Mommy’s sitting in the rocking chair. She doesn’t see Katy standing in the doorway. Daddy says don’t disturb Mommy when she’s InHere. But Katy’s going to. She’s going to walk right up and say Hi Mommy! She is. And Mommy won’t speak all quiet and whispery. And scary. Like another Mommy has got right into her body. A mommy with the same long brown curly hair as Katy’s – such a nuisance to keep tidy, but we’d never cut it would we, Katy-Kate? That’s what Mommy used to say when she brushed Katy’s hair for school.
Mommy sits, quiet as mouse, looking into the garden. Everyone is quiet nowdays. The only time anyone talks loudly is when Granny comes and cooks up a storm, filling the freezer, because heaven knows someone has to get some nurrishint into the child. Only thing is, Mommy forgets to open the freezer, and then Granny goes oh dearie me and rustles up something quick and easy. Most days she opens Katy’s rucksack and checks the message book and writes in it. Yesterday she wrote for a long time. This morning, when Miss Adams read it, she smiled at Katy and asked her if she’d like to play in the Wendyhouse. The other children all looked at Katy, and she felt funny, like their eyes were crawling on her, because we all know, don’t we children, that we can only play in the Wendyhouse if we have been very good, and finished all our work. It’s a Very Special Treat. And Katy hadn’t even started her drawing. So she just shook her head and picked up her crayons, the special ones Mommy bought because she was starting big school.
Katy leans against the doorframe. Round-tummied teddybears dressed in sailor-suits tumble around the pale blue walls of the small room. A mobile hangs from the ceiling. Sometimes, when Mommy is InHere, she winds it up and the bright tinkling notes of Teddybear’s Picnic scamper out of the room, down the passage to where Katy plays by herself in her own bedroom.
Katy touches the blue carpet with her big toe. Her thumb creeps to her mouth. She mustn’t suck her thumb, that’s not what big girls do, and she wants to set a good example to her little brother doesn’t she? But he isn’t here, so Katy can’t show him all the special things from her secret drawer – like the snakeskin Josie and her found, and Katy’s shoes from when she was a baby, only she was going to give them to him. Tucked right at the back of the drawer, folded tight, is the list Miss Adams helped Katy to write. Her favourite boys’ names in all the world. Zak and Max and Tim. Little names for a little baby. Miss Adams said they would stretch as he got bigger. Daddy said she was an absolute genius, because Mommy was besotted with ‘Theodore’, and nothing Daddy said could budge her. But when she read Katy’s list she looked down at her big tummy and said hello little Max, can you hear me?
Katy hides her thumb behind her back and looks at Mommy. Mommy is stroking the arm of the chair, her fingers moving round and round, like her hand doesn’t know what it is doing. Other times it moves to her tummy and makes circles there. Until Daddy puts his arms around her and hugs her tightly. Katy watches them. That’s when they ask her to play in her room. And their voices sound far, far, away, as if they were talking to her from the bottom of the sea, way deeper than Katy would ever be allowed to go.
Granny says they’ll get Overit. But Katy doesn’t want them to get Overit, because it sounds horrible, and they mustn’t have any more terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, like Alexander in Katy’s best book ever, the one Daddy knows off-by-heart.
Katy takes a deep breath, filling her lungs, like when Josie and her see who can stay underwater the longest. Most times Josie wins, but sometimes she giggles and bubbles come out of her mouth in a whoosh. Katy’s tummy flutters the way it always does when she is nervous or excited. Like the day she started school. Butterflies in your tummy Mommy said, and she took Katy’s hand. Feel Katy, I’ve got a butterfly in my tummy. And Katy giggled because she knew it was something quite different, another word beginning with b. Buh is for bike and bubbles. Baby and boy.
Katy puts one foot forward. She’s going to walk right up and say Hi Mommy! The carpet stretches ahead of her like an ocean, deep and blue.
Katy breathes deeply and takes another step. Mommy turns in her chair.