‘I don’t know why I feel like crying, Daddy, I just do.’
Even as I said the words I could feel my eyes getting wet and my lower lip begin to shake. I was feeling sad and I only knew a little bit why, so I didn’t tell my Daddy anything. He would probably ask lots of questions that I didn’t know the answer to, so I just told him I didn’t know. It was easier.
‘It’s okay honey,’ he said. ‘Sometimes people feel like that. You’re only five, and you have a lot of big emotions to deal with.’
‘What’s emotions?’ I asked, hoping I was pronouncing it properly.
‘Feelings,’ my Dad said. ‘Like happy and sad, or scared, or angry. Do you feel sad?’
I paused for a moment, thinking about it. I thought about my Mummy, and how she never wants to talk about Daddy, and how Daddy never wants to talk about her either. That made me sad. I didn’t know if they liked each other, even though I was sure they both loved me. I didn’t really know who to talk to about it.
‘Molly?’ Dad said. ‘Did you hear me? Do you feel sad?’
‘Kind of,’ I said. I didn’t look at my Dad.
‘Why?’ Dad asked.
‘I don’t know!’ I said in an irritated tone. ‘I just do.’
‘Okay,’ my Dad said. ‘You know, you can talk to me about anything. If you figure out what’s making you sad it might help to tell me.’
‘Yeah, I know,’ I said.
‘Okay, Molly,’ Daddy said, and he kept driving the car.
We had been on the road for a long time now. Dad gave me one of those sweeties before we left; the orange flavoured ones that make sure you don’t feel sick in the car. I ate it at Lucy’s house before we left. She had found some at the shops for me because Daddy didn’t know where to find them. Lucy was really excited about today. She was driving the other car, the one with Sophie and her Dad in it. Sophie was Lucy’s neece, and she said that Lucy was my Daddy’s girl friend. I didn’t really know what a girl friend was but I thought it was someone special.
‘Do you know that your Dad and my Auntie Lucy are in love?’ Sophie had asked me once.
‘What does that mean?’ I had asked.
Sophie had just giggled.
‘Is Sean okay?’ my Dad asked me.
I looked over at the car seat beside me. Sean was sleeping. He was almost the same age as me and Sophie, and Lucy was his Mum. I didn’t know who his Daddy was, but sometimes people thought that my Daddy was his Daddy, and sometimes they thought that Lucy was my Mummy too. I didn’t know why. It was silly.
‘Yeah,’ I said to my Dad. ‘He’s just sleeping.’
We passed lots of fields with animals in them. My Dad pointed them out each time. I saw cows, sheep and loads of birds. I loved animals. The cows were the cutest. I saw them eating grass and looking at our car. I wondered what they were thinking about it; if they knew what a car was, and if they could see us inside. I wondered if they wished they were in a car, or if they thought they would be scared to be in one because it goes so fast.
‘Daddy?’ I said as loud as I could; we had our windows open and the noise of the wind combined with the music my Dad had on made it hard to talk.
‘How come everyone’s having two sleeps at the cottage except us?’
My Dad turned his head to look at me briefly with a sad kind of look on his face before he turned round to look at the road again. He reached a hand back and patted my leg a little.
‘I told you,’ he said. ‘Your Mum wants you back tomorrow night.’
‘Could you not ask her if I could stay for longer? Because it’s special?’ I asked.
My Dad had a funny look on his face then. It was a look I hated. I hated it because he did it every time I asked him a question that he didn’t know the answer to. I hated it because I thought it meant he was sad. I hated it because I felt like it was my fault he was sad. He didn’t have to answer the question though; he got interrupted by something else. A big house at the end of a tiny, little road up ahead.
‘Here we are! Wow, it’s really nice, isn’t it?’
My Daddy smiled as he drove the car towards it. When we got closer I saw that Lucy’s car was already there, and I saw Mike standing outside the big house. Mike was Sophie’s Dad. They were all one family; Mike, Sophie, Sean and Lucy. Me and my Dad were a different family, with different last names, but sometimes Sophie said we were all like one big family anyway.
Sophie came running out towards our car when she saw us, smiling and full of energy. She came to my window and jumped up so she could see me.
‘Molly! How cool is this place! There’s a duck pond! And we have our own room! With bunk beds!!’
The others came over to see us too, and my Dad took all of our stuff from the car into the house.
‘I think we’ll have a really nice time here,’ Dad said.
I was tired the next day, because the first night in the cottage was really fun. Me and Sophie stayed up late (our Dads said we could, but then we stayed up even longer than we should have). We played loads of fun games and Sophie kept making me laugh. I had to try really hard not to laugh too loud, because I knew Dad would hear us and he would try to make us go to sleep. Sophie fell asleep first; she let me have the top bunk bed because I wasn’t going to be here the second night anyway, so she could choose whatever bed she wanted. When she said that, I felt a little bit like crying again, but the feeling went away as soon as I started laughing again.
We woke up quite early, even though we were a little bit tired. We got a special breakfast; croissants with chocolate spread and really yummy orange juice. It had bits in it that were even juicier when you chewed them. I loved it.
We saw the ducks and then played a game around the back of the house that was like tennis, but I kept forgetting what it was called.
‘It’s bad-min-ton, Molly,’ Mike was telling me.
‘Badington,’ I tried.
‘Almost,’ my Dad smiled.
We had a round where it was children against grown ups, which was really fun. We would have won if it wasn’t for Lucy being so good at it. My Dad and Mike weren’t very good; they kept missing the ball every time they tried to hit it. Lucy finally had enough and shouted at my Dad one time, but they ended up laughing and then kissed on the lips.
‘Eewwww!!’ Sophie shouted, covering her face with her hands. ‘They just kissed!!’
I didn’t know what was so disgusting about it. My Dad kissed me all the time. Not on the lips though. Me and Lucy were the only people I saw him kiss, and I wondered if he kissed anybody else. I didn’t think he did.
The day was really hot again, even hotter than yesterday. My Dad put sun cream on me and I liked the smell of it. It made my arms and legs go all slidey. We all went out in the car after our lunch and took our swimming stuff with us. There was a river not far away that came into a big bit of water that looked just like an outside swimming pool. There were rocks to the side of it that were good for jumping off. Mike was the first one to do it, and Sean didn’t seem scared of it at all, even though he was smaller than me and Sophie. All of us children were wearing arm bands to help us float in the water, but the grown ups didn’t need any.
I didn’t jump in, but when I put my foot in the water I discovered that it was really, really cold. I drew my foot back quickly and screamed a little bit.
How could it be so cold!?
When Sophie tried it, she thought it was cold too. She screamed loudly, but then she started laughing. She took my hand and said that we should walk in together. I thought it was funny, but it was still hard to get inside the pool because it was so freezing. We eventually got all the way in but by the time we did we were laughing so hard we could hardly speak. Once we were in the water we warmed up and it wasn’t so bad. We stayed in the shallow bit and watched the grown ups jumping off of the big rocks, and trying to stop Sean from following them. He was brave, but still too little to be doing those big jumps.
On the way back to the cottage we stopped at a shop for some ice cream and we ate it outside in the sunshine. The ice cream was really tasty and helped us to cool down in the hot day. By this time a gentle wind was blowing too, and it was nice to feel it on my face.
Once we got back to the cottage later I was feeling really tired. Mostly because I should have slept earlier the night before, but I was just so tired from all the fun we’d been having.
‘Can me and Sophie go and play in the bedroom?’ I asked my Dad.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘But remember we’ll have to get going really soon, okay?’
I had forgotten about that. My heart sank and now I didn’t want to go and play so much, because I knew it would be over soon. I think Mike saw how sad my face must have looked because he said something quietly to my Dad.
‘Would have been nice of her Mum to let her stay with you one extra night for once. Isn’t asking much, is it?’
I looked over at my Dad. He looked really sad.
‘Ssshh!’ Lucy hit Mike in the shoulder, then turned to me. ‘Go and have some fun with Sophie, Molly. We’ll shout on you when it’s time to leave.’
On the drive home, me and Dad were both really quiet. I looked out the window and saw loads of animals. Dad pointed some of them out at first but then didn’t say anything after a while.
I wished we could have stayed at the cottage for one more night. I wondered what Sophie and Sean and Lucy and Mike were doing. I imagined them feeding the ducks again or playing Badmanting. I was a little bit sad thinking about it.
Then I looked at my Daddy and thought that he looked sad too. And I wondered if he was sad thinking about them all back at the cottage, and if he wished he was there too. I wondered if he was angry about it.
‘Daddy?’ I said.
‘Mmm?’ Dad sounded.
‘Are you annoyed at me?’
He looked round briefly. His expression was puzzled.
‘No,’ he said. ‘Of course not. Why would I be annoyed at you?’
‘Because you have to leave the house,’ I said. ‘Because I can’t stay.’
He pulled over to the side of the road when he found somewhere he could stop. He pulled the lever he uses when he’s stopped the car and turned round to face me properly, and put a hand gently on my knee.
‘Don’t be silly,’ he said with a smile. ‘I had a really, really fun time with you and everyone else. You have to go to your Mum's now but you’ll have fun there too, won’t you?’
I didn’t answer the question. I had a million difficult thoughts that were hard to put into words. Of course I would have fun at my Mum's, but I wanted to stay at the house too. I didn’t want to think my Dad was sad about having to take me away. I felt tears coming out of my eyes.
‘Hey,’ Daddy said. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘I don’t know,’ I said.
My Dad ticked my leg gently. ‘It’s okay. It’s really okay.’
We sat for a little while talking about the fun things we had done that day, and I started to feel a little happier again. My Dad smiled talking about the ducks and the water, and all the fun games we played. I still felt a little sad that I had to leave early, but I liked that my Dad was trying to make me feel better.
‘Did you like that ice cream earlier?’ My Dad asked.
‘Yeah,’ I said.
‘Well, next time I’ve got you, why don’t we go and get some more? Then it’ll be like we’re on holiday again.’
‘Yeah,’ I said, and I smiled.
‘Great,’ my Dad said. ‘Let’s get going then.’
He started the car and we drove down the long road. He reached back and patted my leg gently.
‘I love you,’ he said.
‘I love you too.’
I must have fallen asleep not long after, and when I woke up I was at my Mum's house. I didn't feel very sad anymore, and I knew I would be feeling a little happier now, for a while at least.
I hugged my Dad goodbye and he kissed me on the head. I thought about Sophie shouting 'Ewww!' at this again and I started laughing.
'Why are you laughing?' My Dad asked.
'Because I had a good time,' I said.
My mind rested for a little while.