When you’re lying in bed, and rain’s beating against the window, there’s something very cosy about being in bed. After a while, this cosy feeling wears off, and you lie very still, hoping that you might get back to sleep.
Mummy tucked me under the duvet hours ago. The shadows in my room are darker now, and I can see what they are. At first, I thought that the shape near the door was my dressing gown, hanging like it usually does. But, now the room is darker, I can see what it really is: it’s a dragon. It stretches out its green and gold wings, when it thinks that no one is looking. It has an awful face and savage teeth, but it won’t harm me, not while I’m under my duvet.
There’s the rain still. Will it ever stop? But there’s another noise outside. What was it? Strange and kind of frightening. I know there’s nothing to worry about. Mum and Dad are sleeping next door, but the dragon is blocking the way. Even parents can’t stop a dragon. But maybe something else in the room could? I look through the shadows once more. What’s that? Oh, I’m saved! I thought it was just teddy sitting on the edge of the bed, but I see now that it’s a knight. He’s waiting to protect me when the dragon gets too close.
I can sleep easy now. The rain goes on and on, doesn’t it? Think of sleep, going to sleep. But what about the knight? What if the dragon gets the better of him and he needs me to protect him? It’s one thing letting the knight save me, but perhaps he thinks I’ll save him? I couldn’t let him down. I’ll need a weapon. There’s a sword! My toys don’t look the same in daytime. Now I have a sword, and I can take on the dragon if he attacks the knight.
If I’m a knight then I should have a shield too. Do I have one in my bedroom? I don’t remember, but - there it is! I’ll have to stretch a little and move very slowly. I don’t want to get out of bed because then the dragon will see me. But if I lean over like... got it! I have my shield and my sword. I tell the knight not to worry. I’ll stay up all night and watch.
I go to wake up my son. There he is - sleeping softly, oblivious to the rain that’s battered all night and kept the rest of us awake! I’m glad though - he needs his sleep. But what’s he holding? I prise open his miniature fingers and remove a pencil! His other hand is under the duvet. I lift the covers and find the paper plate he decorated with Grandma. It’s a bit bent now and the edges are crumpled. Teddy is wedged under his arm. I don’t pretend to understand, but I remove all except teddy, put down the cover and close the door again.
What a day! The plants look beaten into the ground, and there’s no chance of gardening while the ground is so sodden - they’ll just have to stay there. I’ve too much on my plate to worry about plants. To start with, I’ve got the ladies coming for coffee. I had to invite them back - we’ve been to everyone else’s house, but I still don’t think it’s fair. After all, Sue has no children, so when she’s cleaned the house it looks just the same a week later. (If ours could look the same an hour later, I’d be grateful.) And there’s Verity. Her cakes are so full of air that my children would eat a tray each and still ask for more. They don’t fill you up, if you know what I mean.
Everyone else is asleep. My husband doesn’t like to lie-in, but we slept so poorly with the continual rain that I’m going to let him stay a bit longer than normal. He’s got a busy day ahead of him. I checked the others. Sophie was curled up, looking ever so peaceful. Anna stirred a little when her door squeaked open, but I hope she won’t wake for a while yet.
What do you give ladies to eat at a coffee morning? I’d be quite happy to give them a cup of coffee and call it done, but the others have plates of dainties and if they expect it, I can’t have them go hungry. If I’m going to bake, then I better do it now, before everyone wants breakfast. I suppose scones might do? They’ll have to.
The rain is lashing against the back windows. It makes a change from lashing at the front like it has all night. I wish we could all stay inside today. But if I tell them who’s coming round this morning, they’ll be relieved to go out!
I’m not really awake. I imagined the door squeaking. I dreamt it. If I’m dreaming then I’m sleeping, and if I’m sleeping I’m not awake, so there’s no need to get out of bed. Oh, when you’re persuading yourself you’re really sleeping, it’s a sure sign that you must be awake!
Now it’s raining! Why does the rain have to hit against my window. I’ll never get back to sleep now. It always happens - dry all night and it rains once you have to be going out and doing things. Rain. It’ll ruin my hair and we’re having photos, today! It’s always the way. I’ll arrive at school like a drowned rat and everyone else will step from their parent’s car to the front door, with a brolly over them. Maybe Mum would give me a lift into school. But she’s got the women’s brigade coming. (I wonder if they have a name?) It seems strange to just get together to drink coffee and talk. I was there once. Never again! You have to pour out your entire life story and school career, only to find that “so-and-so’s daughter is really very clever”. Then you feel terrible.
Well, now I’m thoroughly awake! Why do I always start reasoning with myself? I only end up unable to go back to sleep. I think I’d better read. But my book’s over on the table. Why did I leave it there? I should’ve known that I’d want it when I woke up. I was reading at the table and then Mum hustled me to bed and I left it. If I get out of bed, then my feet will freeze and drop off. Perhaps if I lie here, very quietly - there, I’m reasoning again. I’ll never get back to sleep now.
I know Lydi’s gone downstairs. She’s sweet, letting me lie-in like this. The rain’s started again. At least it’s not against the front window, but the traffic is so noisy - cars taking people to work. Or is it people taking cars to work? Either way, I should be up too. Should. I don’t want to though.
It wouldn’t be so bad if I knew what today was going to bring. Not that you ever know. In my experience, the most innocent and clear days can end up being the most hectic. Perhaps it’s better that way round, than thinking you have a busy day only to find that it’s even worse than you’d imagined. But what a day for an interview!
I washed the car specially, but I doubt whether anyone will be able to tell now. It looked good as new. Would they have noticed? I wonder if they watch you arrive in the car park and think - “Ah, here’s a man we can work with, he washes his car!” It seems unlikely. On those grounds, you might not get a job if you took 5 goes to get into the tight parking space. But at least you’d have given them all a laugh.
I don’t know what to expect. It was just a hobby, and part of me wishes it still was. No one asked me to invent things and no one said that I should actually come up with something that works. Lydi’s all for it and said she’d come with me. I wish she could. But somehow it seems like a distraction to say, “Here is my beautiful wife to show you this invention.” Then they all look at Lydi instead of the machine. No, I don’t think I want them all looking at her, even if it would make them buy the design.
Poor Lydi. She’s not looking forward to the coffee morning. They have them about once a month - she thinks I don’t listen, but I do. There’s going to be Sue and Jane, Dylis and ... I did listen, really I did. I know, it’s coming, it’s coming, it’s Verity! Ta-da! I hope she doesn’t tell them about the interview. Jane would tell Mitch, and then next time he saw me he’d say, “How’s it going, Einstein?” so I’d look dejected and he’d know I failed. Eeeek! I’m going into this with a lot of confidence! If they think it’s good, they’ll buy it. No harm in trying. Only a good night’s sleep would have put me in a better mood. It had to rain!
I didn’t mean to scream, but I was having such a lovely dream. David has made a habit of jumping on my bed to wake me up. I wish he hadn’t today. You see, I was dreaming about... What was I dreaming about? Oh, David! I can’t even remember!
But he’s brought his teddy and we’re sitting in my bed together. It’s very cold and we tuck the duvet up. He passes me the book Daddy bought me. David’s been waiting to read it, but there are too many words he hasn’t learnt yet. So I read out loud and he looks at the pictures. Mummy makes him read to her, and he’s improving. But it is my book, and I don’t want to part with it yet.
I hear the rain. It’s hitting against the window like lots of fairies trying to get in. I like the sound of rain. I don’t like it when you’re walking along and a car goes too fast and hits a puddle and you end up covered in water. That’s not much fun. It happened to me when Mummy was bringing us home. Anna just got passed in time but made such a fuss about a wet foot that you’d have thought it was she who was soaked through, not me. But she always fusses about things. I don’t mind usually - that’s Anna. She lets me play with her toys. I don’t know why she doesn’t play with them anymore. She used to play with David and me. But now, when she’s not doing homework, she reads and things, but doesn’t play like she used to. Her toys must feel abandoned by her. I don’t mean ever to stop playing with my toys.
It’s “Show and Tell” today and I’m going to take my new book in. Everyone else will want to read it. There’s this dragon on the front - a really friendly dragon, with a very silly nose. He makes me laugh. And this knight gets sent out to kill the dragon, because everyone thinks it’s the dragon that causes all the trouble. But he isn’t to blame. The poor dragon wants to be friends, see, and breathes out fire when he says ‘hello’. He can’t help it! There’s this really funny picture of all the villagers running away and the dragon stands there looking really hurt. David is trying to peek ahead. He hasn’t read the ending yet!
That’s it. I can’t lie here any longer. I’m going to get up and make the most of the day. I’m out of bed. There’s my book. I pick it up and run straight back into bed. Ahhh - that’s better! The bed’s still warm! Oh, I don’t think I’ll get up today. Where was I up to in the book? No! This is the one I finished! I’d forgotten! I finished it last night, and the sequel is still over the other side of the room.
Fine. I’ll get up, and get dressed, and feel a lot better.
I go down and see Mum. She’s baking and yawning by turns. She’s surprised to see me up and about, and asks if I slept well. I told her that I slept like a log until the rain started just before. She looks amused and said that it rained all night. I didn’t know this, but there’s no reason why I should.
Mum’s cutting scones out. They look really nice. Homely and comforting, even though the rain outside reminds me I have to go out. I ask if Mum could take me to school in the car. She doesn’t know. It depends how much she gets done before it’s time to leave. The coffee morning starts quite early. I say that I’ll do anything to help – anything to go in the car.
I thought I might be asked to put the tray in the oven, or dust, or set the table. But Mum’s already done this. How and when I don’t know. But what she wants is for me to go and wake everyone up for breakfast. That means rousing David and getting him dressed, fit to be seen at his first coffee morning! I’ll have to wake Sophie and do her hair. Then there’s Dad. It’s his big day today. Perhaps I better wake him up first.
Anna’s just come in. She says she’s been looking for me and I have to get dressed. I still don’t know the ending to Sophie’s book! It doesn’t seem fair. I thought that I might read it today, when Sophie’s at school. But she says she’s taking it with her. Maybe she won’t. I bet I could read it if I tried real hard.
Anna’s in a hurry. She says that we have to get ready quickly, so Mummy will drive them to school. I don’t know whether I want to start school. Sophie likes it lots, but it makes Anna crosser. She’s crosser this morning. It hurts when she pulls my jumper down so hard. I tell her so. Then Daddy comes passed and tells her to be gentle. That just makes her crosser yet. But she does what Daddy says.
Today, I’m going to draw pictures of dragons like the one in Sophie’s book. I’ll do one for Daddy to pin on his board. I drew him a horse and he still has it. He said it’s very good. I’m glad. I want to draw the bestest dragon in the whole world. My kind of dragon. He’s blue - bright, bright blue. His eyes are gold. Oh, and his wings - all dragons have wings - they’re blue but with purple and gold on too. My dragon is the king of all the dragons. I know this. I told Sophie and she asked what his name is. I don’t know, but I said I’d find out today. But I can’t find out till I’ve finished drawing him, and I can’t draw him while Anna’s tugging so much.
I’m up. It was a struggle, but braver men than me have fallen. What to wear? I know that if Lydi was going for an interview then she’d stand looking in her wardrobe, and ask ‘skirt or trousers’, ‘jacket or no jacket’... but for me it’s suit or, well, suit? And since I have one best suit, I reckon that’ll be it!
I should have listened to Lydi. It’s no fun buying suits, and at the time, I thought light grey would be a welcome change. I suppose I never banked on wearing it in the rain. But what’s it matter? I only need to get in and out of the car, and I’ll wear my long coat.
But ties... Lydi has to agonise about her entire outfit - I’m stumped at trying to choose one tie. Perhaps my old blue one - can’t go wrong with that. Well, I could actually, because I went downstairs and Lydi said it didn’t go and so I changed it. I asked what she thought about light grey suits in rain. She smiled, stopping short of the I-told-you-so-when-you-bought-it moment, and said that it looked fine at the minute and the rain might stop.
Lydi’s always been optimistic. When I came back down (in a deep red tie) I found David moping, and Lydi doing her best to cheer him up. I inquired what was wrong. She mouthed coffee morning to me and I nodded. Poor little chap! I took him through to the living room, sat him on my knee and asked what he wanted to do today. He said he wanted to draw the King Dragon. Well, I said he still could draw the King Dragon. He asked how, when he had so much to do for Mummy. We talked about knights and things and began fighting (with invisible swords) and he said that he’d rescued a knight. I said that was very brave, and if he could rescue a knight then he was certainly brave enough to talk to Mummy’s friends.
I’d won the argument, and it was a good job, because breakfast was on the table, Sophie was trailing Anna down the stairs, and I was losing the invisible-sword fight.
It’s nice sitting at breakfast with the smell of freshly baked scones coming from the kitchen. It would be even nicer if we could eat them, but Mummy says they’re for her guests. I don’t really see why they’re called ‘coffee mornings’ because everyone carries on talking after they’ve finished drinking, and by the time they leave... I don’t know, I think they should be called Talking Mornings, because that’s what happens.
David enjoyed my story and he really wants to know what happens at the end. I said that it would spoil it if I told him. He has to read it. He’ll be able to soon. David thinks I’m mean, taking my book into school, but I told my friends I was bringing it and don’t want to let them down. They’re bringing teddies and dolls and pictures. But I’m taking the book because Daddy got it for me.
Daddy’s eating very quickly. The rain is still striking hard against the windows. It looks so dark outside - as if day came but the sun forgot to get up this morning. I don’t like the dark.
Anna and I are going to school in the car today. We have photos this week. Anna’s is today and she’s been getting all worked up about it. I don’t see why. I mean, you can’t change the way you look, can you? Some people are pretty and some are not. Mummy’s very pretty. I think Anna’s going to look just like her. I told Anna this, to make her feel better about the photo, but it didn’t seem to help. She looked terribly cross, and then, of course, she didn’t look half so pretty as Mummy, for Mummy doesn’t usually get cross.
Mummy’s going to get the scones out. Daddy’s getting all his stuff together to take with him for the interview. I hope it goes well. My Daddy’s really clever. He makes such clever things. Anna’s gone up to brush her hair again. She tied mine back for me. I didn’t like to complain, because she does really pretty braids, and I can’t do braids, but my head hurts terribly. Perhaps Mummy will fix it so it doesn’t hurt so much. I don’t like to tell Anna when she went to so much trouble.
But it looks now like I won’t need to ask Mummy to loosen it. David got impatient about the book - he wants me to read more before I go to school - and he’s pulled my bobble clean off. My poor braid. I hope that Mummy has time to do me another so that Anna won’t notice.
How can a day be so busy? Some people think that being busy is a one off event, but in our house it’s nearly everyday. Sam’s left. It’s a shame about the car, but what else can they expect when it’s raining so badly? He was still worried about his suit and almost left his showpiece behind. I wish he’d let me go with him. Mrs Dunn said she’d look after David whenever I needed my hands free. I should think she did! The number of times I’ve had her children round! Her ‘only half an hour’ has always meant three hours in practice.
It would mean such a lot to Sam if they like the design. I don’t know why he won’t let me go. He said something about ‘the design must sell itself’, but if that were the case, the whole advertising business would be redundant! The scones are cooling and don’t look too bad.
Sophie’s come in. David’s messed her hair. I tell her to ask Anna, but she seems reluctant. I’ve got a bowl full of washing up to do, a living room to clean, a braid to do, two girls to take to school, and a little boy who thinks he’s a knight. He’s going to knock it off. I call out to warn him but it’s too late. My tray of scones has landed upside down on the floor.
Sophie must have decided from the expression on my face, that she might as well ask Anna to braid her hair. She scuttles away. David just froze. I told him that it was his fault and began to tell him off, but he was so upset that I ended up with a wet shoulder from his tears, and we made up. He wanted to know if the guests couldn’t just eat them, the ones that weren’t broken. I explained that the floor was not as clean as it looked and that we’d give the birds a treat. Not that they were going to get the scones yet, for the rain was just as bad as ever.
Mum gave us a lift right to the door. I was glad because the rain hadn’t let up. I held a brolly over my head and Sophie tried to keep up. She can be such a pain. I spent ages doing her hair this morning and then she asked me to re-do it! What’s wrong with her?
I shake my brolly dry. I didn’t mean to get Sophie so wet. She was waving to Mum and I thought she’d already gone inside. She looks a dreadful mess and I take her inside so Mum won’t see. Poor Mum has enough on today. I don’t know that anyone else sees how hard she works. She really does though. I understand Mum. I don’t understand why she puts up with all those gossipers coming to the house. Don’t they have coffee at home?!
Sophie’s run off to her classroom. Her teacher will look after her. She’s new and very nice. Not like mine. I find my friends where we always meet. They don’t look like they care much about the photo. Their hair is like it is on any other day. Normally their Mums do a lot to make it look pretty. I ask them whether they forgot that the photos are today? They ask if I forgot that the photos are tomorrow?
I’m helping Mummy this morning. We’ve lots to do. When we got back from school, Mummy cleaned the living room and then asked if I would help her. She said that since I’d knocked the tray off then I’d have to make some new scones.
This looked fun. Mummy put different things in a bowl and then passed them to me. She said that I had to rub it all into a big ball. I did. But there was a lot of stuff and it took a while. Mummy went and did some tidying. I dropped a bit on the floor, but the floor looked clean, so I put it back in again.
Mummy put them in the oven for me. They take a while to cook and before they were out, some ladies arrive. They all smell. Like they’ve sat in flowers. Mummy says it’s “per” fumes. I don’t even know what a “per” is.
They all talk so much and I try to sit still. Mummy says to tell her when the big hand reaches 10, because then my scones will be done. I tell her. She gets them out and brings them through. They’re very hot and she sets them in the middle to cool. The ladies cry “Scones!” when they’re brought in, but when Mummy tells them I made them, they all sit back in their seats. I don’t know why.
I eat one. Mummy says it’s my reward for baking them. But none of the ladies are hungry. One of them says it’s because of the weather – she’s never hungry when it rains.
Ever since Anna showered me with her brolly, I haven’t stopped sneezing. “Show and Tell” isn’t until after lunch and I really want to show my book. But my teacher says that I should go home. She thinks I’m ill and asks if Mummy can pick me up.
I’m not as sorry as I thought I would be. My head pounds, my nose runs and I feel groggy. Mummy comes straight away. David isn’t in the car. I suppose that he must be with the coffee morning ladies. Mummy gets me in the car and then says that she’s going to fetch Anna. She was going to pick Anna up later, but she’d have to bring me out and says it wouldn’t be good for me - so Anna will have to come home early or walk.
Anna sits in the car. We’re on our way home. I look at my book and wish I’d been able to show it. The dragon’s got such a funny nose! Then I turn to Anna. I ask if she’ll miss the school photo. Mummy has forgotten about it and asks if Anna wants to go back. Anna says that she’s glad to come home early. Mummy asks her if they’ve already had the photos. Anna says that they’re tomorrow. I thought Anna had said they were today, but I must have been wrong. My head hurts so much that I can hardly think anyway.
This is not what the doctor ordered! I’m pulling up into the drive with my two little girls. Poor Sophie doesn’t look well. At least Anna can go and talk to the ladies while I get Sophie into some comfier clothes. David opens the door. I say hello and call through to the ladies that I’m back. There’s no reply and I call again. I go through to the living room and bump into Miss Colt as she comes hurrying out. She scuttles passed me, trying not to catch my eye, and goes out of the front door without a word. I ask David what he’s done to my other guests. He says that he didn’t do anything. He explained that I said to keep them amused so he’d told them all about the book Sophie was reading him. Then, when I still wasn’t back, he began to show them how he was a knight like the one in the book. But he got tired and asked Sue if he could have another scone. Then he passed the plate around and said that guests have to eat something and he’d made them special. I couldn’t help laughing. David had only been friendly to them, and had managed to scare them away.
I’ll have to phone round later and hear their excuses, but perhaps I won’t be invited to any more coffee mornings. I ask David if he thinks the birds would like his scones. He says they would and, since it’s stopped raining, I let him take them outside and crumble them onto the grass.
Anna takes care of Sophie for me, which is very sweet. I think she’s grateful to Sophie for getting her out of class. It couldn’t be much fun, with your friends teasing you. Anna calls down. She says that she’ll read them the end of Sophie’s book when David has finished outside. He rushes in almost at once.
I’m driving home. The day had started pretty badly. I wonder how it turned out for the rest. Lydi will be depressed after a dull coffee morning and already dreading the next one. Anna will complain that her friend’s hair was nicer. Sophie will have been a success at “Show and Tell”. David will be nagging everyone to read him the end of the dragon story. I feel bad. Well, as much as everyone likes good news, it’s sometimes hard to take if you’ve had a bad day yourself. It somehow doesn’t seem fair.
I pull up the drive and decide to bide my time before telling Lydi what’s happened. I listen to her day and laugh at how differently things have turned out. She isn’t glum. She’s always had a great sense of humour.
I tell her they bought the design. We’re sitting by the front window. The sun streams through. The rain has stopped.
Copyright © 2009 Abigail J. Fox