'Baby' by Vikki Gemmell
Ellie’s eating lemons for breakfast, likes the tang of the first sook, and the sharpness when she digs her teeth in.
“So that’s why you’ve always got a scowl on your face,” Granny says, patting her head like she does to Toby the puppy.
Toby stole a bit of Ellie’s lemon yesterday, whined and coughed it up over her new pink shoes. She doesn’t like pink anyway, not anymore. That’s for little girls, like the snotty baby. The snotty baby is the reason she’s staying with Granny.
Granny is nice but she makes her eat horrible dinners, like cauliflower cheese and tongue sandwiches. Ellie has nightmares, thinking Granny must hide heads in jars, ready to chop off a tongue when needed.
“When can I go home?” she asks as the days pass.
“Not till Mummy’s better, pet.”
At night she imagines Mummy cuddling snotty baby, tries hard to be a big girl and not cry. She misses the smell of Mummy’s lavender face cream and her tickles at bedtime.
Soon she’s convinced that Mummy has forgotten about her, that snotty baby is her new, better little girl.
Then the bell rings. Granny takes a while opening all the locks.
Snotty baby is lying in a basket on the doorstep, kicking her legs in the air. Mummy isn’t with her.
Granny runs to the phone. Snotty baby waves a hand and Ellie kneels down to tickle her fingers.
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep you safe,” Ellie whispers.
She’s a big girl now.