The story is finished. ‘Come on kids, bedtime,’ I say. Linde snuggles up. Only the tip of her chin shows above the duvet. Tijm lies down as well, on the floor, in the middle of the room. I frown. ‘In your bed, Tijm. Now!’
Tijm grins and stays put. ‘Or shall I tickle you to bed?’ I threaten.
He does not move and I attack. I tickle and tease, he giggles and wriggles. His feet in one hand, his hands in my other I pick him up, and I swing him, one, two, and three in his bed. ‘Do you want a kiss?’
‘No,’ he yells and hides under the blanket.
Linde wants one. Sweetly she kisses back, her blond hair spread angelically on the pillow. But twilight won’t mask the naughty glimmer in her eye.
I leave the door ajar and walk down the stairs. Briefly I ignore the mumbling, the sneaking around, the steps on the landing. The drop, drop, drop from the tap.
Then they call: ‘Mama!’
I sigh upstairs. ‘Mama, we were thirsty.’
I know, I see the puddle on the floor and the wet pyjama’s. I dry, mop, dress and tuck in again. I am halfway down the stairs when the yelling starts.
‘Mama, we need a wee.’
Half an hour and many up and downs later I am fed up. I roar up the stairs. ‘If you are not quiet now, you’ll regret it. You’ll, ehm, you’ll…’ They’ll what?
I spit out: ‘You won’t go to playgroup tomorrow. Sleep. Now.’
The door bangs behind me as I realise my mistake. An hour of entertainment for fifty pence each, now gone. I ignore the noise for a bit, beaten up, tired. The racket increases, I hear them stumbling about, I hear thumping, a loud bang. I stamp my feet upstairs, open the door sharply. In the middle of the room is a pile of toys and books. On top lie two duvets and two children. I feel something bubble in my tummy, the corners of my mouth turn up. I stop the laugh. I count to ten and the anger follows easily. ‘In. Your. Beds. Now!’
I push and shove toys in boxes, books on shelves, randomly. I have not set a foot over the doorstep before I hear rumour. I turn around, snatch Tijm from his bed and carry him to our big bed. He struggles and grumbles, doesn’t want to, not without his sister. I say nothing, tuck him in, kiss him, turn off the lights and close the door. Linde lies quietly, with big dark eyes. I stroke her hair and close her door too. It stays quiet.
Not much later I too, worn out by the fight, turn in. In the dark my hands wander through the bed. Where is the boy? I turn on lights. The bed is empty. I sneak into the kids room but find his bed empty too. Stunned I scan the room. Then I find him, in Linde’s bed, brother and sister tightly entwined. For a minute I observe the sweet scene. Then, very mean, I disentangle them.