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Bart walked slowly up the driveway of his parent's home. He had always loved this place. This was where he had grown up. This was where he felt most safe.

Bart had been away four years now as he fulfilled one contract after another on oil rigs in the North Sea. His life fell apart when Becky had died in a car accident and all he could think of was to get as far away from everything that reminded him of her and their life they had together.

When Becky had died Bart's mother had stepped in to look after Lilly. Lilly was then only four years old and Bart remembered the sadness in her eyes as they explained that her mummy was not coming back home and that she now had to live with Nan.

Bart realized he had stopped in his tracks on the driveway as all these thoughts of the past came rushing back. The family did not know that he was back in the country and he was pleased that he had made this decision to take back his life and stop wallowing in self pity.

Bart rang the doorbell. They house was quiet within but then he heard footsteps and his mother opened the door. At first she was speechless then her eyes filled with tears. "Your back!" she stepped forward and flung her arms round his neck as he stepped forward to hug her. There were no words needed, just this hug reuniting them.

Mother and son sat in the kitchen, enjoying their coffee and catching up on the last four years but it was Bart's mother doing the chattering, she couldn't stop herself. He had missed his family.

"My goodness, what am I thinking. I have to collect Lilly from school. Let's get going." she grabbed her car keys.

"No, Mum, I'll stay. Don't tell her I'm here," Bart placed his cup in the dishwasher and looked out the window.

The tree house that Bart and his Dad had built looked like it had been recently painted and had a new ladder.

"Give Lilly some reason to go to the tree house this afternoon, I'll be there." he said.

Slowly Bart climbed the ladder and opened the door, he didn't remember it having a door before. The tree house had never looked this good. Huge cushions were scattered everywhere and there were books and jars of crayons in painted wooden boxes. A lantern hung in the middle of the roof and pictures and paintings were pinned to the walls. Even the windows had curtains on a rail and tie backs with neat bows. Bart smiled as he leaned back on one of the cushions. 'The girls have taken over' he thought and again his thoughts went back to the past. He just lay there and savoured the moment.

Bart heard his Mum's car pull up in the drive and the front door banging closed. A lengthy silence passed. 'Did Mum not tel Lilly to come to the tree house or did Lilly maybe not want to come,' he thought. Then he heard a scratching sound on the ladder. The door opened slightly.

"You may only enter this place if you have the secret password!" Bart used a deep voice and the door immediately closed.

"There is someone in my house Nan!" Lilly exclaimed, taking two hurried steps down the ladder.

"Lilly, you will have to investigate. We can't leave anyone out here for the night. It is cold and they might even get hungry. Go Lilly, I'll be here at the bottom of the ladder until you find out who it is," Nan reassured her.

Again the door opened slightly and Bart asked, "Password please."

"Lilly's Lair," Lilly said in a tiny whisper and opened the door a bit more.

"Has the password changed?" Bart laughed opening the door and Lilly peered in.

There was a hush in the air, a hint of recognition in Lilly's eyes and Bart put his hand out to help her into the tree house. "It is a very good new password for this old tree house,Lilly? You used to say you bedroom was Lilly's Lair."

That's when Lilly knew. "Daddy!" her voice grew with excitement, "Daddy, are you coming back to live with us! I've missed you so much and Nan always said you would be back. She said she knew it. I also knew you would be back."

Lilly just kept on and on. Bart thought what an idiot he had been to be so wrapped up in his own misery and how much he had missed out over the last four years.

"Do you think it will be a good idea if you and I stay here for a while and catch up on things." Bart asked Lilly.

This was not the same Lilly he had left behind. She had been just a baby then and here before him was this confident little lady.

"I think that will work!" Lilly took the lead. "Let me tell you about the tree house first Daddy. After I came to live with Nan and Grandpa I was very sad at first. I missed Mummy so much, then one day Grandpa and I were in the bottom of the garden and I asked Grandpa about the tree house. He said it was just old and needed to be broken down and when I asked Nan about it, she said Not over my dead body" Lilly giggled as she used a voice trying to imitate Mum. "That was when we all decided to work on the tree house every weekend. Grandpa and I painted, Nan made curtains and I helped stuff the pillows she sewed and it all took really long, but don't you think it's beautiful?' she smiled up at Bart. Very proud of her accomplishments.

"It was always a good place for me to hang out but now you have made it extra special. It's gorgeous."

"Okay, now it's your turn. What have you been up to?" Bart smiled inwardly at Lilly's conversation with him.

"Well Lilly, just like you, I missed Mummy very much. I just didn't think I could live without her. Everything reminded me of her so I decided that the best thing for me was to work. I found this job, very far away from here where I worked so hard that at night I would fall into bed, completely exhausted. Then I wouldn't think so much of Mummy because it hurt so much. Then as time went on I started thinking more of you, and the more I thought of you the better my heart felt. I could even start remembering Mummy without feeling so sad." Bart looked at Lilly who was now reclining on one of the cushions and a smile was spreading across her face.

"Did I really make you feel better? she asked.

"Sure. I wouldn't have survived the last year if I didn't have you to come back to."

"Nan always said you had never forgotten about us and that you just needed some time to get better." Lilly went on. "She never stopped talking about you, I even know all about your escapades in this tree house. You really got up to a lot of nonsense at times," again her giggle was like music to Bart's ears.

"Dinner is ready - you two!" Mum called from the bottom of the ladder. "Hurry or it will get cold."

Bart and Lilly started toward the door when Lilly asked over her shoulder, "Daddy, are you staying for good this time?"

"You bet Lilly, we have loads to catch up and do. I'm back for good!"

Bart was watching Lilly climb down the ladder. Half way down she stopped and looked up at him. "By the way, what was the old password?" she asked with a mischievous grin.

Bart put his hands over his face as if embarrassed. "Open Sesame!"

Lilly giggled again as she jumped the last few rungs, threw her hands in the air, "Oh no, you could have done better than that!"

July 16, 2020 11:56

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1 comment

Estelle Westley
11:19 Dec 26, 2020

Thanks to all who took the time to read.


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