An alternative fairytale in bite-sized portions
Suitable for family reading
Harriet pulled the shoe on over her heel. As she raised her head her eyes went to the computer open on the table.
‘How are you getting on with that laptop? Do you need any help?’
‘It’s magic! It shows me all the countries of the world. I’d love to travel the world for real one day. I even found a page about my godmother – she’s away travelling – but I lost it when I closed the browser by mistake.’
Harriet slipped the shoe she was holding onto her foot and sat at the table.
‘Let’s try to find it again. If you click here, it lists all the web pages you opened before. Can you see the one you lost?’
‘There, that’s the one – about orphanages in Africa.’ Harriet clicked on the link. ‘And that’s my godmother, Euphemia Ffinch. When she wasn’t at Father’s funeral I thought she might have died too, but she sent a card on my birthday.’
There was that word again – birthday. Buttons remembered the card arriving. She’d read it out to him, and then she’d stood it on the mantelpiece, next to the photograph, where it stayed for weeks. Birthdays must last a long time.
Harriet scrolled down the web page. ‘There’s a link here to her blog; you can follow that and post messages for her to read. Only be careful – everyone else can read them too.’
‘That’s brilliant, Harriet. Thanks for finding it.’
Buttons thumped his tail and Harriet glowed.
‘Let’s have a look at that webcam and microphone,’ said Harriet. The laptop clicked and beeped as her fingers moved. ‘I’m good at fixing things.’
A voice shrilled from upstairs. ‘Are you down there, Harriet? Bring some tea and toast when you come up.’
The girls looked at each other and Harriet raised an eyebrow.
‘I’ll look at the laptop when I come back for the dress, shall I?’
She put the kettle on, and Mistress headed for the pantry. A mouse ran out as she opened the door.
Buttons pounced, but it scampered to safety under the door of the stair-cupboard.
As Buttons rested by Mistress’s feet, daylight faded in the street outside. The sun’s rays never reached the basement area where steps led down from the street to their door. Even on the brightest day, their light was poor, and the single ceiling bulb was already lit.
The bedroom had a brighter view, being tucked away by the back door which led to the south-facing garden. But Mistress didn’t spend time in the bedroom during daylight hours.
She read him highlights from Aunt Phemie’s blog.
Euphemia Ffinch had set out to travel the world back when Buttons was a pup and was still travelling. The words Mistress read brought to his mind the brisk person who wrote them, even though Aunt Phemie hadn’t visited Regalia since Master’s wedding.
Buttons recalled a round sort of person who would bounce into a room and wake it up. Her generous mouth curved upwards, as did the twinkling eyes and curling strands of escaping hair. Even her wrinkles smiled.
She had understood him. Always.
Mistress was saying, ‘…And here’s her email address. I’m going to set up an email account so I can send her a proper message.’
It was some time later when her squeal of excitement woke him from a dream of cowering mice. Aunt Phee had replied to her email already.
Excitement soon changed to sadness.
‘Oh, Buttons, she’s asked how Father is. Nobody told her he died.’