“Nooo Shay-shay I want to sleeeeeep.” Amy turns over and stretches out squeezing her eyes shut to keep the sleep in. “Just a teensy bit more Shay-shay pleeeeeeeeeease…”
Her nose wiggles.
“Ok ok is that porridge?”
Tossing the blanket back and covering Carla, the bald headed doll (the bestest doll in the whole world!) she scrambles out of the little bed.
Sleepy eyed at the table, Amy likes to break up her bread and butter into her porridge. But she always has to eat from the edges first Mummy says. It’s supposed to be cooler but it isn’t. It still has smoke coming off the spoon. Today Shay-shay has oats porridge for her and Shay-shay always puts plenty of butter on the bread. Amy likes oats porridge today. It has a good skin on the top of it and there’s lots of condensed milk. Shay-shay lets her lick the spoon and turns back to the stove as Amy cuts into her porridge bowl edges with all the clumsy carefulness of a three-year old and licks the warm spoon clean. Shay-shay turns just in time to catch and steaming spoon on the rise and call out a warning to blow on it.
But this is not the best way to eat porridge. It’s best when Daddy sits next to Amy and turns it into a heliscopter. He picks up the lumps of buttery bread smothered in porridge on the spoon and flies it in the air with heliscopter chopper wings clicking “tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk” with his tongue. The salty butter mixes with the sweet of the porridge and makes her tummy so very cozy and warm.
“But where is Daddy Shay-shay?” She wants him to do the heliscopter for her. Sometimes Daddy goes to work early and misses breakfast.
“Is Daddy at work Shay-shay?”
“No Amy, Daddy’s gone to the hospital.” Shay-shay doesn’t turn around but smiles a white smile secretly at the laundry she is taking out of the machine. She checks the bed linens from last night and puts them back into the washer for a second run. The linens are heavy with water but her strong brown arms maneuver them into balance with more detergent and some bleach.
Mummy works at the hospital sometimes. But these days Mummy has been at home. As Amy sticks one finger into her bowl while Shay-shay isn’t looking she wonders if Mummy is still asleep.
Last night when Daddy came in to read Amy her story Mummy was on the sofa, her swollen belly supported by a mountain of pillows. She had called Amy over to touch the movement. As Amy’s little hand found the spot it jumped under her hand like the time when Boo-Boo threw a ball at the curtains. Her little eyes had grown wide.
She has a baby brother in there you know. He’s been there for years! Amy doesn’t know how long years are but they are a long long time. And she knows she has three of them on her fingers. She has been practicing with Daddy for when she gets four. She will open her hand out and hold her thumb back and there it will be – her four years.
But that’s a long long time from now too.
As far as Amy can remember, she always wanted a baby brother that she could play with like Boo-Boo. But because he would be her very own brother he wouldn’t have to go home with Uncle Charlie in the evening. He could stay right here at home with her and with Mummy and Daddy and Shay-shay and they could porridge together and play together and Daddy would read them time stories together and do just everything fun together.
Mummy’s belly was so big last night that Amy knows he must be a big strong boy. That’s what she asked Jesus for anyway. Mummy said she couldn’t give Amy a baby brother but she did tell Amy to ask Jesus. That was years ago too. But now Jesus had answered Amy’s prayer and she would soon have her baby brother. Every day she asked Mummy when he would come out.
Amy is very excited by the thought and looks down surprised to find the porridge bowl is empty. She looks up to see Shay-shay turn from the kitchen counter with the tussin bottle. Amy hates tussin because it taces nasty and makes her want to vomit. She doesn’t want to take it this morning but she has to be very quiet because Mummy must be sleeping. She shakes her head but Shay-shay isn’t taking no for an answer.
“Come on now Amily… open wide. See? I have the water right here. Drink it quick and you can wash it down with the water right after.” Shay-shay stoops down by the chair and there is no escape. Amy pulls on her brave face and swallows. The tussin goes down completely destroying the beautiful taste of porridge and she coughs, reaching sticky porridge hands out for the water quick.
Every morning this nasty, nasty tussin. Amy hates it. But there is no time – she has to get to the potty quick and go by herself. She is a big girl now after all.
She tip-toes into Mummy’s bedroom where she slides the little steps up next to the toilet. Mummy is not asleep – the bed is clean and tidy. Mummy is not here! Where is Mummy?
“Mummy’s at the hospital too” says Shay-shay as she comes into check.
“I want to go to the horspital too, Shay-shay. I want Daddy to come home so he can take me to the hospital too.”
“Soon soon Amy. We have to finish all our work first. I am going to need you to help me hang out the clothes.”
Shay-shay is big and tall. She’s almost a woman or an addle. Amy watches Shay-shay stretch the sheets wide and shake them out above her head. They fly like a big bird and flash across the sky before dropping heavy with a crack in a perfect fold over the line. They smell strong of bleach and fabric softener but Amy thinks they smell like clean. She is to be Shay-shay’s helper today and hand her the clothespins. The bag is her job and with one hand she holds it and sticks the thumb on the other hand into her mouth. Every time Shay-shay needs a pin she pulls out the wet thumb and picks up a pin and hands it over. She’s off travelling now to far away places. Travelling is what Mummy calls it. Amy calls it finking. And she is now finking about her brother, about Mummy at work, about Daddy at the horspital, and about how she wishes she never needs to taste that tussin again.
When Shay-shay finishes hanging out the load she picks Amy up high in the air and sits her on her shoulders. Amy giggles all the way up and settles into a comfortable position. When she is sat solidly she sticks her thumb back in her mouth and feels her eyes close heavy.
Before she is out of her bath good she is asleep, curled up with Carla and rubbing her blanket over her lip just over her thumb. The only sound in the room is her breathing and the hum of the fan as it circulates.
“Amy wake up. It’s Daddy!”
She opens one eye. Daddy has a big grin on his face like colgate. That’s what Mummy calls it. The finger comes out of the mouth and the arms reach up as Daddy swings her in the air.
“I have a surprise for you! Your brother is here!”
“Here? Where Daddy? I don’t see him!” Amy squeals, suddenly excited and very much awake.
“You need to go meet him. He’s at the hospital with Mummy. You ready?”
Of course she is! Didn’t she pray for a brother? But Daddy is smiling so hard he looks funny. And Amy can’t help but smile too. Daddy straps her into her booster seat and Shay-shay jumps in the front. As Daddy pulls the car carefully out onto the main road Amy sucks her finger and flies through a million little excited thoughts… “What does he look like? Can I call him Jaime? Can he run as fast as me? Jaime and Amy. My goodness. My brother is here. Jaime and Amy. Can we play hide and seek tonight?”