(excerpt from Ella's Story, "Our Beautiful Child and other stories")
I am three, maybe four. It’s dark, very late; the house is silent. I can no longer hear the comforting hum of voices from the living room, but I can hear the tick-tock clock in the hall, echoing in the shadows. I'm gripping my Barbie blanket around me and pulling it over my head. Because there’s a monster under my bed.
I'm being very quiet so the monster won’t know I'm here. I hold my breath and keep my eyes shut very, very tight. I hear a little whimper and I think it must be me, because monsters don’t get scared. Everyone knows that. A monster would roar loudly, or growl like a tiger; and this sound – this little whimper – is very soft, like a kitten when she’s lost. But I'm still scared, and I want my mummy.
I cry out by accident, then hold my hands over my mouth and wait for the monster to crawl out. Almost straight away Mummy and Daddy are standing over me; the light from the landing pours in and makes my bedroom look almost normal again, like it does in the day time.
“Monster,” I manage to whisper, before bursting into tears. Mummy sits down on my bed and hugs me tightly, folding her arms around me and smoothing my long blonde hair; I can smell the scent of fabric softener on her nighty. She rocks me backwards and forwards, and I start to feel silly: how could a monster get in when Mummy and Daddy are here to look after me?
“No monsters, Sweetheart,” says Daddy, looking under my bed and in my cupboard and through my stack of teddy bears in the corner.
“Just a bad dream,” says Mummy, kissing my forehead. She lays me back down and strokes my cheek.
Bad dream? I remember now. It was a bad dream. But it wasn't about a monster.
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