumsy with her. I never seem to get things right, but Minnie is a natural.

I sit on the closed lid of the toilet, watching them, gripping the white, fluffy towel and feeling like a spare bride at a wedding. Minnie doesn't need me here to supervise. Neither of them do.

'Look, Bobbie, here's duck-duck,' Minnie babbles to her, making the yellow rubber duck bob and swim about in the water. 'What noise does duck-duck make? Quack, quack, quack!'

She sounds ridiculous, but Bobbie seems to like it. I'd find it funny if I didn't feel so inexplicably melancholy. Minnie's never the sort to be hands-on and she hates being messily dressed, but here she is, hair tied up untidily, no makeup on her face and water all down her front where it's sloshed over the side.

Bath finished, Minnie lifts Bobbie out and taking the towel from me, wraps her inside it. She tickles Bobbie as she's drying her, playing 'This little piggie went to market' on her toes. Bobbie squeals as she does it, Minnie laughs with her and I feel inadequate and jealous and guilty for the former two.

Oh, this is stupid. I want Minnie to have this kind of relationship with Bobbie. I love how she loves her so much and Bobbie adores her as well. I'd rather Minnie looked after her over anyone else, except for George. I just can't help the occasional twinge of envy when it comes so easily to her, and I'm the complete opposite.

Why do I feel like I'm struggling so much sometimes? Why does it feel like Bobbie prefers anyone - everyone - to me? I'm sure she can sense that I don't really know what I'm doing. I try to do everything by the book. I have about fifty baby books, telling me what I should do and when, but some of their advice and instructions are confusing or contradictory.

'And this little piggie went wee, wee, wee all the way home!' Minnie recites for the third time, running her fingers up to Bobbie's armpit and tickling her. Bobbie squeaks with delight and Minnie laughs.

'If you get her too worked up she won't go to sleep,' I say, testily. I can't help myself.

Minnie either doesn't notice, or refuses rise to it. 'Nah, she's a good girl, aren't you, Bobbie-Socks?' she says, good naturedly, tickling her again. She turns to look at me. 'And if she won't settle, we can just sing to her until she does.'

We've been doing that since Minnie's being staying with us. She heard me singing to Bobbie and joined me and now we both sing to her when she won't sleep or when she wakes up in the night. We sing old songs to her. Songs we haven't sung in years, like early Raindrops tunes or even the ones we used to do in the Liverpool clubs. It's a wonder we both still remember the words - and the harmonies - after all this time.

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