My Expat Life in Malta

“There’s a Daddy Talking to Oliver.”

This is a story of truth and fiction. Some of it actually happened, and some of it is imagination to fill in the gaps.

It’s up to you, dear reader, to figure out which is which.

And to be very aware

it never ended…

How much do we not see? How much do we not hear?

Bees can see the brilliance of ultraviolet light; humans cannot.  Bats listen to sounds unheard by us.  Dogs smell things of which we can only guess.  Is there variation perhaps, even between us?  We are the same species, we are human, but are we really the same?  As we grow, we evolve, we become our genetic design.  We think we reach the heights of ourselves as humans.  But what do we lose?  There are some believe children can see and hear things adults cannot, but, there are as many others who disagree.  Children have active imaginations.  Is it always make-believe, or is it, sometimes, just sometimes, reality?

Clara is three.  She speaks a little, her development is good, but she is only three.  She has a new little brother now.  His name is Oliver. It’s an adjustment, this new baby, but she is a generous soul.  She is a big sister now.  It makes her very important, and she is proud!

Oliver is drinking his milk.  If he doesn’t have milk, he cries so loud it hurts Clara’s ears.   Sometimes, she doesn’t like Oliver very much.  Clara is a big girl; she eats big girl food, but she ate it all up already.  Mummy had given her some play-dough while she waits for Oliver to have his milk. He takes such a long time!  Clara has made lots of shapes already, a ball and a wiggly worm.  Now, she is making a cake for Mummy to eat.  She pats a large round blob into a flat round blob.  It will need sprinkles too. Cakes always taste better with rainbow sprinkles.

Clara looks up and listens.  “No. It’s mine!” she replies.

Mummy looks up from feeding Oliver, confused.  She listens and looks too.  Is somebody there?

Suddenly, without warning, Clara screams and cries. She is scared.  Strapped into her highchair, she fights to get free, to escape. She struggles so much she scares Mummy.

“Stop! Stop!”  Mummy is shouting, but Clara doesn’t hear. She fights to get free of her chair. 

Mummy quickly puts Oliver down in his bouncer.  Mummy holds Clara and unfastens the safety belt.  Clara wraps her arms around Mummy.  Mummy hugs Clara while she cries, her little body shakes in fear.  The play-dough cake is ruined, and some of the play-dough is on the floor.  Oliver starts screaming because he still wants milk, but Clara needs Mummy more.  Mummy stays with Clara until she stops crying.  Clara is safe here.  Safe and warm. 

It’s okay. It’s okay.”  Mummy says as she strokes Clara’s hair.

The fear recedes, the memory fades.   

Mummy is giving Clara’s a bath.  Clara likes having baths.  She has been sat in this one a long time, and the water is cool now.  She prefers it that way; she doesn’t like the heat.  The water tickles against her skin; it feels nice. 

Oliver was already clean and was sitting in the open doorway, while Clara had her bath.  Oliver had just learned how to sit.  Mummy and Daddy thought it was a big thing, but Clara didn’t think so. Sitting was easy-peasy.

Clara hears something and looks up towards the doorway.  “No.”  She says.  Mummy turns around. 

“Richard?”  Mummy says.  Mummy was calling for Daddy. 

Daddy has two names, Richard and Daddy.  Everybody Clara knows has lots of names.  Mummy has two as well, Mummy and Anna.  Clara and Oliver are Clara and Oliver, but they are also “honeys”.  At playgroup, all the men she sees are “daddy” too, but they aren’t her “Daddy” because her Daddy is special. 

“Richard?”  Mummy says again.  Clara hasn’t seen her Daddy today because he was working.  Clara didn’t like that Mummy and Daddy left and did work.  Did Mummy hear Daddy come home?  But Mummy looks confused.  “Richard?”

“Who was there, honey?” she asks, turning back to Clara.  But Clara is no longer looking.  She is playing with the water again.  It tickles against her skin; it feels nice.

At night there are lots of noises around Clara’s home.  People are coming, and people are going.  Doors get slammed.  Feral cats yowl outside, and cars whoosh in passing.  Every night there are so many noises, yet Clara sleeps through them all.  These are the usual noises of the night.  They bring comfort and reassurance; the world as it should be.  But tonight, there is another noise, and it is not comforting.  Oliver is still asleep in his cot.  Mummy is close.  It’s not so far away, Clara tells herself.  She gets out of bed and runs past Oliver without looking.  Out the door, turn to the side.  Mummy is close now.  There’s Mummy in bed.  She is still sleeping.  She hasn’t heard. 

Clara reaches out and touches Mummy.  “I want to sleep with you, Mummy,” Clara says. “The breathing is too loud.”

Sleepily Mummy moves aside.   Clara slips into the space Mummy left, and Mummy wraps her arms around the small cold body.  Clara snuggles into Mummy’s arms, safe and warm in Mummy and Daddy’s bed.  The breathing she hears is from Mummy and Daddy.  The man breathing over Oliver is no longer scary, and Clara falls back to sleep.

Grandma and Grandad had come from the airport again.  They come to see Clara often.  They stay a while, but then they miss the airport, so Daddy takes them back there in his car.  Clara likes it when Grandma is here, and they play together a lot.

It is sleepy time for Clara.  Grandma read one of the princess stories.  The princess wore a beautiful dress, and Clara wants a pretty dress of her own, just like the princess.  Then, Grandma sang her some songs and wrapped her up ‘snug like a bug in a rug.’  Clara wasn’t quite sure what it means, and she really doesn’t like bugs, but whenever Grandma says it, she rocks Clara from side to side tucking the blankets in so tight Clara can barely move.  Grandma thought she was sleeping and left the room, but Clara isn’t asleep yet.  Wrapped up tight in her blankets, she watches Oliver, asleep in his cot.

Clara can hear Grandma walk down the corridor and into ‘the family room.’

“She’s asleep,” Grandma says.

“Okay, thanks,” says Mummy.

“Do you need us to babysit one, or both of them, tomorrow?”  Grandma asks.  Clara hopes Mummy says yes, she wants to spend more time with Grandma.  Mummy and Grandma get louder as they come out of ‘the family room.’  They were moving towards the front door so Grandma can go to her own home.

A shadow passes by Clara’s bedroom door.

“Oh, I didn’t realise Richard’s here. I thought he was at work.”  Grandma says.

“He is,” Mummy says.

“I just saw him pass by the children’s room,” Grandma says.

“Nope.  He’s definitely working,” Mummy says again.

“Oh, I really thought I saw him,” Grandma said.  Grandma seems confused.  Clara isn’t confused.  She knows it wasn’t her Daddy; her Daddy is special.  “Okay, so tomorrow, do you need us for the children?”

“Yes,” Mummy says.  Clara smiles and closes her eyes, and finally, she falls asleep; she is going to see her Grandma again tomorrow.

Clara holds Bunny close with one hand.  Bunny was a present from Grandma when Clara had her birthday and became four.  It had been so long since she last saw Grandma, and Clara wished she would come to play.  Grandma and Grandad had gone to the airport and did not come back, but Clara talked to them on Mummy’s computer.  Clara’s other hand pushes and pushes Mummy to wake up.

Sleepy eyes open, and Mummy looks at Clara. “What is it, honey?”

“I can’t sleep,” Clara complains. “There’s a daddy talking to Oliver.”

Mummy sits up in bed.  “What?”  Mummy says.

“There’s a daddy talking to Oliver,” Clara complains again.

The door to Mummy and Daddy’s room is always open at night in case Clara gets scared, or Oliver starts to cry.  Mummy looks towards the corridor, but there is nothing there. 

“Stay here,” Mummy says. 

Mummy leaves Clara and Bunny behind and goes into Clara and Oliver’s room, where Oliver is still sleeping.  Clara sees the light brighten the corridor; some of it lights up Mummy and Daddy’s room as well.

Mummy comes back and sits on the bed in front of Clara.  “Clara, who was talking to Oliver?” she asks.

Clara thinks she has done something to make Mummy upset; she hugs Bunny and starts to cry.  “There was a daddy talking to Oliver, and he woke me up.  I want to sleep with you.”

Mummy reaches for her phone.  Whenever Daddy works during sleepy time, Mummy always puts her phone close.  She presses the phone to her ear.

“Hello?”  Mummy’s phone is so loud Clara can hear her Daddy’s voice.

“Can I speak to Daddy?” Clara asks, reaching for the phone.  “I want to speak to Daddy.”

“No,” Mummy says, pushing Clara’s hands away and standing up.  

“I need to check the flat.  Stay on the phone, just in case.”  Mummy tells Daddy.

“Why? What’s wrong?”  Now, Daddy sounds upset.  Mummy has upset Daddy.

“Clara said she heard a Daddy talking to Oliver.”

“A daddy?”  Daddy asks.

“Clara, stay here,” Mummy says.  She turns on the light and leaves Clara and Bunny all alone again.  Clara is getting scared now, even with the light turned on.  She doesn’t know why Mummy is scared or why Mummy scared Daddy. She wants to be with Mummy, but Mummy said to stay still, and so she stands still just as Mummy said.  Clara lifts Bunny to her cheek and rubs tears on the grey fur.  She is very scared now; she wants Mummy and Daddy.

Clara can hear Mummy talking. Her voice gets quiet, loud, and quiet again as she moves.  Mummy is telling Daddy the different rooms in their house and turning all the lights on.  If Clara turns all the lights on, Mummy and Daddy don’t like it.  Mummy has been gone for a long time.  Clara is shivering; she is cold, and she is scared.

“There’s nothing.  Everything is fine.  Just Clara’s imagination.”  Mummy says as she walks back into the room.  She turns the lights off as she goes, and the flat is dark again. 

“Okay.”  Clara hears Daddy say.  “See you later.” 

“Okay,” Mummy says, and Daddy isn’t on the phone anymore.  

“I want to talk to my Daddy,” Clara says.

“No, Honey, Daddy is working right now.  He was only helping Mummy.  You can talk to him in the morning.  Okay?”  Mummy pulls her close and hugs her.

Clara nods okay, but it isn’t okay, she wanted to talk to her Daddy.

“Clara.  Who was talking to Oliver?”  Mummy asks.

“It was a daddy.”

“Daddy is at work, Honey,” Mummy says.

“No, not Daddy.”  She said, of course, Clara knew her Daddy wasn’t here.  “A daddy.”

“Who’s daddy?”  Mummy asks.  Clara shrugs. She doesn’t know whose daddy he is because she knows all her friends’ daddies, and he isn’t one of them. 

“He was talking to Oliver.” 

“What did he say?” 

Clara shrugs again.  She doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.  “Can I have water?”

“In a minute.  What did the daddy look like?”  Mummy asks.

“Was he taller than your Daddy?”  Mummy asks again.  “Bigger?”

Clara tries to help because Mummy wants to know.   He looks big; even bigger than Luke’s Daddy, and Luke’s Daddy is really big.  “Yes,” she tells Mummy.

“And does he have brown hair like yours or blonde hair like Oliver’s?”  Mummy asks.

Clara shrugs.  She is thirsty now and sleepy.  She doesn’t want to play this game anymore.  Mummy can see what colour the daddy’s hair is for herself.  The daddy is right there, watching them.  

“I want water.”  She tells Mummy again.

“Okay.”  Mummy gives a big sigh and hugs her tight.  “Let’s get you some water.”

Mummy and Daddy said it’s Clara’s birthday tomorrow and she is going to be five!  Oliver is lying in a bed just like Clara’s; he is a big boy now and doesn’t need a cot anymore.  The colours of his bed are blue and yellow, the colours in the sky.  He picked the colours himself, just like Clara picked hers.  Clara likes his colours, but hers are better, she chose rainbow colours.  She slides down under the covers, pushing them high above her.  The daddy sounds strange under here.

Suddenly, it’s not so dark anymore.  Everything is bright and pretty; rainbow colours cover Clara’s arms.  She wriggles upwards and pushes the covers back.  Mummy is standing in the doorway; she looks scared. 

“Mummy, why did you turn the light on?”  Clara says.  Secretly, she is happy Mummy turned on the light.  She climbs out of bed; she didn’t want to go to sleep anyway.

“Is someone here?”  Mummy says.  Clara looks around and shakes her head; the daddy has gone, he doesn’t stay in the light, and they are alone again.

Clara is sleeping in Mummy’s bed.  Clara came to Mummy’s and Daddy’s bed even before Mummy did.  The daddy was talking and talking to Oliver, and she couldn’t sleep.   But even in Mummy and Daddy’s bed, she has a nightmare; it wakes her.  Clara hears a noise and sits up.  Mummy lifts her head; she heard it too. 

In the light of the corridor, Clara sees Oliver standing in the doorway, watching. 

“Oliver, honey, are you coming into our bed?”  Mummy says, lifting the covers and opening her arms.

The daddy makes Oliver’s smile. Clara moves closer to her Daddy. She is very scared.

There’s no Oliver anymore.

Comments welcome!

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