Well, now my sweeting, how was that for an adventure?
Hush, hush now. Don't sound so disappointed to be back or you'll break your mother's heart.
Yes, I know, all the interesting things are happening downstairs, and your terrible old Da is making you come up here. Believe you me, my darling girl, all that we're going to do after you go to bed is have an extremely boring conversation.
Red wine and existential conversations with your... well, I shan't call him 'uncle'. Nor your grandfather. What shall we call him, my dear? This man who is something to you, but not what he wishes and nothing that I am ready to admit to. Not just yet.
Wrong uncle, sweeting. But full marks for making the connection.
All the same, the point remains: downstairs will be important, but boring. Forget downstairs, sweeting.
Look at this, beautiful needlework isn't it? Do you see? Right on the hem of your frock?
I'll never break you of that, will I? You'll be saying "yeah" like a Bynnebakker blacksmith your whole life just to vex me, won't you?
Of course. Look, see here, sweeting? Look at your frock. The little keys for House Turn, and the little sheep for house Sheil? Your grandmother and namesake embroidered this, you know. I wore it when I was your age, and your uncle Kintyre did as well. I'm well pleased to have something of hers here, now.
And now... off it comes! That's right, arms up! Clever girl.
I shall preserve your frock, I think. Frame it, perhaps. I'd like to dry clean it first, but I haven't any idea if fairy-silk embroidery thread will hold up to the chemicals and I would be sore disappointed if the needlework is ruined.
Now, my naked little wild thing, what do you say to a bath, hm?
"Wah wah wah!"
Wa-ter, sweeting. Do you think you can make it all the way to the end? Wa-ter. Oh! Such a scowl. Well you never learned that from me, I wager. Why don't you pick someone to go into the bath with you, hm? The duck? The submarine? The whale?
Ah, sweeting. I am sorry, but Capplederry is not here.
Oh now, please, Alis, don't cry. I know, I know, I miss them too.
"Bev n' Kin n' Wyn n' Bra n' Care n' 'derry!"
That is an impressive list, Sweeting, and how about we—
"No, no! No no no!"
Oh. Oh, my poor wild thing, come here, come here. Cuddles, yes, cuddles?
"Be-behv. No no Bev."
Breaks my heart to see yours broken my dear, it really does. I am so sorry. I am so sorry. I miss them too, you understand me? I miss them very much as well.
"Wah wah dah?"
Yes, that's right my darling. Your Da is crying. I don't think you've seen that before, have you? Your Da is crying because he misses Bevel, and Kintyre, and Wyndam, and Bradri, and Caredac, and Capplederry. And Lewko, and Pointe, and Dorthi besides. But crying is all right, you see.
Because sadness is a necessary part of joy.
Yes, you are absolutely right to scowl at me like that. I sound ridiculously soppy even to myself. Tissues for me, tissues for you... yes, I am utterly aware of the irony of drying your face only to put you into the bath. Okay, hup, hup, the tub is all filled and you have your... ah... dragon thing with the long neck. Well, don't look at me, my dear, I'm not the one who seems to think that you should be enamoured with bizarre reptilian creatures with huge jaws and spiked tails and no ability to speak whatsoever. Such strange creatures, these dinos. I see no redeeming educational value in them, but who am I to deny your grandfather his delight in buying you these toys?
One arm, sudsy sudsy, two arms... and these are your toes, my sweeting, and your feet, ankles, the chubbiest calves and shins in the Overrealm, knees, thighs, bottom and tum, shoulders neck and dimples that could dim the sun, ears and nose and here is your head! Now the baby's all clean, it's time for her bed! What do you think, sweeting? Should I write that one down in your Syth Rhymes book? Perhaps not, I just made that one up. I'm not certain your mother would say that counts.
Oh, you wiggly wee wild thing, your giggly gorgeous girl, hold still you squirmy silly slippery serpent. There now, all dry. Let's... Alis!
"Dah dah daaaah 'ook ook!"
Okay, yes, please let me catch up – when did you get this fast? I thought children weren't supposed to be so quick on their feet for another few months at least. What do you have there in your--- by the Writer, The Wizard of Oz.
So imperious. Yes, I see it. Okay, here, pajamas first, then snuggles and bedtime reading. I'll take the book and set it by the—
Alis? My sweeting, what's the matter?
Ah! Okay. Okay. I won't take it. You keep it, dearest.
Oh, honey. Oh, my poor girl. Come here, you. A blanket will do for now. Come on, come have a cuddle with your Da. Oh baby, shhh, shhhh, it's okay.
"Toto, toto! Noooo."
Oh, dear, more sniffles. I... see, your Da is crying again too, my sweeting. It's okay. Sorrow is a part of joy, remember? It's okay. You can be sad now. That's alright. We will never forget them, and that is the important part, isn't it, sweeting.
I miss them too, but crying means I love them still.
Shhh. Shhh. It's all well, my darling, my dearling, my sweet.
Sorrow just means that you were once happy, and that you will be so again.
Now then, now, then, hush-a-thee, hush-a-thee. Let's start at the beginning again, shall we? I don't remember where we left off. Open the cover for me, Alis. There's a good girl. Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer's wife...
Please visit http://jmfrey.net/the-accidental-turn-series/ for the rest of this series.