Thursday, 18 July 2013


Weymouth. Their first holiday, squeezed between finally getting rid of him, and Ruby starting Nursery. With the downward tug of Ruby's hand and the upward sweep of the word 'Mum!' it was proving a difficult first day.
Ruby indicated the Punch and Judy tent. With an ice-cream smeared pout, she said, 'Please.'
They picked their way across a beach that seemed to Sue to contain every intact family in the world. At the back of the audience they sat cross-legged; Sue clumsily, Ruby easily. The show began. Soon Mr Punch was cheerfully clubbing his wife. Sue saw Ruby stiffen. Too quickly to be grabbed, Ruby stood on shaky, sand-dusted legs and ran towards the puppet show.
Still running, she launched her ice-cream at the striped booth. It slid pinkly down the canvas. She stopped. Legs akimbo, fists clenched, she shouted, 'Stop hitting the lady!'
A hundred small heads turned. A hundred small mouths fell silent, fell open.
She ran to her mother. Sue had seen the look on her face before, as she stood framed in the lounge doorway, woken by a row. She leaned down now, saying, 'It's only pretend, love.'
Ruby looked up at her, with hard eyes.


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