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This story was commended in the London Metropolitan University Creative Writing Competition 2003!

A Child's View

by Sulthana Begum, 17

The dollhouse is green. My big sister says it’s blue but I know she’s wrong. It is green. It’s green on the outside with white colour borders around the window, which is made of glass, even though my big sister says it’s actually plastic. She doesn’t know anything. Did Daddy give her the dollhouse? No! She’s jealous, that’s why she makes up stuff.

The door is big and red with painted flowers on the side. Let’s take Bob the Builder and Barbie inside. Open the door. Wooh, red carpet like the roses Daddy got Mummy. And little stairs with tiny, tiny steps. Bob the Builder can’t go up because he’s too fat. But Barbie can.

He’s still very tired so I put him in the sitting room. He can sleep on the sofa like Daddy does sometimes when he and Mummy shout and shout and then I cry. Then Daddy says sorry. He never sleeps in the bedroom and then the next day he gets us a present, like the dollhouse for me, even though he should be saying sorry to Mummy.

Suddenly I hate the dollhouse. It makes me think of Mummy and Daddy shouting and now Bob the Builder doesn’t fit in the sofa. That means he’ll have to move out and I don’t want him to. So I squash him and squash him on the hard, white and plastic sofa but Bob is hard too and he won’t fit.

Crack. The sofa breaks. I throw Bob across the room and Bob breaks, too. I don’t care that Bob isn’t mine but my brother’s. Now I start crying. Mummy comes in.
“Sweetie, what’s the matter?” she asks, picking me up with a hug. I hold her tight and smell her perfume and it makes me think of the roses Daddy bought yesterday.
“ I miss Daddy,” I sniff.
“Honey, you’ve got me,” Mummy replies.
“But I want a mummy and a daddy,” I wail and cry even more. She hugs me tighter and says through gritted teeth, “He’ll be back.”
Then she notices Bob the Builder, split in two.
“Why did you do that? Your little brother will be upset!”
“You can fix him, can’t you? Or Daddy can. I’m sorry Mummy but he wouldn’t sleep on the sofa and- and then he broke…But you and Daddy can fix him, can’t you?”
“We’ll see.”

Next day, I’m in school.
“D’you wanna know the real reason why Danny doesn’t come to school anymore?” Avril asks at play time. We all huddle around her in a hush. We listen to Avril because her birthday is before everybody else’s. She knows lots of things and is older than absolutely everybody in our year, except for the teachers, of course.
“It’s cos Danny’s mother and father got a divorce.” Avril likes saying ‘mother’ and ‘father’ because she says it’s very grown up to talk that way. Everyone looks impressed, but I bet nobody knows what a divorce means. I don’t.
“Whassa deforce?” Halima asks.
“Yes, whassa deforce?” Halima asks again.
Avril sighs and says, “You babies don’t know anything!”
But she smiles because she likes us not knowing anything since it means she’s cleverer than us. We all listen eagerly. She comes closer and lowers her voice.
“Remember they used to argue when they came to pick up Danny?”
“Yes!” It’s Halima’s turn to sigh. “Bu’ whassa deforce?”
“I’m coming to that!” Avril snarls.
“Yeah, Halima,” Ade butts in. “You always spoil everything!”
“No, I do no’!” shouts Halima. She pushes him. Avril isn’t happy because nobody pays her any attention now.
“Stop it!” she yells. They do. “Let me finish. A divorce comes after the mummy and daddy shout at each other.”

I don’t like this conversation. My Mummy and Daddy shout at each other. Will they get a divorce too? I worry. What is divorce anyway?
“A divorce means they go to different houses and,” Avril adds before we start losing interest, “they have to share Danny so they cut him in half. And that’s why he doesn’t come to school anymore!” she finishes triumphantly. I’m scared now. Everybody looks at Avril in fear. Except Ade.
“Cool!” he remarks. “When I grow up, I’m going to get a divorce and cut Halima with it!”
“You will no’!” shouts Halima. “I will ge’ a deforce firs’ an’ kill you!”
She pushes him. He pushes her back but Miss Rayleigh comes and stops them. I don’t care. I’m feeling a bit scared. Mummy and Daddy won’t get a divorce and cut me, my big sister and my little brother in half, will they? We will die! I run to Avril.
“Avril, won’t Danny die, if his mummy and daddy cut him?” I ask. She has a wicked gleam in her eyes and tells me, “Like I said, that’s why Danny doesn’t come to school anymore.”
I look at her. She smiles. “I’m only telling you the truth, you know. My big sister says truth is very important for mankind,” she says in her grown up way, then adds, “And ladykind and childrenkind too, I suppose.”
I run away from her. I don’t want to know. I wish I didn’t know.

When I get home, I look for Daddy. He’s not there. I leave Mummy to put the coats away and run up to the room. I look for Bob the Builder. He’s still in the same spot, broken in two pieces. The bits remind me about Avril’s definition of divorce. I run to the kitchen and the tool drawer. I pull it out, find the superglue inside and take it.
“What are you doing?” demands Daddy’s voice. I can’t believe my ears so I turn around to look instead.
“Daddy!” I run and hug his tummy. He laughs and picks me up. “Hi, sweetie.”
I start crying. I can’t help it.
“Oh, what’s up?”
I tell him about what Avril said. And he laughs.
“It’s not true,” he explains. “A divorce is when Mummy and Daddy live in different houses because they don’t love each other anymore. But they will always love their kids, sweetie. You’ve nothing to worry about.”
“Really?” I ask, delighted. “So, you and Mummy not getting divorced?”
He says, “Let’s go and fix Bob the Builder,” and takes the glue from me. But we don’t. Mummy comes in and tells me, “Why don’t you go ahead? Daddy will be up in a minute. We just need to talk.”

Talk. Not shout. I slide out of Daddy’s arm, grinning and run up the stairs, chortling. It’s going to be okay. We’ll fix Bob the Builder, then Daddy will stay home forever and ever and we will all live happily ever after.

Bob the Builder is still in the same place, still broken. I grab Barbie from the dollhouse bed. I walk her, click-clack down the stairs in her pink high-heels. Then click-clack across the floor, outside and click-clack to Bob.
“Hello, darling,” I make Barbie greet Bob. “Everything’s gonna be okay. You’ll get fixed, and we’ll be a happy family ever after, and live in our house. We just need to wait for Dr Daddy and his magic superglue.”

Bob just sits where he is. I add, “You just take the magic glue and you’ll be up in a tick.” I’m not sure what ‘up in a tick’ means, but my doctor says it all the time. It makes me feel better, so I think it might make Bob feel better, too. Then I hear loud voices. I freeze. It’s Mummy and Daddy.

I cover my ears. I don’t want to hear it.The voices rise and fall. I sit next to the dollhouse, waiting for Daddy to come and fix Bob. I sit and wait and watch the clock on the wall. The long hand moves tick tock, tick tock. And the mouse run up the clock, I think in my mind, remembering what Miss Sondri read to us at Literacy Hour.

Nobody comes up. I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting here but the voices are gone. I can hear my little brother wailing and the TV blaring, but that’s it. And nobody’s come up to fix Bob the Builder. And suddenly, I realise what this means. Daddy isn’t going to come and fix poor Bob. And if Daddy won’t, then all the king’s men and all the king’s horses can’t put Bob the Builder back together either. It’s all my fault. I have a very bad feeling that Mummy and Daddy are arguing again because of me. Because I broke Bob. I cry. Quietly. And this time nobody comes to ask what is the matter. They can’t hear me. Because I can hear Mummy and Daddy shouting again. And then my baby brother starts bawling his head off again.

Dinner is very quiet. I don’t say anything in case it makes them start quarrelling again. After dinner it is quiet too. Even when it is bedtime, it is quiet. I don’t know if this quietness is good anymore, if they made up or if they just sent each other to Coventry like Avril does all the time to anyone she doesn’t like. She says her big sister calls it sending to Coventry but all she does is not talk to whoever she’s sent to Coventry. May be she pretends they are in Coventry and that’s why she doesn’t talk to them although they’re not really in Coventry. It hurts my brain to think this, so I go to bed early. My big sister comes and tells me a story. She doesn’t always tell me a story, just sometimes when she feels like it.

It’s about a prince and his daddy the King and his mummy the Queen and a wicked witch. The wicked witch curses the King and Queen so they think they are each other’s enemies. And the little prince is scared for his mummy and daddy so he finds a good wizard to kill the witch and break the spell.
“And then they all lived happily ever after,” finishes my sister.
“We should help,” I say.
“Our brother,” I explain patiently. “He’s too little on his own. We should help.”
“You know the story is made up, don’t you?”
“Yes.” I go quiet. My sister looks at me for a minute. I close my eyes and pretend to sleep. She crawls over and hugs me. Then she goes to her room. I’m alone. I open my eyes and stare at the dark wall. I used to be afraid of the dark. But I’m not anymore because I’m afraid of Mummy and Daddy shouting and all my scared feeling is used up on that.

It starts again. Muffled voices loaded with anger and spite. I can’t stand it anymore. I run to my sister’s room. She’s wide awake. The whites of her eyes gleam softly in the dark. I crawl in beside her. Normally, she will tell me to get lost. Normally, I go to my parents bed when I’m scared in the night.

She lets me. I hold her hand because I am scared. We lie in the silence, listening to World War III start on the room below us. I cry myself softly to sleep.

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A Child's View
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