Katie gave a little wriggle. She felt like doing some ballet jumps, or rolling down the slope of the lawn until she landed in a heap at the bottom. But instead she had to stand, still as a rock, with elastic round her legs stretched so tightly it was going to give her red marks. She bent down and shifted the elastic slightly. She spotted a small pink line. But keep the elastic tight. They were playing with a chair because you needed three people for French skipping, and there were only two of them.
Sometimes Mummy played with them, but today she was too busy, and had got cross when they asked. Now it stretched, two white springy lines, a few inches above the grass. The very sight of it filled Katie with an excited anticipation. She loved French skipping.
They played it in every single break at school; during lessons she would often put her hand into her pocket and check that the tangled mass of elastic was still safely there. She began to jump efficiently over the taut elastic, biting her lip, and planting her feet carefully in exactly the right places. She scratched the place on her leg where the elastic had been too tight.
But Amelia had started jumping again. Amelia had suggested, sensibly, that Mummy should ring Daddy and ask him. She never wanted to ring Daddy. It was always Daddy who rang. Katie had never even been fishing. Everyone she knew liked swimming: Katie had nearly started crying right there in the street.
Her mind scrambled over half-imagined pictures. Had Mrs Tully ever actually told her what an otter was? What did it sound like? Into her mind came an image of blue-green water; of silvery streaks of light and a lithe body shooting through the water in a perfect dive.
You thought you were a water fairy! Amelia hardly ever made things up. Some of them still have arm-bands. Suddenly there was the sound of a car pulling up outside the house. There was their father getting out of the car, as tall as ever, wearing a pair of shorts and a very old-looking blue checked shirt. There was a combination of familiarity and strangeness about the sight of him which made Amelia stop momentarily in her tracks and look away.
Katie pushed past her. Their father turned and smiled. And immediately, predictably, Katie burst into noisy, copious tears. Louise Kember sat in her pretty kitchen and waited for Barnaby to come in. It was nearly five months since Barnaby had moved out, and still Katie wept every time he arrived or left. For her and Barnaby, certainly, but also for the girls. They would shoot accusing looks at one another as they quickly adopted soothing voices, proffered glasses of water and spoke gaily to Mr Teddy or Mrs Rabbit.
And then they would inevitably both go back upstairs with whichever of the girls it was, in a self-conscious togetherness — tucking in and tiptoeing out as though they were once again the young married couple besotted with their first baby. For a few moments the pretence would last. They would float down the stairs together in a cloud of deliberate good nature, fulfilling the image of the happy, loving, contented parents.
But downstairs in the kitchen, the air would be thick with lingering, remembered jibes.
The smiles would fade. Barnaby would mutter something incomprehensible about popping to The George for a quick half, and Louise would run a hot bath and weep frustratedly into the foamy water.
By the time Barnaby got back she would be in bed, sometimes pretending to be asleep, sometimes sitting up, having formulated in her mind exactly what she wanted to say.
But Barnaby would wave her speeches aside. Louise stared at him in exasperated anger. And Louise looked away too. Because the truth was that she did know that Barnaby loved her. But knowing that Barnaby loved her was no longer enough. Katie was sitting on the grassy bank outside the cottage next to Barnaby.
His arm was round her, and she was juddering slightly, but her tears had dried up. On the other side of Barnaby was Amelia, who felt a bit like crying herself, but was far too grown up.
He squeezed them both tightly so their faces were squashed against his shirt. After a moment Katie started to wriggle. She felt safe, all squashed up against Daddy, smelling his smell and hearing his laugh.
But Barnaby was letting go of them and reaching into the car.
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Katie gave a little wriggle. She felt like doing some ballet jumps, or rolling down the slope of the lawn until she landed in a heap at the bottom. But instead she had to stand, still as a rock, with elastic round her legs stretched so tightly it was going to give her red marks. She bent down and shifted the elastic slightly.
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Вы мне не подскажете, где мне узнать больше об этом?