M is for…. Mouse

*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*

I’m guessing most of you reading this had a toothfairy come to take your milk teeth from under your pillow when you were growing up (or if you didn’t please tell me what creature you had!). In France, we have a little mouse (La P’tite Souris).

Now the problem with La P’tite Souris is that unlike the toothfairy, she doesn’t have wings. Which presented me with quite the conundrum when I lost my first milk tooth. You see, my bed had legs (hence space for goblins to hid beneath it), and for a little mouse, it really was quite high up. I was VERY concerned that La P’tite Souris might not be able to make the climb.

My bed was wrought iron too, so the legs were smooth and there was nothing she could hold on to with her paws to help her climb. I was really very worried.

Thankfully my parents came to the rescue, and we made stairs out of Duplo (really big lego for younger children). The stairs would allow La P’tite Souris to get all the way into my bed safely without any risk that she might fall and hurt herself. On top of that, just to be safe, I slept with my head directly on the mattress so that she wouldn’t have any issue in getting my tooth. My head was pretty big compared to a mouse after all – what if I rolled over in my sleep and squashed her while she was retrieving my tooth?

You’ll be glad to know it all went according to plan: when I woke up there was a comic book under my pillow – it was Yakari, a comic book about a young native American boy and his pony Petit Tonnerre (Little Thunder). I was thrilled.

For my second tooth, I was faced with another conundrum. I lost it at school, and then I actually lost it, despite wrapping it in a tissue and putting it in my pocket. So I came home in tears with a new hole in my mouth and no tooth for La P’tite Souris to take.

My parents solved the problem again, by suggesting I could write her a letter to explain what had happened. Which I did, in extensive detail, and with a grovelling apology for having lost my tooth and suggesting she look into my mouth as I slept to check that I had in fact lost a tooth. La P’tite Souris was very gracious and understanding: she left me another Yakari comic, despite the fact that I didn’t have a tooth to give her. She took my letter though, and I guessed that was a fair enough trade.

Then fast forward to my very last P’tite Souris memroy, for my last tooth. I was a pre-teen by then, although I was already well into teenage pain-in-the-ass-dom. I had stopped believing in La P’tite Souris, so instead of putting my tooth under my pillow, I stood in the kitchen with it in my hand, and demanded my parents give me money for it, since I had outgrown the Yakari comic.  My parents insisted that I put the tooth beneath my pillow as tradition dictates. I rolled my eyes, moaned about them being lame, stomped about the kitchen for a while, etc. (insert usual annoyed teenage behaviour)

And then I forgot to put my tooth under my pillow.

And forgot.

And forgot.

Finally, a few weeks later, I finally put it under my pillow one evening and yelled down at my parents that it was ready. I went to brush my teeth, and Lo! while I had been in the bathroom La P’tite Souris visited. She left me a note, and a single penny. The note said: ‘since you took so long to put your tooth under your pillow it’s now old, and is only worth a penny.’ It was signed with a little mouse drawing.

At the time, I had what is known as an epic sense of humour failure. Looking back I find it hilarious, and very well deserved!!

L is for… Love

*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*

Today’s letter is L for love, or first love to be precise. The subtitle to this story could be Seduction by Pencil Case.

My very first crush was when I was five. His name was Monsieur Charbonel, and he was my teacher. I don’t actually know his first name (teachers don’t really have first names when you’re young, do they?) and I don’t really remember what he looked like, other than he had dark hair. Very handsome dark hair, mind you.

One afternoon, when we were reaching the end of class, I finished my project a bit before everyone else. The class was noisy as everyone talked.

I put all my pencils in my pencil case, I closed my workbook, and I sat quietly with my arms crossed on my desk. This wasn’t completely innocent – I did it to impress Monsieur Charbonel.

And impress him it did.

He told the class to take example on me because I was behaving so well. I did my best not to grin from ear to ear in what was my very first attempt at playing it cool, but inside I was deliriously happy. I was on cloud nine hundred and ninety-nine.

It was my very first little love story.

K is for… Kindling

*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*

In our house in London, there were two rooms right at the top of the house, almost under the eaves. One was a normal room, one was not.

The not normal room had yellow walls – but that wasn’t what made it special. What made its special was the huge panel that took up almost a whole wall. If you pushed it until it clicked, it swung down until it was parallel to the floor at knee height, and on it was the most beautiful and intricate model train track you have ever seen.

Tiny green pine trees, train tracks that curved, went up and down hills, rocks, stations, clusters of houses that formed villages…Even tiny switches to move the trains from one set of tracks to the other. A compartment had been built into the wall to accommodate it all when the panel was closed.

After we discovered the model train, my brothers and I spent a while playing with it. We moved the trains along the tracks, making all the right noises, we moved wagons from one miniature engine to another, and we even engineered a train crash (sound effects provided by my youngest brother). When it was time for lunch, my parents picked up the edge of the panel and swung the model train track back into its secret compartment, so that the room was once more empty. There was no other furniture.

I came back later, on my own, creeping up the stairs so no one would hear me. I wanted to look at the train alone. I had to stand on tiptoe to reach high enough to open the panel, but it was heavier than I’d expected, and I fumbled my grip so that it fell open, smacking into position.

“Careful with that!” said a voice like a crinkly paper bag.

I spun around to find an old man standing behind me. He was hunched, his head poking out from between his shoulders like a turtle’s head out of its shell. He wore a creased black suit.

“You have to be careful,” he said again in his crackling voice. “That took me ten years to build. It’s delicate. And tell that brother of yours to be more careful with my engines when he does a train crash.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t think we damaged anything, though.”

“Hmm…” He bent over the model and examined it so closely his nose almost touched one of the pine trees. He let out a low rattle. “Raaahh – see there, you’ve chipped the pain a little bit. See, come here. Look.”

I looked where he pointed and as I leaned towards him, I realised that he didn’t smell of moth balls or of that odd, antiseptic smell old people sometimes have. He didn’t smell of anything.

The tree he was pointing at had a little white chip on one side where the paint had come off.

“Maybe it’s like a little bit of snow,” I said. “Maybe winter is coming, and the trains are bringing food to the villages before the snow makes it impossible to travel.”

“Hmm. Alright, I guess that will work. I’ll let you off this once, but you have to look after my model, you hear me? It’s precious. It needs care, gentle care. My sons didn’t know how to care for it. Young people these days. I tried and I tried to show them but they never listened. Worse, they wanted to tear it down.  Can you believe it? Tear it down! Hack it up like it was nothing more than kindling!” The old man’s voice caught in his throat and he fell silent. He patted one of the engines as if it was a cat. “Kindling,” he repeated to himself.

“Who are your sons?” I asked with a frown. Were there more people in the house we didn’t know about?

“Oh they’ve left now. They sold the place a while ago. That’s the one benefit of being dead, you know. It’s much easier to be persuasive.”

I nodded, not entirely sure what he was referring to, and entirely sure I didn’t want to find out.

“You seem like a nice family,” he added. “You seem like a family that might look after things.”

“Celine! A table!” called my mother from downstairs. (This is, by the way, the french for dinner time, although it also works for lunch.)

“I have to go,” I told the man. “It’s dinner time.”

I went to push the panel back into its compartment, when he grabbed my wrist. His touch was cold, like autumn mist, and all I felt was a slight pressure where his hand was.

“Don’t let them turn my masterpiece into kindling,” he said urgently.

“Who?”

“Your parents. Don’t let them tear it down.”

“I don’t know if I can tell them what to do. I’m only a kid.”

“Of course you can. Play with the train. If you play with it, they’ll leave it alone. But you have to be gentle with it.” He let go of my wrist and ran his hand over a cluster of house. I wondered if he could even feel anything beneath his fingers. “Tell your brothers to be careful with it too,” he added.

“Celine!!” called my mother.

“I really have to go,” I said, “or I’ll get in trouble. I’ll put the train away now, but we’ll come back and play with it later. Or maybe tomorrow.”

I picked up the edge of the panel, and the man stepped back, his eyes following the model as I pushed it back into its compartment. Once I had finished, I turned around to tell him again that I’d be back later, but he was gone.

“Hello?” The room was empty. I stepped out into the corridor. “Hello? Mister?”

My mother called for me to come down again and I hurried downstairs. As I ran down the steps I wondered if I should tell my parents that we had a ghost in the house.

***

This story is partly true: we did move into a house that had a large model train built into a wall. It was awesome. I never came across the ghost who had made it though, if there even was one.

A lightening quick non A to Z update

First – an apology. As most of you will have noticed (or maybe not, maybe I managed to slink past unnoticed) I’ve been a bit slow these last few days with replying to comments and visiting other A to Zers’ blogs. I actually just got back from an awesome holiday in California – the latter part was the drive from San Fran to LA , which means we were out and about without wifi for pretty much the whole time so I just couldn’t get online. And if I’m entirely honest, I also wanted to make the most of our time in California rather than spend time on my computer. Still, I know it’s poor form not to be sociable during A to Z, so I do apologise for being slack.

I am back now and I’m going to catch up with everyone’s blogs properly. Hope you’ve all been having fun with A to Z so far, I know I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve come up with for the letters so far.

Oh and also, during said holiday I turned thirty (heaven help me, I’m now in my thirties!!). So far thirty has proven to be a good age, let’s see if it continues.

J is for… Jealousy

*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*

Hell hath no fury like that of a donkey scorned.

Since my grandparents’ garden was rather large, they had a few sheep to keep the grass at a decent level. They also had a donkey, because, why not?

This donkey was a female called Mibée; and she adored Bon-Papa, my grandfather. If he sat in the living room, she’d be standing outside the living room window, watching him read. If he moved to his study, she trotted around the house until she could gaze at him adoringly through that window.

We never quite understood why Mibée was so fascinated with him. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Bon-Papa is a very charming man, but nobody expected said charm to extend to donkeys. Nonetheless, it did.

Overall Mibée led a pretty happy life: she had all the grass she could eat, sheep to look at contemptuously, and a man she adored to follow around. There was, of course, a few minor inconveniences, such as the occasional tug of war as my parents, having plopped me and my brother on her back, valiantly tried to convince her to move forward (I think the record was about ten meters), but that never bothered her much. She would simply wait until my parents got tired or too frustrated to continue, before wandering away to stare once more at Bon-Papa.

There was, however, one blight in her life, one cloud on her horizon, one thorn at her side.

Another woman.

Manou, my grandmother.

Sadly for Mibée the intensity of her affections for Bon-Papa weren’t quite reciprocated, and she found herself usurped at every turn by this other woman. When she tried to enter the house to follow and gaze at Bon-Papa more closely, there was Manou, ready to kick her back out into the garden. This did not sit well with her, oh not at all.

Being a donkey of initiative, she took matters into her own hooves to make it clear that enough was enough already, Manou had to leave and let her and Bon-Papa get on with their lives.

Mibée began to pee strictly, and only, outside the kitchen windows — said kitchen in which Manou spent a lot of time, and said windows which were open year round on account of the mild weather and fresh air. If you haven’t ever smelt it, let me tell you that donkey urine doesn’t smell like roses. Or geraniums for that matter. Or any kind of flower. It is distinctly unpleasant.

Manou wasn’t happy (we thought it was hilariously gross, but I can now appreciate that having a donkey privy outside your kitchen window is far from ideal). Still she stayed and continued thwarting Mibée.

There was nothing for it, Mibée had to up the ante.

The kitchen had a door that led onto the terrace (this is the door we would go through carrying our bowls of chocolat chaud for the petit déjeuner.) Said door had a door handle that, to the giant ears of a donkey, was about Q-tip in size. Mibée decided to use it as such. Every other day she would leave a….shall we say, ‘waxy’ surprise for Manou to find on trying to enter the kitchen from the garden. Mibee only did this to the kitchen door handle, the rest of the house remained earwax-free.

You have to give it to Mibée — she really did try. Sadly for her, the intolerable love triangle continued until her death — Manou remained, and Mibée remained relegated to the garden. It was one of those great frustrated love stories, to rival that of the of the Duchess of Devonshire.

Surprisingly, it has not been the subject of a lengthy book or film, unlike the Duchess of Devonshire’s unfortunate marital circumstances. I’m sure that, had she still been alive, Mibée would have had something to say to the publishing houses who failed to commission a book about her tragic story. She’d probably have peed outside their office door to let them know her discontent.

 ***

This story is, by the way, completely true.

I is for… Ils parlent Francais comme nous

*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*

First, a bit of context: for those of you who don’t know, my family are French (as, obviously, am I), but we lived in England. The extended family however was and still is in France. So my siblings and I grew up grew up speaking French at home but English to anyone who wasn’t our family. When this story takes place, my little sister was still young enough never to have been out and about in France (or at least if she had been, she didn’t remember / couldn’t speak.)

Being the eldest, every summer when we went to stay with our grandparents, I organised various means for us to make a few francs. This was nothing groundbreaking: we’d make magazines by drawing and writing on two sheets of A4 that we bound together, or we’d make necklaces out of twine and dead, sun bleached snail shells found in the garden. (It is, by the way, a testament to grandparental love that my grandmother was happy to pay for dead snail shells from her own garden year after year). So on the day of our tale, my sister was recently flush with a couple of francs, and she was eager to go play the big spender at the village sweet shop.

Being the kindly big sister that I am, I took her along. The walk over was mainly over little used roads, so we didn’t come across anyone else. In fact, it wasn’t until we had gone into the shop, and selected our respective sweets, and lined up to queue for the till, that we heard other people speaking French.

My sister’s mouth opened in an ‘o’ of shock. She grabbed my sleeve and exclaimed very loudly (and in perfect French) “Celine! Ils parlent Français comme nous!!” (Celine, they speak French like us) to the surprise and confusion of everyone else in the shop.

It turned out that until that point, she had believed French to be a special language only spoken by members of our family, as if we were some secret society, while the rest of the world spoke English. It took the whole walk home (and then some) to explain that, sadly, that was not the case.

H is for… Heartless

*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*

In the South of France there are a lot of hills. To make the land constructible and farmable, these hills are stepped, and the soil and vegetation is kept in place by walls of dry white stones. So if you imagine an enormous step, the top is grass, the side is white stone. That’s what the South of France looks like, or at least that’s what it was like near my grandparents’ place.

Of course my cousin and I climbed the walls, and the taller the better. One of the best and tallest walls was at the edge of the garden, next to my grandparents’ neighbours who were called Dalmasso — Mr et Mme Dalmasso. To this day I don’t know their first names.

They had a little house, vegetables in hothouses, rabbits in hutches and chickens scratching about.

Sometimes Mme Dalmasso would call us over and give us a few things to bring back to our grandparents (green beans, tomatoes, onions – although I mainly remember green beans). My grandparents’ garden was surrounded by a a meter tall fence, but it was at the edge of a step so that beneath the fence was a stone wall. To take the vegetables we had to lean as far as we could over the fence, and Mme Dalmasso would reach up and give us the green beans wrapped in newspaper.

Mme Dalmasso was, I’m sure, perfectly nice. But she was an older woman that we didn’t know (our grandparents did though), and she had long grey hair and a white and red gingham apron, so we were a bit weary of her. We said our please and thank yous, and took what she gave us and scampered away, waiting until she was out of sight to return to our climbing wall.

One year there was a fire. I didn’t know a thing about it until we arrived the following summer, my cousin and I running to the tallest wall, only to find that beyond the fence, instead of the tidy little house, stood a charred ruin. The hutches were open and empty, the glass of the hothouses was smashed, the chickens had disappeared. Of Mr et Mme Dalmasso there was no sign (I later found out as an adult that they had moved elsewhere after the fire. They had escaped unscathed.)

We were both a bit shocked at first, but after a while, when it became clear that the house and garden were empty and no adults were around, we grew a bit bolder and hatched a plan to go explore the ruined house. The plan wasn’t much of a plan: we decided to climb over the fence, down the dry stone wall, to the Dalmasso house. And so we did.

I remember the thrill as we climbed the fence. Back then nothing was more exciting than exploring somewhere new, and a charred ruin of a house was very worthy of exploration. The roof had completely caved, only a few tiles remaining in places. Blackened beams stuck out towards the sky. The floor was littered with bricks and tiles and rubble, but beneath all that were untold treasures: here and there bits of smashed plates, a scorched scrap of cushion, a few pages of a book. It never occurred to us that these were the remnants of two people’s lives. We never gave thought to the fact that the Dalmassos had no doubt lost everything in a puff of black smoke, like a bad magic trick.

We rooted around in the ruin, delighted, calling each other to come look at whatever we had found. We squatted and lifted bits of charred furniture to find a discarded fork, pointing in awe at the remains of a drawer. We peered into the broken hothouses and poked about the rabbit hutches. They still smelt of straw and of rabbit. We stuck our heads into each one, making funny noises and giggling.

We didn’t take anything, we didn’t break anything. We looked, we explored. The exploration was a joy in and of itself, and what a joy it was.

When we were done, we climbed back up to my grandparents’ garden, and that was that.

All told, we were really pleased with our afternoon and with ourselves for being so adventurous. If someone had honestly asked us at the time, I think we would have said that yes, we were very glad the house had burned down because it was very interesting now. Mme Dalmasso and her grey hair and her gingham apron was all but forgotten — a year is such a long time at that young age, and the thrill of exploration can do funny things to a child’s memory.

Now that I’m fully grown, I feel a little guilty about how heartless we were back then…

 

G is for… Goblins

*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*

Every child had a monster under the bed. Mine was a goblin. Although to be precise, I didn’t just have one monster — I had three.

The first was the one under the bed.

Getting into bed was a real challenge. You see, I couldn’t simply walk up to the bed and climb in — oh no. Then the goblin would have snatched my ankle and dragged me under the bed, which would have turned out not to have been under-the-bed at all, but whatever dank, nightmare world goblins come from.

To get into bed I had to get as close to it as I could while remaining far away enough to be beyond the goblin’s sight and grasp (this goblin was very short sighted). Then I jumped into bed — BUT landed as softly as I possibly could because if I did a big thump, the goblin would feel it and would know that I was in bed. This meant that most nights I leapt into bed much like a gazelle might (I suspect I was more graceful in my mind than in reality — but let’s face it, in the going to bed to avoid the goblin scenario, only imagination counts.)

Then once on the bed, I had to fax myself between the sheets, disturbing them as little as possible, and keeping myself as flat as possible. This was for goblin number two who lived in the tree outside my window. If I curled into a ball or made any kind of lump in the bed, he would see and open the window to come get me. So I would fax myself between the sheets and laid very straight, and very still so that the bed would seem empty (I know what you’re thinking, I would have been as visible as the nose in the middle of a face, but rationality really wasn’t playing a huge role at the time).

Once I’d evaded the first and second goblins, there was the third. He was the worst. He didn’t actually try to get me, oh no. Once he could see that I was in bed, he would crawl out from his hiding place and sidle over to the radiator by my door. My door was always open, letting in a puddle of yellow light from the corridor. He never went into the light though — goblins only exist in the shadows.

He would then squat next to the radiator. I knew he was there every time, even though I couldn’t see him if I looked at him. The third goblin could only be seen out of the corner of my eye, never by looking directly at him. If I did he would vanish into the shadows, only coming back out once I looked away.

The goblin would take out a tiny mallet, like the kind used with a xylophone, and he would bang against the radiator: clang-clang-clang-clang… It would get quicker and quicker, and then it would stop for a bit. Then it would pick up again, slow at first then quicker, quicker… There was no point to this, no aim, other than to scare me.

So every night I laid very light so that the goblin beneath my bed wouldn’t feel me, and very flat so that the goblin at the window wouldn’t see me, and I closed my eyes and made up stories so that the goblin at the radiator wouldn’t scare me.

F is for… Funfair

*My theme for this A to Z is Childhood stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are entirely fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger*

A funfair set up on the green near our house one day, all gawdy lights and madly spinning rides. Of course, we went. I had never been to a funfair before.

The air was sweet, smelling of popcorn and candied almonds and cut grass from the green — although nothing smelled as sweet as the candyfloss I held, the first I’d ever had. It was pink, bigger than my head, and I decided there and then that candyfloss was the finest invention of all mankind (except, of course, for Petit Déjeuner.)

I left my parents and wandered around, happily sinking as much of my face as I could into that pink cloud of sugar. Around me people fired rifles at tin cans, threw balls at plastic bottles, aimed horseshoes at cones. A man juggled flaming batons to the delight of the crowd assembled around him.

Behind the dodgems, I spotted a pretty wooden caravan painted with a pattern of flowers. As I got closer I could see that the paint was chipped and faded by the sun (I know what you’re thinking but it’s true. Even the UK sun can bleach colours if given years and years to work with.)

Above the bead curtain that served as a door was a sign that read ‘Special deal today only: £3.99’. In my pocket I had a crisp £5 note, so whatever it was, I could afford it. Intrigued, I climbed up the three steps to the caravan door, pushed the beads aside, and went in.

It was gloomy and looked how I imagined a mouse’s nest would look if that mouse had turned human. A mess of clothes, scarves, bits of fabric, and strings of coloured beads sprouted from open trunks, cascading onto the floor. More beads and fabric hung from the ceiling and the walls, sharing the space with drying herbs.

The caravan smelled of old cigarettes and patchouli.

“Ah, a customer!”

The woman who had spoken was sat in one of two chairs in the only space that wasn’t overrun with beads and fabric. Her hair was long and grey, her face was heavily lined, and a cigarette with a long trail of ash drooped from her lips. She took a drag and pinched the cigarette between thumb and index finger. The ash broke off and scattered over her ankle-length skirt.

“I saw you had a special deal,” I said, trying not to stare at the ring through her right nostril. “What’s it for?”

“Sit, sit,” she said, breathing out a cloud of smoke. She gestured to the chair opposite her. A vague pattern was visible beneath the patina of grime and ash, but whatever colour it had once been was lost to the years, and the chair was now the colour of dust.

I sat and she leaned towards me with a conspirational air.

“I can cure you,” she said.

“Of what?”

“Whatever you want. And not just a temporary cure, no. I do good business. I’d cure you for life. You want to be cured of disease, of ageing? I can do that.” She sat back in her chair, looking pleased with herself. “And for £3.99, it doesn’t get better than that. Today only mind you, so no thinking about it and coming back tomorrow.”

I considered her offer. £3.99 was a lot of money after all, and if I spent it on a cure, that would only leave me a pound and a penny to buy lemon sherbets and sour worms.

“Well I’m not old and I’m not sick,” I said aloud. I’d had a cold, but that was a couple of months ago and I’d already cured myself.

“Fine. I can cure you of failure. I can cure you of bad luck.”

I shook my head. I had candyfloss in my hand and £5 in my pocket: clearly I was both lucky and successful.

“You’re a tricky one,” said the woman. “What about jealousy or heartache? I can cure you of bad grades or stupidity. I can cure you of arguments and problems with your family. I can cure you of bad friends and bad relationships. I can cure your looks, I can make you a future model.”

“I’m not sure my looks need curing,” I said, a little hesitantly.

“Well, you’re no Cindy Crawford,” she replied, squinting at me through the smoke.

I wasn’t sure who Cindy Crawford was — someone prettier than me, I guessed — but I didn’t like the idea of a new face. “No, I think I’m good.”

The woman threw herself back against the chair. “Fine. Fine. You drive a hard bargain. Ok then, I’ll cure you of whatever you want, just tell me what it is.”

I considered this, but all I could think about was the candyfloss in my hand and the sunshine outside.

“Nothing, I guess,” I said.

“You must want something cured. Everybody wants something. And for such a good price too.” She considered me with calculating eyes, scratching the hollow of one cheek with a dirty fingernail. “Money,” she said. “I can cure you of lack of money. I can cure you of poverty and make you rich.”

“I’m not poor,” I replied, thinking of my crisp five pound note. I took a mouthful of candyfloss and it dissolved on my tongue.

“I can cure you of greed,” she said, brightening. “I can cure you of your sweet tooth.”

“What?”

“Yes, I can cure you of your sweet tooth,” she said, eyes gleaming. “I can make it so you never crave candyfloss again. Or sugar or cake. No fillings for you, no problems with your teeth. No diabetes, no liver troubles, no cholesterol, no obesity. A lifetime of health troubles avoided just like that.” She snapped her fingers. “And all for the bargain price of £3.99. What do you say?”

I stood up.

“You are not taking my candyfloss away,” I said stiffly. “Thank you very much.”

“You should think of the future. I can make such a difference to your life.”

“I am thinking of the future, and it will be far, far better if there is candyfloss in it. Good day.” I turned to leave.

“Ok come back little girl, I’ll figure out what to cure you off.”

I ignored her and headed out the caravan, blinking as I stepped into the sunshine. The woman shouted something else after me, but I didn’t catch what it was. I didn’t care anyway, not if she wanted to take my candyfloss away and charge me a whole £3.99 for the privilege.

I slipped into the crowd, my anger quickly replaced with happiness as I sank my face once more into my pink sugar cloud.

***

Disclaimer: I should say that this story is entirely fictional. I’ve never wandered a funfair alone as a child, or met a woman like that, and happily I have no fillings, I’m not obese, and I have none of the health problems the women listed, although I do still love candyfloss.

D is for… the Dark

*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*

There are different kinds of dark. Some darks are friendly, some are even nice. Some are a little scary.

Then, there was the Dark from above the front door of the house I grew up in. We lived in an old Victorian house, and the door had glass panels in its top part. Above the door was a wide rectangle of glass that spanned the whole width of the entrance hall.

The Dark that lived behind the glass seemed innocent enough when I was downstairs with the entire family; but it was a devious Dark.

After everyone had gone to bed, I realised that I had left my book downstairs. Already in my pyjamas, I headed down, glancing nervously at the Dark. It let me go, sweet as you like, staying behind the glass partition. It didn’t even look at me. Relieved, I retrieved my book from the chair I’d left it on, and returned to the hallway.

The stairs were immediately opposite the front door, so that to go from the ground floor to the first floor I had to pass right in front of the door. Right in front of the Dark.

Seeing me return with my book, the Dark sprang to life. It turned and looked right at me, smiling a smile full of darkness. It waited for me to go up the stairs. You see, the Dark likes to strike when you have your back to it. When you can’t see it.

Of course the hallway lights were on, but that made no difference. Real Dark, devious Dark doesn’t care about light. It can strike even if all the lights of the house are on.

I hesitated, clutching my book closer to me, looking at the Dark behind the glass. It looked back. “Go on,” it dared me.

I gripped my book as hard as I could. I took a deep breath. Then, as suddenly as I could manage (to catch the Dark off guard), I sprinted for the stairs, grasped the end of the banister with one hand and swung myself onto the steps so that I stayed as far from the door as possible. The Dark lunged after me. I felt it on the back of my neck as I ran up the stairs, taking them two by two.

I tripped. My knee smacked painfully into the edge of a step, but even that didn’t stop me. I picked myself up and sprinted on, all the way up until I turned the corner and was in the safety of the first floor. I stopped then, out of breath, heart hammering.

The Dark coiled back to its place behind the glass, grumbling to itself. I was safe. For now.

“Tomorrow night I won’t forget my book,” I promised myself.

But the Dark is tricksy. Every night it found ways to make me come back down. Every night it chased me up the stairs, its fingers clutching at my pyjamas.