Chapter One: Teething problems
"Go, go, don't worry. They'll be fine. Have fun at the dinner party, alright?"
Carmen Lilywhite was trying her best. It had not been an easy day; what with school work, and house work, and parents nagging. Now she stood on the doorstep to this three story Georgian house, awaiting the latest challenge: babysitting.
"Okay Carmen, but if you have any problems, you be sure to call us."
Mr Moore: a calm, understated man with a neat moustache and an even neater bow-tie.
"Will do, Mr Moore," Carmen assured him, trying to ooze the confidence she lacked.
"And make sure they don't mess around in the kitchen! We're halfway through redecorating, in fact, don't let them in the kitchen at all!"
Mrs Moore, on the other hand, was a woman with split ends and a tendency to twitch nervously when her name was called.
Mr Moore took his wife's arm, and attempted to lead her to the car. "Come on dear. We're going to be late."
Carmen could hear the sounds of small hands scrabbling at curtains in the next room, she gave a frantic look to her left, and hoped against hope the two girls would not be any trouble tonight.
"I mean it about the kitchen!" Mrs Moore called again, before the car door was slammed, and Mr Moore started the engine. Carmen was about to turn back to close the front door, when she heard the automatic window roll down. She looked back to see Mrs Moore's blonde head stick precariously out of the vehicle.
"Mind the cabinet! It's under the sink! Don't trip up!"
A bemused frown appeared on Carmen's pale forehead, she muttered, "Under the sink?"
With a shake of the head, she went back inside and shut the front door, but with that final ominous slam, a great wailing began in the room to her left. The black haired girl sighed. So much for an easy night.
In the living room, Olivia Moore felt like her heart was breaking. She couldn't understand why her mother would just leave like that, especially after Olivia had asked her not to. Especially after Olivia had begged. There was a creak of floorboards, and Olivia spun around to glare at the perpetrator, her blonde pigtails swishing with the motion.
"I want my mum! I don't want you!" she wailed. Then promptly burst into tears.
Carmen's face fell. "Don't worry Olivia, she'll be coming back-"
Olivia cried harder. "I don't believe you! I hate you! Leave me alone! I! Want! My! Mum!"
A small voice piped up from behind the other floor length curtain. "Olivia, stop it. She's coming back, isn't she Carmen? Mum will come back when we're both in bed. She's gonna tuck us in and everything."
Carmen sent a silent prayer of thanks in Cecelia's direction. The tiny three year old behind the curtain was an unusually intuitive child; with a cropped bob of ginger hair, startling green eyes, and even a spatter of freckles across her skin, Cecelia was practically perfect.
"Yes, of course she is," Carmen stumbled over her words, hoping they sounded as reassuring as she meant them. Olivia saw through it though, and began to cry and shout again. She shoved past the black haired girl, and ran up the stairs. Carman heard a door slam, and sighed wretchedly. She turned around, and nearly jumped because Cecelia had finally revealed herself.
The toddler wore a tiny pair of slippers, a fleece lined set of light blue pyjamas, and an olive green cardigan. She grinned at Carmen, and the babysitter could not help but smile in return.
The pair of them were settled in the dining room; looking speculatively at the jar on the large table.
"But do you normally have it with your pasta?" Carmen asked again.
Cecelia nodded, her hair falling into her eyes. "All the time!"
"Somehow I am not entirely sure... but I suppose... umm. Okay, I'm gonna try it out." Cautiously, Carmen unscrewed the lid to the redcurrant jam, ladled a small amount onto her plate, and tentatively mixed it with the plain pasta. Cecelia grinned as Carmen raised her fork slowly, and ate the odd combination.
There was a few moments speculative silence. Then; "Huh. It's actually suite nice. Ish. You want to try it?"
Cecelia held out her small plate for the jam, and they both ate in silence for a few minutes.
"I'm still unsure..."
"I like it," piped up Cecelia, as she scraped her baby fork across the plate's surface before finally admitting defeat and declaring she had finished. Carmen smiled down at her with a full mouth, and Ceci giggled.
"How about some pudding then, little one?" Carmen asked after she had eaten her last pasta twist, Cecelia nodded happily and scrambled to her feet. They both left the dining room just in time to see a red faced Olivia descend the last step on the staircase, and look about her guiltily.
Carmen hoped that the girl had finally calmed down, but it was not meant to be. "Olivia, do you want some-"
"Go away!" she screamed, interrupting Carmen, and as the babysitter raised a plate filled hand, Olivia wailed and ran in to the kitchen, slamming the door heavily behind her. There was the grunt of heavy wood being dragged across the linoleum. Carmen froze one second, before dashing back into the dining room, placing the pots safely down, and rushing back to the kitchen door.
"Olivia, get out of there! It isn't safe!"
"Don't care! Leave us alone!" there were further thuds against the door, and Carmen could only assume that the girl was barricading herself in. Well, we'll see about that, thought Carmen. I did not sign up for this...
She took a steadying breath, well aware of Cecelia's little inquisitive stare from behind her. "If you don't open this door right now, I am going to count to ten! And don't think I won't!"
"Is Olli in trouble?" Cecelia asked with wide eyes. Carmen didn't know what to say, so she turned back to the door, and began to hammer on it.
"Olivia Moore, do you hear me?"
A saucepan clanged to the floor, but other than that, there was silence.
The sound of small and frantic footsteps: Olivia was looking for a way out.
She kept on searching.
The footsteps stopped, there was the creak of a small wooden door.
More shuffling sounds.
"Seven, eight, nine, ten!"
Still no reply. Carmen began to shove at the door, but with no result. She took a moment to wonder how on earth the five year old had managed to wedge the table so well. Then, taking a step back and waving Cecelia out of the way, Cecelia braced herself and shoved even harder. It gave a few inches, and she let out a sigh of relief.
Once the door was fully open however, the sigh of relief dissolved into one of worry. For the kitchen was entirely empty.
"Olivia? Are you hiding?" Carmen quavered. There was no other way out of the room, so she and Cecelia set about searching through all the cupboards, but still they found nothing. Not a trace.
Carmen tried hard not to panic. Then Cecelia tugged at her trouser leg, and pointed wordlessly at the cabinet that was half tucked under the sink, the cabinet that Carmen had missed because it looked so much like part of the wall.
It was in an odd position, as Mr and Mrs Moore were part of the way through redecorating: the waist high cupboard was wedged in with its door facing the outer wall and the only way you could get into it was if you kneeled down and squeezed yourself under the sink, into the corner of the room, and it was only then that you could actually get the small door open.
It was a very tight squeeze, but, Carmen realised, Olivia could have managed it easily. She rapped firmly on the section of cabinet surface that emerged from under the sink, and called Olivia's name again. Perhaps the young girl though this was all a game now, perhaps she would come out if Carmen threatened her again, maybe Carmen would have to drag the five year old out by her small ankles.
Whatever the case, Carmen got to her knees on the dirty floor, and tried to shuffled into the small, cramped space between the cabinet and the wall. She couldn't fit.
"Ceci? You feel like doing Carmen a favour?"
Cecelia nodded eagerly, and dropped to her knees. She solemnly handed Carmen the ring toy, and crawled easily into the small offending space, then she opened the cabinet door, made a surprised sound, and subsequently clambered in.
"Ceci!" Carmen exclaimed in confusion.
"I can see her shoe! I've got her shoe!"
Carmen opened her mouth a few times in confusion, trying in vain to understand why Cecelia's voice sounded like it was echoing in a large space.
"Cecelia? Are you okay?"
"Look at this!"
"Look at what?"
Cecelia's voice was getting fainter, and Carmen finally gave in, and managed to wedge herself painfully into the space under the sink.
The reply was very faint now, and had the oddest echo attached to it. "Come on, Carmen!"
Carmen squeezed into the tiny corner, and levered the cabinet door open with her elbow. She looked inside.