If the power didn't come back soon, Ella worried that she would be stuck out here forever. It wasn’t because she was worried they wouldn’t be able to get back into the house, it was that they wouldn’t want to. With most families, she thought, the problem would be that they would hate being stuck in a sorry excuse for a garden, with a tent that was bought ten years ago and has never been used. But with Ella’s…
Ella surveyed her family. Mum had her bucket hat on, the one with penguins plastered all over it, the one she said she was saving for a proper holiday somewhere with sun and exotic diseases. Over by the apple tree, Dad was singing merrily to Jack while Jack clapped his pudgy little hands. Andrew was lighting a fire—maybe Ella should take those matches away—well, he only set his shoe on fire. All in all, it was a happy picture with everyone having the time of their life. Everyone apart from Ella. She was moping by the tent, scowling beneath her bushy brows. The wind blew a mighty gust rattling the tent poles. It would probably collapse in the middle of the night. Her family would enjoy that too, Ella thought sourly.
Without warning, Jack leapt from the ground and ran headfirst into the brick wall. Mum gasped, her hands clasped around her mouth. But there wasn’t a wail or a cry coming from Jack. He turned around and grinned. There was a gap in his front teeth and he unfolded his hand to reveal a bloody tooth.
All of the stress melted off of Mum’s body.
“Well done, Jack,” Mum said. Ella tried not to roll her eyes. Mum was only encouraging Jack to act like an idiot again.
“Do you think the tooth fairy will come?” Jack asked, well, lisped.
Mum hesitated, her eyes glancing back at the house. There was a purse in there somewhere, trapped in a maze of darkness. Mum opened her mouth and closed it. Opened and closed.
“The tooth fairy can’t come tonight,” Ella said, unable to stand another moment of her mum opening and closing her mouth. “See, she doesn’t know we’ve moved out here tonight. And you don’t even have a pillow to put your tooth under. But I’m sure tomorrow, you can put it under your pillow and she’ll give you your money.”
Jack thought about it for a moment and nodded. “That makes sense.”
Jack ran off again, this time managing to avoid running face first into objects.
Mum gave her a grateful look. “That was nice of you.”
Ella scoffed. She had only done it so that she could make sure they would go back into the house tomorrow. That was the only reason. To save herself from being stuck out here forever. Anyways, the Tooth Fairy was stupid. And it wasn’t like Ella ever got any money from the Tooth Fairy when she was Jack’s age. Back then, it was all tight looks and empty purses.
Squealing in delight, Andrew distracted Ella from her sulking. There was a tug on the bottom of her plait. Mum shuffled up towards Ella.
“How are you, Ellie Bellie?” Mum said. Ella hated that name.
"Course I am," Ella said. Mum smiled, that smile that said she didn't believe a word from Ella's mouth. The joke was on Mum anyways. There was big grass stain all over Mum's jeans.
"If you want, you can cuddle up to me tonight."
"Why would I want that?" Ella said, her nose turned up in the air.
Mum nudged her. "Cause you're afraid of the dark. And we're not going to be able to leave the light on in case it attracts bugs."
A shiver ran down Ella's spine but that was only because it was starting to get cold. Ella wasn't afraid of the dark. She just liked having her night lamp on so that she wouldn't trip over anything when she went to the toilet in the middle of the night.
"I'm not a baby, anymore," Ella said. Mum's eyes went all soft and hazy.
"I know. You're growing up so quick. It seems like only yesterday you were Jack's age, running around and doing silly things."
"I never did silly things. And I never believed in anything as stupid as the tooth fairy. Never got any money for it, either."
The smile dropped from Mum's face and was replaced by guilt. ella wished that you could snatch words back from the air.
"Ella, I'm sorry. You know, it was difficult for us back then. I'm sorry you didn't get to have the kind of childhood Jack and Andrew are getting."
Ella remembered how it was back then. Back then, it was only their house that didn't have power, not the whole street's, and it wasn't because of a power cut, but because of the same look on her parent's face as they told her she couldn't go on the school trip. The look that said, sorry Ella, it's not your fault you don't get to do anything fun. Jack and Andrew get to have all your fun things instead.
"It's okay," Ella said. "I understand."
Mum gave her a look but didn't say anything else. It was okay. There wasn't anything else to be said.
By the time the sun had crawled to the bottom of the sky, everyone was tucked up into their sleeping bags. Dad was by the tent flap in case of monsters in the night. Ella was too big for all that but it reassured Jack and Andrew.
In the middle of the tent, the lamp flickered. They would switch it off in a minute, and they'd be submerged in darkness. Not that Ella was scared.
"Right," Dad said. "Time for little munchkins to go to sleep."
And with no warning, he switched the light off. Ella's fingers tightened around the top of her sleeping bag. Out here, it was creepy with trees rustling and whispering to each other. There could be anything out here. Ella had read something about a family that was eaten by bears and Ella didn't think she was fast enough to outrun a bear and--
A hand came down on Ella's shoulder. She burrowed deep into her sleeping bag, letting out a muffled squeak.
"Ella," the voice whispered. It was her Mum. "Sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you."
Ella relaxed a little but she was still squashed up into her sleeping bag. "I wasn't scared."
"I thought I could sleep here next to you. See, I'm afraid of the dark too."
"Really?" Ella said.
"Yup. But I don't keep a bedside light on because I have your dad to keep me safe. And tonight, we can keep each other safe," Mum said.
Ella popped her head out of the sleeping bag. For her mum's sake, she supposed they could sleep next to each other.
With Mum so close, Ella could hear her breathing. It was pretty comforting, actually. And it was making Ella feel very...very...sleepy.
Ella woke to the sunlight falling into the tent. As she lifted herself up, she felt something under her sleeping bag. Her hand rummaged around in the dirt until it hit something. It was metal. Ella picked it up. It was a coin. She frowned. Then she looked up to see Mum winking at her with her purse in hand.
The tooth fairy ended up coming after all. She smiled and slipped the coin into her pocket. Overall, the night hadn't been too bad. You could even say it was fun, though, Ella would never admit it to anyone.
This didn't mean Ella wasn't excited to get back into her house. But, maybe, just maybe, tonight she would switch her bedside lamp off. After all, she didn't want to accidentally blind the tooth fairy.
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