After school I collected Lenny and Rebecca, gave them sandwiches and pushed them into the yard. They ran behind the garage wall. When I went to hang out washing they were still there, talking in hushed, earnest voices.

I popped my head around the corner. ‘Everything OK?’

‘Sure,’ said Lenny.

I’d never known him to sit so long in conversation with a friend. But Rebecca was new. He’d only ever asked boys to play before.

Rebecca smiled.

They were still there when, on the dot of 5:30, there was a rap on the door. I opened it to a red-faced, balding man. ‘Jeremy Practchett. Rebecca’s father,’ he said

I was about to invite him in when he called over my shoulder, ‘Rebecca. Come. Now.’

The girl was by my side in an instant, and then, before I could say a proper goodbye, she was being ushered towards an open car door.

‘Bye, Bec,’ Lenny called down the hall.

But Rebecca kept walking.

‘She’s a nice girl,’ I said, as he came to stand beside me.

‘Mum,’ he said. ‘Does Daddy love you?’

‘Very much. Why?’

He looked at me in a puzzled way. ‘Does he protect you?’

I watched Rebecca’s stony-faced father ease his car into the traffic. ‘We just try to help each other out,’ I said.

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (smallstoriesaboutlove.wordpress.com)

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