Little Girl Lost

Mummy’s cross. Her lips have gone all tiny the way they do when something’s scratching at her inside. Her face is shiny-red and her popping eyes are full of flames. She’s scary.

The baby, Doe, scrunches in her pram. She’s new. I first saw her last Sunday, God Day, in a box next to Mummy and Daddy’s bed, all purply-red and screamy and lots of dark hair and a small turned-up nose. She was born right there, in their bed, while we were playing with the Vicar’s boys in their huge, scraggly-friendly garden, all fruit and trees and hidey-holes and sandpit.

I am old. Six and a half. Old enough to know about writing my name, which I can do, and volcanoes – which are exciting and remind me of my mummy when she blows lava onto our house from her crater – and numbers, though I cry when I try to add those up, and they disappear into nasty little dens and won’t let me in. I am plenty old enough to be oldest child and responsible and sensible – and to stay and wait with Baby while Mummy goes to the Library to change our books, her books, everyone’s books.

Anyway, the park is lovely. Bury Knowle, it is called – our Library, our surgery and the park we play in after school. There are swings and a big slide – a dangerous, exciting silvery tongue, like a dragon might have, which once threw my friend, Cathy, off (perhaps it didn’t like her taste) and she snapped her elbow and squawked like a kicked chicken and had to have an ambulance and hospital and plaster-of-Paris.


There’s a garden in front of the Library – and, if you jump down, a slope to run up and roll down. More fun than standing here, with little winged beasties eating red lumps onto my legs, and watching the sleeping baby. But, babies can’t walk, can they? Their bodies are like jelly, all wobbly and see-through, and she, the baby, can’t fall her flobbly self out, now can she? That would be silly. She’ll be safe while I just go and tumble, like a sausage, down into the dip…

Lots of sausages! Lots of grass stuck to my knees and arms and shorts and tee-shirt. Lots of things making nests in my hair. Naughty things! I want to keep sausage-rolling, but Mummy will tell me off: She’ll say, ‘Don’t touch the grass. It’ll make you wheezy…’

I wonder if she has got lost in a book, been eaten by the story. I think that can happen, you know. I think words are like living teeth and they can bite you and then lick you into the tube that goes down into the tummy and you’ll never be seen again.

I want to go home. I’m bored and hot and itchy. The baby has woken up. I can hear her screeching and the pram is shaking. Stupid baby. Why do I have to look after her? She’s Mummy’s, not mine.

Perhaps if I walk up to the tennis courts and then turn back, the books will have spat Mummy out and her angry hands will be wrapped round the pram’s handle again, and we can all go back to the house for orange juice and biscuits.

There are sycamore trees. I love that name. It makes me laugh. Sick a More. Like me and Roo when we had the bug and filled buckets. ‘Scusting…’ Daddy would say, but I think it’s funny and horrid and yucky too.

I pretend I am an Indian Chief looking for signs on the ground. I look out for strangers too and am ready to run and hide if men try to talk to me. I follow the trail to the gates, and look back, a bit scared now, because I know the way home but I have been told to wait and it is now almost half-way-there and I can’t go back, not really.

I cry a little bit as I scuff my sandals on the pavement, as I look left and right before crossing the road, as I bang my knuckles against the metal railings, as I count to ten in my head – each number a different colour for comfort and to be my friends, not my enemies like they are at school.

I cry a bit more, and feel the wheezy tight thing in my chest, as I dawdle down the road by the by-pass, hearing the roar of cars driving into Oxford. I know I have been a bad girl.

Mummy has the key to the door, and I can’t reach the bell. I am too small. So I sit on the top step and look at the red patterns on my knees and stroke the material of my shorts and suck my finger and smooth my lip with the next finger along, the way I always do when things are scary.

Mummy-and-the-pram rattle and crackle and creak and boing and bang their way up the path. Doe is yelling again. She wants food. Mummy is erupting, a word I learned last week. Red-hot melty stuff is flowing down from her anger and is going to turn me into a skeleton.

Her mouth is open as wide as a cave, and I am sure there are monsters inside.

She smacks me, hard, on my leg, once, twice, three times. Words fire out at me: Trust and baby and very bad and disobedient and frightened her – and I am afraid that she won’t love me any-more, that she’ll give me away to someone else because I am not good enough.

‘I thought you were LOST!’ she bellows in a train-coming-into-station voice, all fast and noisy and stand-back-if-you-don’t-want-to-be-hurt sort of thing.

And I beg her to forgive me; I tell her how sorry I am. I don’t tell her that I fear she’ll put me in a sack and drown me like a kitten, or sell me to the nosy neighbours two doors away, or send me to Coventry (wherever that may be).

Mummy’s cross. Her lips have gone all tiny the way they do when something’s scratching at her inside. Her face is shiny-red and her popping eyes are full of flames. She’s scary.


6 thoughts on “Little Girl Lost

    1. Thank you. I remember the incident extremely well, even though it happened over half a century ago! Perhaps we keep the perspectives of all our life stages, albeit locked up in some kind of cranial, or subconscious, vault – and certain words activate them with fresh immediacy!

      Liked by 1 person

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