Friday, 16 September 2011

Halfway up the stairs - story. Part seven.

After the children had gone to school the next morning, I moved the children's beds and favourite toys downstairs. I made a blanket fort in the living room, rearranging the furniture so that there were three sleeping areas. One on either side for Liam and Mel, and one in the middle for me. I set up a treasure hunt along the bottom floor, and set a barrier across the bottom of the stairs. I gathered together our explorer outfits - finding Grandpa's old "Captain Jack" coat for Liam, and sewing big brass buttons and gold braid, and a flower patch, onto an old purple jacket of mine for Mel - and hung them on the coat hanger by the door, with our newly cleaned wellies arranged underneath, and our explorer hats perched on top. I phoned the school and arranged for the children to have a few days off. Then I phoned my Mother. "Of course Liam and Mel can stay with me for a bit! Is this over the weekend?"
"No, Mother. They'll spend the weekend with me, then come to yours on Monday for a few days. Is that okay?"
"That would be lovely, dear. I think your Father and I would appreciate a little young life around the place for a bit! Planning a holiday, are you?"
"No, no. I just thought that the children would benefit from spending some time in an old favourite place of theirs, after having to settle into the new house so quickly." The flattery softened my Mother up, as I knew it would. "Well, that's lovely. Of course they can stay. As long as they like! You make sure you take a break too, Catherine. Don't spend all that time working!"
"I shan't. Thanks Mum. I'll drop them round Monday morning, at about 11."

The weekend was perfect. Mel didn't go near the stairs, accepting my explanation of the barrier without arguement. "That's cannibals up there - we can't go up there, they'll eat us! We have to stay in the jungle down here." We camped out in the living room, toasting bits of bread over Granma's open fire, and telling jungle stories till the fire died down to glowing embers. We drew pictures of the animals we encountered along our expedition, and made juice-cocktail antidotes when Liam got poisoned by a snake. We found the cure for the dreaded Jung Disease, and caught the last living specimen of the Fire Moth, which Mel kept in a glass jar by her bed till I told her we needed to let it go before it became the last dead specimen. Then on Monday morning, we clambered into the back of our Jungle Jeep, and made our way back to "civilisation", laden with our spoils and discoveries.
I spent the next four days mostly at home. I cleared away our jungle. I caught up on the paperwork that had built up. I phoned Mother every morning to talk to the children, and went to see them twice. Mel and Liam seemed more content in my Mother's house. Mel was not as quiet, not as withdrawn, and Liam seemed happier to be around her than he had been at home. I thought maybe we were making progress. That all they'd needed was a break from the stress-residue of moving into a new house. On the last night, I locked up the house and checked myself in to the local hotel for a night. I figured I needed a break too.

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