“Look, Christopher. Look at the pretty patterns.”
The summer breeze gently ruffled the floppy fringe of hair that hung over the little boy’s eyes as he stood by the pond with his baby brother, proud that he’d been left in charge for a few minutes. Well, he was four now and that was quite grown up. Daddy was in charge really, but he’d gone to answer the door.
The two young faces watched as the late afternoon sun-shine dappled the shallow water, making sparkles of light dance around like diamonds across the rippling surface.
“Look at the fairies on the water,” he said and saw the baby laugh with delight and point his stubby finger at the magic picture before them. The world was full of so many exciting things; as they grew up they were going to explore them together.
“Daddy said we mustn’t get too close to the edge. Here, hold tight.”
But just then he thought he heard a cry and turned to look behind him.
The windows of the big old house were in shadow and they gazed over the rambling garden dark and unseeing like the eyes of a blind man. There was another sound from inside, something odd and not quite clear. Was it his father calling him? He let his brother’s hand go and walked importantly up the garden path; perhaps he was needed.
He climbed on to a stone pot on the terrace, pushing the spidery fingers of honeysuckle aside to look through the window. He pressed his soft nose to the cold glass and calmly watched the scene inside.
Daddy and the babysitter were playing a game on the settee. He couldn’t see her face but he knew it was her because of her school uniform, the grey skirt with the yellow shirt and socks and the straw hat she let him play with. The hat had a blue and yellow ribbon and it was lying on the floor. Daddy was on top of her but with bis hands on her shoulders and his arms straight so she couldn’t get up. He seemed to be trying to squash her and the game was for her to push him off.
He laughed at their game, it looked fun. But it wasn’t fair; ‘Daddy was much too strong.’
Then he saw that her shirt was open and she had lumps on her chest like Mummy only not nearly so big and squashy. Daddy bent down and tried to eat one but she squirmed her body away as if he was tickling.
He felt excited now in a different way. In a minute he’d go and fetch Christopher; they could watch together, another secret shared experience.
He couldn’t hear properly and the window was misting up where he was breathing on it, but knowing that he shouldn’t be watching made it even more exciting. He was hidden by the tendrils of the honeysuckle that wrapped around his neck and face, threatening to envelop him completely if he stayed still too long. The sticky-sweet odor was thick and heavy like a throbbing pain in his head.
She was really trying hard now to get him off her, but Daddy was being pretty rough. She tried to shout something, but Daddy suddenly brought his hand across her face with a loud smack that he could hear really clearly
She looked so surprised, her face had a funny look. He saw a trickle of red come from her mouth and now she didn’t want to play anymore. She started to cry but Daddy had her tie – more blue and yellow stripes- and was tying it around her wrists and then pulling her arms back over her head. He went on bouncing on her with his whole body, talking to her all the time and looking cross as if she’d spoilt the game.
He was sure now that Daddy would be cross if he knew he was watching. He felt odd now; not excited but a bit afraid. He climbed down from the window to return to his baby brother.
But Christopher would never see Daddy’s game. He must have liked the pretty patterns on the water so much he tried to catch them in his hand. His tiny body was floating calmly in the still water, bobbing gently up-down. His face was under the water as if he was looking for something on the bottom of the pond.
The sunlight still danced all around him as
if it was laughing at his foolishness.