There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and so a friend and I made a picnic and took the children on a local woodland walk.
After we had finished our walk and picnic we went into the playground where there were hundreds of 5/6 year olds on a school trip.
Betty was coming down the slide for about the 68th time when a boy from the school party came down behind her and knocked into her. Betty’s face crumpled, so I ran over and began reassuring her that she would be OK and that it was an accident (although I now think that it was deliberate ploy for the boy to get Betty’s attention). The boy then came over, looking really concerned and in a very gentlemanly way he asked about her injuries. It occurred to me that if they were 15 years older Tom would definitely approve of this young man. They looked at each other, beamed, and that was that, they were inseparable.
It was truly fascinating to watch as he helped Betty across the wobbly bridge, skipped with her through the wood chips, slid down the slide next to her, both giggling as they went, and both sharing a private joke with each other next to the swings. I felt all gooey, watching a three year old and a five year old, who had never met before, smitten. Meanwhile Dolly sat in her chariot, and watched on, giving them an appraising look.
After about half an hour of these frolics, his teacher blew a whistle and told the school children to line up by the gate. They formed an orderly queue. Also in the queue was Betty, holding the boy’s hand. Both my friend and I were calling Betty’s name but she absolutely pretended that she couldn’t hear us. When I marched over and retrieved her I could feel the pain of her separation.
We watched the coach pull out of the car park and the boy’s face was pressed up against the window. Very quietly, Betty said: ‘I wish I was on that bus.’ I think she could still feel the warmth of the boy’s hand in hers.