Author's Note: I was dared to write something without what I usually write, and do something nice for kids!
Amy was really shy and wouldn't say boo to a goose. Ross was doing a lot better in school now, thought their mum, who had the mumps.
Unfortunately, she couldn't find anyone to take them to school that day. Not one single friend had offered. She had to ring up the school and let them know. She was in trouble, and one of the teacher assistants offered to come round and pick them up mid-morning later.
She accepted, always sure that her children got a decent education. Amy didn't want to go and wanted to stay home and look after Mummy.
Ross wanted to kick a ball. After his mum went back to bed, he played with a bit of screwed up paper.
"I want to play football," he said to her.
She said, "'s." She always mumbled 'yes'. Amy hung her head and looked through her plaits. She had had lots of little ones for days now, as her mum was too unwell to redo them all, and Amy's friends at school loved plaiting her hair.
He looked at her. "I suppose you want to play House," he said.
He looked around. They were in the Den. The TV was switched off and the remote missing. They wouldn't be able to find a kid's channel.
He went to their bags and opened up their lunch-boxes. Amy came to see what he was doing. He gave her a sandwich.
"Here, you take this and put it on the shelves. It's a fridge now."
Amy took the ham and cheese sandwich and put it on the lowest book shelf, in front of the books. They were adventure books and people books and history books.
"Take this, and put it higher up," commanded Ross, who loved being in charge of his shy sister. He handed her some milk.
Amy opened the milk and poured it over a shelf higher up. "'s," she said.
"Not like that! Mummy will get mad."
Amy stopped pouring and reluctantly put the carton on the highest shelf, where it toppled and split onto the carpet.
"Oh no! MUMMY!" he yelled upstairs.
"What?" she called down, still in bed, watching TV. She had a TV in her room, with a remote control for the Freeview Box. She liked it a lot.
"Amy split her milk."
"AMY SPLIT HER MILK!" he yelled.
"Mop it up quick!" she yelled back.
Ross grabbed some tissues from the box, and patted the carpet. It smelt strongly of fresh cream. Amy watched and laughed a bit.
"Stop giggling and help me," he commanded again. She did. She made flowers out of the tissues and tore off the petals.
"Amy! I shan't play House with you any more," he said.
Amy patted the carpet, flung the tissue down and stamped on it. Her sock was wet soon. She cried.
"Now what, Amy?"
She said nothing, so he wiped the tears from her cheek and flung the tissue aside.
He gave her some grapes he'd plucked off the stalk. She ate one.
"Put them on the shelf," he said.
She did. Next he gave her his bacon sandwich, and his cheese, and his juice drink, and she tipped the latter over the shelf as well. Soon the shelves were bristling with lunch food and damp from the drinks. The bottoms of books were getting wet.
Ross cleaned up with some tissues and fanned the books on the floor to dry. He sat down.
"This is where we make our House," he said. He got up and fetched their jackets. It was a bright cool summer's day.
He lay his jacket down and gave Amy's hers. She put it on.
"No, silly. We lie on it like beds."
Amy took it off, flung it to the ground like the tissues and stamped on it like an animal. She curled up, her feet tucked under her.
Ross said, "We sit cross-legged at school. Do it!" he commanded.
Amy sighed, and sat cross-legged. "'yes," she mumbled quietly.
"And now we drink tea like Mummy," he said.
"I don't like tea," said their mum. Ross jumped out of his skin. He forgot his mum kept the baby monitor switched on. It was two-way.
"I like coffee," she continued. "If only you could make some, I'd be pleased."
"It's far too high, Mummy," said Amy out loud. She liked looking after Mummy. She made her all the drinks she wanted by standing on a stool. She couldn't bake without her, though. Mummy had been eating raw food like salad and fruit.
"Here's some coffee, Mummy," said Ross, miming pouring out a cup and stirring in instant with a spoon.
"Yum, yum, Mummy," said Amy.
"I'd die for a real cuppa," she said. "It's water again, isn't it?"
Amy mimed drinking a cup of cocoa. She didn't like coffee, and must have taken after their dad. They didn't know who either of their dads were. Mummy liked dancing a lot.
Ross did the same, only with coffee. It tasted bad, decided Amy, so she stuck her tongue out.
"It's too hot, isn't it, Amy?" he said.
"You have to blow on it," said Mummy.
Amy blew on her imaginary cocoa and chowed it down in one. Ross kept sipping his.
Amy got bored and got up. It was just after breakfast, which Mummy made, but she started to peck at her ham and cheese sandwich.
"Mummy, Amy's eating her lunch," complained Ross. He had big, fat, curly hair and brown eyes. Amy had lots of little plaits from school and brown eyes too. Mummy had flat hair and brown eyes too. They all looked alike, and you could tell they were related.
"Don't eat your lunch, Amy," said Mummy. "That's for later." She coughed, and Amy got worried.
Amy put the sandwich down again. She went over to her play box and got out some fake food.
She got out some hamburgers, some carrots, and some apples. That was enough, she reckoned.
"Do you want a hamburger, Mummy?" she asked, squeezing it. All the air rushed out, squeaking.
"What was that, Amy?!"
"Mummy wants a hamburger," said Amy to Ross.
"I won't get better eating junk food. Thanks for all the salad and some fruit, kids."
"It's summer, Mummy," explained Ross. Ross drank some more imaginary tea.
Amy explained what they were doing.
"I'm drinking coffee not tea," said Ross. He sounded grumpy.
"I think he prefers it when I don't speak and he tells me what to do!" shouted Amy, who'd found her voice at last.
"Just like a man," said Mummy.
Ross' chest inflated with pride. He strutted around the room, and flapped his arms like a cockerel. He crowed.
Amy woke up from her bed, and tried to remember her dream from last night. It was about a Princess, she decided. She got up and stretched her limbs.
She tucked her feet underneath her and tried to remember what the ballgown looked like. It was pink and peach, she decided. The skirt was pink, and the top bit had been peach without sleeves. The Princess had twirled all night.
Ross had been her attendant. He wore a cheap suit and denim jeans. Ross' dad had worn a cheap suit to the prom night, and her dad had worn denim jeans, said Mummy. She hadn't remembered much detail.
Ross interrupted her by trying to feed her fake food. She declined. She watched him talk with Mummy on the walkie-talkie.
Ross liked coffee, she remembered, and the attendant stank of it. The Princess hated him. He also vaped and smelt of tobacco. One of Mummy's friends did that.
The Princess climbed out of her window, and Amy mimicked the action. Ross looked over and sighed.
"You're doing it wrong. I thought we were playing House. Or we could play Pirates or Tag."
"Clear everything up," advised Mummy. "I don't want any crumbs. We'll get mice."
"I want a mouse," said Ross suddenly. "Why can't we get one? Or a hamster!"
Mummy explained. Amy went back to the Princess story. She climbed out of the window using her hair and bedsheets as a rope, and landed in a rose bush, which broke her fall. She got out and tidied her hair.
The Princess strode towards the stable, selected a dun mare, and rode her out towards the Big, Deep Forest.
In the Big, Deep Forest was a bear. If you slayed it, you got wishes granted if you wore its skin. If you slayed its baby, you got nothing. It was gory, just how Amy liked it. She liked those kinds of books, like Harry Potter. They were for older kids, otherwise they left the Voldemort bits out.
The Princess rode hard, day and night. There was no light when she found the bear's cave in the centre. It smelled like a pet shop.
The Princess went in with a torch she'd lit. She stabbed the bear that was sleeping, once, between the eyes with her sword. She set about skinning it, and playing with the baby bear in there. She threw the skin into the morning sunrise to dry it, and ate the meat over a campfire. It had been a honey and fruit bear, not a meat-eating bear, so it tasted sweet.
She took some of the cooked meat with her, for later. She wrapped it in nice leaves. She put it in her backpack. It was pink, and matched her dress. It had a cartoon on it, but Amy had forgotten which was her favourite.
She left the baby bear behind in a cave. It would be fully grown soon, next season.
When she put on the dry skin, it glowed purple.
YOU HAVE THREE WISHES, she heard in her head.
"I wish for a party," she said out loud. Next to her, her brother Ross groaned.
"She's playing that Princess game again, Mummy," he said.
"Let her," said Mummy. "She's a girl. Play a boy game by yourself for a moment. I'll be down later, I think, and I'll take you to school myself. I can drive!"
Amy thought briefly of Mummy crashing her car, and the Princess stumbled under the weight.
Ross shouted, "Don't do that! Stay in bed Mummy, where God wants you." Ross was religious like his friends at school.
The Princess held a party in the Big, Deep Forest for all her furry friends; they weren't religious like Ross. They chittered and worshipped Disney Princesses. Amy's Princess sang and outstretched her arms. She began to twirl and tripped over a squirrel, and turned her ankle.
"I wish to be healed," she shouted. The wish was granted.
NOW YOU WON'T DIE OF PLAGUE, said the bear's skin. It sounded like a man, not Mummy Bear. MAY YOU LIVE FOREVER!
Amy danced with a fallow deer. It had a baby fawn next to it which curtsied. Amy watched the Princess twirl, and say her thanks. She was going to live forever now. She left.
Amy picked up a rabbit and stroked it.
In Real Life, she picked up a piece of plastic watermelon and held it.
"Are you going to eat that?" asked Ross, concerned. She shook her head. The rabbit hopped off, and all the rabbits left. The deer were left, and so were the birds, and the squirrels, and the fox watching everything edible, and the badger, and the snake.
The snake hissed. Everything fled, and the Big, Deep Forest was empty apart from the tall trees. They blocked out all the light. Amy walked through to the clearing and sat down on her jacket again in Real Life.
Sunlight streamed in and lit up the mushroom fairy circle. Amy waited for them to appear. She had one wish left.
In Real Life, she ate the plastic watermelon. It didn't yield and stayed firm.
"I knew you were going to do that," sighed Ross. "Mummy, Amy's eating—"
Amy blotted him out, and concentrated. "I wish..."
The fairies appeared! There were many, some with two wings, some with four, one with six. That one was in the lead.
"What do you want?" they asked.
"I wish for Mummy to get better from the mumps!" she said, and clapped her hands.
Ross said, "It takes a doctor and takes time, like when you were sick."
The fairies all held hands and began to circle towards noon. They kicked their legs back, flying, and yelled mystic mumbo-jumbo words. Amy could feel it working. Her nerves went electric!
"All done!" said the lead fairy to her. "Mummy will get better soon."
"Yay!" cheered Amy. She hugged Ross. "I did magic and Mummy's going to get better! I did it, not you!"
"Yay," agreed Ross forlornly. He believed in religion, not magic.
Amy thanked all the Disney Princesses for their help and co-operation, like the head teacher did in Assembly. She shook them by the hand. She did this because the fairies always disappeared quickly, and she had to thank someone.
"I feel better," said Mummy over the walkie-talkie. "I might get up and take you to school after all."
"No!" shouted Ross and Amy. They didn't want to be in a car crash because Mummy coughed and fell asleep. They'd been looking after her for two weeks. Friends brought round shopping after Mummy ordered online. They left it on the floor in a cool bag so they could feed Mummy. It sometimes went stale in a few days. The lettuce wilted and the celery went brown and the apples yielded when pressed.
The bread was the worst. Mummy wouldn't eat anything with fungus, even if that's where antibiotics came from.
The refuge bin was too high up, and they didn't dare move the stool away from the sink. Mummy had left it there.
And the walkie-talkies had to be plugged in. Mum kept her iPhone by the bed so she could Internet shop.
"What are you playing now?" asked Mummy on the walkie-talkie.
"Nothing," said Ross. "We're waiting for the Teaching Assistant, Mummy. It's 11 o'clock."
"No, it's not, Ross. You can't tell the time yet. She's coming at break time."
"He is," corrected Ross. He looked disappointed. "Men can be teachers too, Mum."
"Yes," she agreed. "They weren't when I was at school. You didn't get men until secondary school. It was rare before then."
Amy shrugged. She didn't know why either.
Mummy continued, "You didn't see men with buggies or prams either by day on the buses. That was before I got the car. I love my car!"
The doorbell rang. Ross scampered up to get it. He let in Mr Murphy. He was a tall, distinguished white gentlemen with glasses and curly hair.
"Hello, Ross," he said and tousled his hair. "Who's this?" Amy had followed.
"This is my younger sister, Amy, sir. She's shy."
"'s," said Amy, looking down, and coming over all faint and lovely. Mr Murphy was handsome behind those specs.
Ross went back to the Den to retrieve their jackets. Mr Murphy followed.
"What have you kids been doing?!" he asked, staring at the shelves where Amy had poured the milk and juice, not at the books fanning to dry.
"We've been playing House and Farmyard and Princess games, sir," said Ross. "Mummy wanted to buy all the produce, sir," he added, pointing to all the fake food strewn about.
"We've got to go now," said Mr Murphy. "Can you clear up when you get back, please?"
He took the kids and left. They climbed into his car. It was bigger than Mummy's and smelt like cheap cat food.
He buckled Amy in and let Ross do up his own seatbelt. The seat was a little too big for Amy and she couldn't see out. She needed a booster seat, she thought.
He drove off, indicating, and drove fast. They were at school in no time at all. There was no morning traffic.
"OK, kids, we're here!" he shouted. He hadn't talked at all during the journey, unlike Mummy, who talked all the time.
Mr Murphy let Ross out, after he parked, and went around to check on Amy. She'd forgotten her lunch-box, and would need to use her emergency cash fund at lunch.
Ross was just missing his juice and his bacon sandwich.
Amy waved goodbye to Ross and went to class without them. She let herself in and cried.
"Mummy's unwell in bed still," she explained. The teacher Miss Maple comforted her and told her not to disrupt the lesson. Amy got hugged and ushered to her seat.
She thanked the Disney Princesses under her breath again, especially Merida of DunBroch for the bear.
Just then, her tiny phone rang. The teacher Miss Maple looked disapprovingly to her, but she answered it anyway. It was Ross, but she said:
"It's Ross. You forgot your lunch says Mr Murphy. You can't share mine, I haven't got enough either. We'll have to eat at the canteen with the teachers, he said. We need to sit at their table."
Amy was horrified. She'll be on show to everyone. She whimpered. Miss Maple looked on.
Ross said, "Are you OK?"
"Why did I expect anything different?" he wondered out loud. "Meet you at lunchtime, Amy. Bye!"
She put the phone into her bag, and got out her things, like her pencil and paintbrush. She painted a picture of a bear without its skin.
Miss Maple was not impressed. "Bears are brown," she said, "not red."
Amy ignored her, and painted in her Princess. She wore pink and peach.
"She needs a top," said Miss Maple, trying not to laugh. Amy painted one in pink dutifully, and painted pink on top of the baby bear for next time.
Amy tried to see the funny side of it, and forced herself to laugh.