Coffee Break Read – Praise from a Child

Breakfast was French toast and bacon, and it was delicious. I found myself sitting next to Ellen, and she engaged me in conversation. Out of politeness at first, but she was much keener to chat when she found out that Stan and Ollie actually belonged to me.
‘How did you get them?’
‘They were a birthday present from my family. My old dog, Vera, died, so my uncle got Stan and Ollie from a friend of his whose dog had just had puppies.’
‘How old were they?’
‘They were nine weeks old when I got them. They were about as big as Sian’s pink teddy bear.’
Ellen’s eyes were round and her cheeks quite pink.
‘How old are they now?’
‘They are two-and-half, so they are still just playful babies sometimes.’
‘Do you mind them playing with us?’
‘No. Of course not.’
She thought for a minute. ‘Benny is yours as well isn’t he?’
‘No love. We don’t own people. Ben and me are married and we love each other, but that don’t mean I own him or he owns me.’
Her smile was as bright as the sunshine. ‘You mean like me and Mummy and Daddy and Sian. We all love each other, but we mustn’t be jealous.’
‘Just like that.’ Ellen regarded me steadily for a minute, before she put out a small hand to pat me on the arm. ‘You are a nice lady’ she said, then applied herself to her breakfast. To my surprise, I found myself blinking back a tear. Praise from a child was something I had never experienced before, and it felt sweet. I caught Ben’s eye across the table and he winked his understanding.
Sian caught the wink. ‘Benny’ she said somewhat severely ‘it isn’t nice to wink at ladies at the breakfast table.’
He grinned unrepentantly. ‘It is when the lady is your wife.’

From Who Put Her In? by Jane Jago

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