When it came to bedtime, we went up the stairs together, counting them one by one. Step: one. Step: two. Step: three. All the way to fifteen. She pouted a little at the unfairness of it, as I tucked her into the makeshift bed between mine and Liam's on the floor of my room. "But there was fourteen Mummy, there was! Cause you goooes..." She lifted her hands in the air above her head. "Five, six..." Her right hand patted the air. "Seveeen..." Her right hand stretched towards the ceiling. "EIGHT!" She dropped her right hand as her left hand shot up towards the ceiling. "Nine, ten, elebens..." Her left hand continued patting the air till she got to fourteen. Then she smiled at me triumphantly, as if she'd proved a mystery of the universe. "See?" I said that I did. And apologised for the apparently wrong number of steps that evening. Liam clambered between the layers of his sleeping bag next to Mel. "I'm sleeping here tonight cause I've got to look after you and Mum," he explained unnecessarily to an uninterested Mel. I left them counting the cobwebs on the ceiling, to the yellow glow of the hallway light, and went to continue unpacking the saucepans and crockery in the kitchen.
When I finally went upstairs to bed, it was past midnight. My feet carried me up the stairs one tired step at a time, my eyes half closed, and when I got to the top of the flight, I stumbled. My foot had lifted itself in preparation of another apparently nonexistant step, then fell with sickening speed and weight to slam against the wooden floor of the hallway. My body swayed with the shock of the unbalance, and I clutched at the wall to steady myself. My bed was welcome in its sleep-inducing comfort. I fell asleep to the snuffly sounds of Mel's breathing, and the shuffling of Liam as he continued to move, even in his sleep.