The opening of Who Pulled Her Out? the new book from Jane Jago which is now available for pre-order.
It was a beautiful May morning, but my life was currently being rendered hideous by my five-year-old twins throwing simultaneous epic tantrums. I wasn’t even sure what the screaming was about. I had been feeding the dogs when Ali started to whine, and I turned around just in time to see Roz slap her sister quite hard. Then they both began to scream. The dogs looked at me with deeply reproachful eyes, so I put their food out on the back patio. They went in evident relief, which only left me with two red-faced and hysterical children to deal with. I looked at them for a moment then came to a decision.
I filled a large jug with icy cold water. I was just lifting it out of the sink, when a masculine hand came over my shoulder.
My beloved, and normally wholly even-tempered, husband walked quietly over to where two of the loves of his life were screaming like demented banshees. He poured the water over their blonde heads. Miraculously the screaming stopped. Ben waited a beat then spoke very quietly.
“People who behave as badly as that the moment their Daddy’s back is turned should be very grateful he isn’t a spanking sort of a man.”
Then he turned on his heel and left.
The twins sat as if turned to stone and I let the enormity of what had just happened sink in.
It was Ali who found her voice first.
“Is Daddy very cross?” she breathed.
“Sounds like it to me,” I said briskly. “Now is somebody going to tell me what all that was about?”
But of course they couldn’t. It had come over them and they could no more explain than they could fly. They just shook their heads and looked at me with round eyes. Roz even went so far as to stick her thumb in her mouth, even thought she hadn’t sucked it for months. I tried to keep my own expression sober as I looked at their woebegone faces, but I wasn’t proof against the pleading in those big eyes. I held out my arms and scooped the two wet little girls into a hug.
“We’re sorry Mummy.”
“Never mind sweethearts. Let’s get you dry and calm.”
Half an hour later, we were at the breakfast table and the twins were eating porridge. The dogs were in their baskets and peace and quiet reigned. Ben walked back into the room on soft feet and two spoons stopped moving in two bowls. He crouched down between them.
“You two all better now?”
They nodded and he put an arm around each.
“You still cross, Daddy?” Roz quavered.
Ben smiled and kissed each rosy cheek.
“No I’m not cross. Don’t worry my loves. I know you didn’t mean to be naughty.”
Ali clutched his tee shirt in one small hand.
“We didn’t. We wasn’t meaning to be bad, but once we started we couldn’t stop.”
“I don’t expect you could. But there’s a lesson for you both. Don’t be silly. Because it is very hard to stop once you start.”
The twins studied his face carefully and he winked at them. They hurled themselves on his chest and he stood up with one little girl on each arm.
“Have you said sorry to Mummy.”
“Then let’s forget all about it. You two finish your breakfasts.”
He put them back in their chairs and they picked up their spoons. At a quirk of his eyebrows I got up and walked into his embrace. As I leaned in he bent and whispered in my ear.
“Fancy a day off? We can keep the brats out of school and take them for a good walk in the forest.”
“Yeah. I was going to suggest keeping them home anyway. There’s something not right about them. Even before the screaming fit I was concerned. They are unusually clingy, and when I went to wake them this morning Roz was in Ali’s bed.”
“I thought it was just me being fussy Daddy.” He watched the two blonde heads with a worried frown.
I looked out of the open door and across the garden to the flat that was occupied by our chef and good friend, Neil, his wife Stella and their two daughters Ellen and Sian. If I ever needed Stella’s input on parenting it was now. As I opened my mouth to say who knew what my phone demanded my attention by screaming ‘bugger me boy’ in the voice of a parrot. The twins cracked up, covering their laughing mouths with their hands. I could feel the tension oozing out of them so I forbore to comment on my latest ring tone, merely picking up the call. It was Stella.
“Joss,” she said without preamble, “there’s something going on at school you need to deal with. Sian has been obviously worried, if tight-lipped, for a few days. I thought she had been naughty at school but it ain’t the case. I just wormed the problem out of her. You know that your girls have a new teacher, but what I’m sure you don’t know is that she has taken them in dislike. Sian says she punishes them all the time. Now, it seems, they aren’t even allowed to sit together in the dining room. Sian says it’s a crock of shit, and I reckon she is right enough so that I haven’t even said anything about her language.”
“Thanks Star. Tell Sian not to worry. Me and Benny are on the case. The twins can have a few days off while we get it sorted.”
“Good thinking. I’m keeping Sian home today, too, she’s right out of sorts.”
She ended the call and I looked at the phone with some dislike.
“Girls, can you eat your breakfasts quietly while I have a little chat with Daddy?”
“We’ve finished our porridge, Mummy, and isn’t it time for the school bus?”
I found myself floundering, but Ben rescued me smoothly. “You could go on the bus, or you could have a sneaky day off with Mummy and me.”
The twins beamed at him. “Shall we go and take our uniforms off while Mummy talks to you?”
“You do that. Jeans and sweatshirts for a walk in the forest.”
They shot off and Ben looked at me sombrely.
“What is the big worry? You are as pale as a ghost.”
I told him, and then watched as he found and dealt with the white hot rage he felt at the thought his daughters were being victimised.
“What do we do, Joss? What the hell do we do?”
“First we need to find out more about what has been going on. Then we take steps. If it means home schooling Roz and Ali for a year then that’s what we’ll do. First job, though, is a chat with Sian. Can you manage that without letting her see the berserker flare?”
“Have to don’t I?”
“It would be best if you could, because you are much closer to her than am I.”
“Okay. But walk first. Let’s let everyone settle. Meaning me primarily.”