He steps out of the kitchen and I’m not sure what the fuck to do here, do I hide? Just pretend I stumbled in here by accident? Clean up the puddle I am now realising I’ve left on the kitchen counter? Because that shit is not sanitary.
“Hi princess, everything okay?”
I can’t hear her response so I know she must be signing. I stay hidden on the kitchen floor behind the unit behind me until I hear a little giggle.
Looking up at Connor I can see him smirking down at me whilst rubbing the back of his neck. “Um yeah, Brie she can see the top of your hair.”
Bloody traitorous curls!
Standing up I sheepishly turn around from my spot pressed against the cabinet to see Hope standing on the other side, dressed in fluffy Disney Princess pyjamas with her arms crossed over her chest and tapping her bunny slipper as she scans her eyes between me and her Dad who’s still wearing a satisfied smirk.
Okay Brie you can do this, you’ve been in tighter binds than this before and Hope isn’t half as intimidating as some of the women you’ve worked for... I don’t think.
Shuffling around from the counter I step in line next to Connor, feeling like I’m about to have a row from the scary head teacher at school. “Hey little miss, I was just dropping some classwork off to your Dad. Are you okay? What are you doing up?”
She doesn’t look entirely convinced but her eyes drop to her feet as she signs slowly. ‘I had a bad dream Beebee.’
My heart melts, no-one ever calls me that but May. I step forward and pull her into a hug, lifting her little body up off the floor as I squeeze her. Shit, I probably shouldn’t be the one doing this.
Turning to Connor I look at him sympathetically but he just smiles at me. “Sorry, it was instinct. Do you want her?” Hope buries her head into my neck and he leans against the doorframe next to him, smiling and shaking his head as he watches her.
I hate nightmares, suffered with them myself for years. If someone has upset this precious angel to cause one, blood will be drawn.
Hope pulls back and I smile at her. “Do you know what the ultimate solution is for a bad dream?”
She shakes her head at me. “Watching Beauty and the beast, it works every time. That beast is something else right?”
Hope chuckles. ‘Beebee! I love that one! But only the real one, the new one has a rubbish dress.’ Agreed girl.
Connor steps towards us. ‘Want me to put it on in your room princess?’
‘No, I’ll watch it in here with Beebee, you can go to bed. We don’t need you.’
I burst out laughing, as does Connor. It’s nice to be someone’s new favourite, although this was definitely not the plan for tonight. If she’s anything like May she’ll be asleep in ten minutes anyway.
Connor turns on the TV and finds the movie while me and Hope settle in on the couch. I lay down with her in front of me as she rests her head on my arm, it’s like she’s a tiny little cuddly bear in these fluffy pyjamas. I pull the blanket from the back of the couch over us just as Connor presses play, he attempts to get on the couch with us but Hope is having none of it.
“You’re too big! Go on the chair, this is mine and Beebee’s sofa!”
Connor feigns hurt but I just poke my tongue out at him and settle into the comfy pillows of the couch. I remember so well what May was like at this age, spending night after night watching movies just like this whilst trying to get her to sleep.
Hope pulls my other hand around her body and holds it in her own, keeping it pressed firmly to where her heart is like she’s afraid I’ll let her go if she doesn’t hold on tight. Don’t worry girl, I got you.
Her little eyes light up as the song starts, I know she can’t hear it but she’s watching the screen so vividly as she follows along with the subtitles, her body settling into my hold and relaxing.
I swipe her hair behind her ear as I see it falling into her eyes but she immediately snatches my hand back when I’m done and holds it once more.
Looking over at Connor I realise he isn’t even watching the movie, he’s smiling directly at us. “What’s that look for?”
He just continues to smile. “You’re amazing with her.”
It’s not hard, she’s a pretty awesome kid. “Watch the film, you could learn a thing or two from that guy.”
He smirks. “So you want me to lock you in a dungeon, keep you prisoner and force you to fall in love with me to break a curse?”
I laugh. “Not exactly, although I’m not exactly against the chains and dungeon thing. But if you do want to give me a palace with dishes that talk and clean themselves I’d be good with that too? Plus you have to admit, that beast is a dominant little fucker.”
He chuckles. “I’ll keep it in mind.”
The film goes on and I can feel all the sleep I’ve missed over the last few weeks calling to me. I watch Hope’s eyes start to close and mine follow in her footsteps until eventually I am overtaken by the darkness...
Someone’s trying to take away my teddy bear... Connors hands attempt to pry Hope from my grasp but she’s not shifting, her little body turns to wrap around my arm as she holds on like a koala bear.
I’m barely conscious but I can just make out the sound of him gently laughing before the warmth of the blanket engulfs me once more.
A delicate kiss is placed to my forehead as my dreams call me back.
“Goodnight my girls...”