29 March 1978
"Mumma," Charlie said, tugging on the hem of his mother's bathrobe. She didn't seem to notice.
"Arthur!" she called. "Arthur, come on, you're going to be late, dear."
"Mumma," Charlie said, a little more loudly, in case Mum hadn't heard him.
"Bill," Mum said, bustling around the kitchen. "Will you go see what's keeping your father? Percy, what are you doing to those forks?"
"Mumma," Charlie said again, trying not to whine.
"Charlie, not now, sweetheart," Mum said, not even looking at him, but brushing past and lifting the frying pan from the stove. She flicked her wand and the bacon and eggs flew neatly onto four neatly arranged plates already laid with toast. "Arthur, really!" Mum called.
"I'm here," said Dad, hurrying into the kitchen as he straightened his work robes and kissed Mum on the cheek. Charlie stood in the very center of the floor, grinning.
"Daddy!" he said, holding up his arms, but Dad didn't see him, either. He was busy swallowing what had to be a very hot mug of tea; Mum had just made it for herself. Charlie turned around, trying to point this out to his mother, but—
"Ouch! Oh, Charlie, what are you doing? Go sit down, right now," Mum said sharply, rubbing her very large belly where Charlie had accidentally bumped into it. She was going to have two more babies "very soon," Dad said.
Charlie dropped his arms and scampered away, horrified with himself. He watched from behind a chair as his father, eyes watering from the very hot tea, kissed Mum and Percy goodbye, and called goodbye to Bill, who was just trotting in through the living room.
Mum, meanwhile, was busy with the plates. Charlie liked being her helper, usually, but…he was in the way, today. He let Bill help this morning, and watched as he tipped some eggs and bacon onto Percy's tray from his hiding spot behind Dad's usual chair at the breakfast table.
"Charlie," Mum called, sitting down with the last two plates and patting her belly as she got settled. "Come out from there and eat your breakfast."
Charlie shook his head violently and scrunched into a tighter ball.
"Come on, Charlie," Bill insisted, from his seat between Mum and Percy, who was trying very hard to insert a piece of bacon up his nose.
"Cholly, Cholly," Percy chanted, giggling madly as Bill took the bacon away from him.
"No," Charlie said forcefully, for Mum still looked annoyed.
Sure enough, she gave one of her angry sighs, and Charlie flinched.
"Fine, then, Charlie, I'll put it away until you decide to be a good boy and sit with us," Mum said, getting to her feet and leaving the table to put Charlie's plate high on a shelf, where even Bill couldn't reach it. She sat back down, served Percy some more eggs from her own plate, and didn't even look at Charlie again.
Charlie felt his lower lip begin to tremble as he watched Mum, Bill, and Percy laughing and talking together. Finally, he could stand it no longer. He stood up, and Mum looked at him.
"I'm being good!" he said indignantly, as he felt his tears spill over, and he ran from the room, scurrying through the parlor and up the stairs to the tiny attic room that he and Bill shared. He scooped up his blanket, a stack of parchment, and a set of magic paints that Mum and Dad had gotten him for Christmas, and hurried to shut himself in his and Bill's closet.
With only the light of the glowing stars on the walls of the closet, Charlie lay on his stomach for what must have been hours, drawing with his paints (and, occasionally, wiping away a tear or two). But soon enough, his tummy began to rumble. He frowned, trying to ignore it, and kept working on his drawing.
Suddenly, there came a knock at the door.
Charlie looked up at the doorknob. It was Mum. He wasn't sure how much he wanted to open the door, though.
"Charlie, open up, sweetheart," Mum said.
Charlie gave a sniff, sat up, and opened the door slowly. Mum stood there, still in her bathrobe (perhaps it hadn't been quite so long, after all), with her arms folded, though she didn't look nearly so annoyed now.
"What?" Charlie asked, sniffing again.
"Do you want to tell me what's wrong?" Mum asked patiently.
"Nothing," Charlie mumbled, looking back at his pictures, lying on the floor around him. "I'm drawing now."
Mum gave another sigh, and Charlie looked up, thinking she was angry again, but instead he saw her lowering herself onto the end of his bed, facing him. "What are you drawing?" she asked, once she had managed to sit down.
Charlie shrugged. "Goblins…n'stuff."
"Will you let Mummy see?" Mum asked. Charlie shrugged again, but collected his papers and got up, leaving the closet and bringing his drawings to his mother, who began looking at them one by one. "Mm-hmm," she said thoughtfully, looking at one. Then she held up the next. "Mm-hmm…hmm…"
"What?" Charlie asked, looking worriedly at his drawings over her arm.
Mum looked at him as though she were surprised he was still there. "Oh," she said. "I was just thinking that these might look very nice on the wall in the kitchen…but I don't know…would you let me put them up?" she asked.
Charlie looked seriously up at her, blinking and rubbing one arm under his nose. "You c'n…you c'n put tha goblin up, if you wanna," he said. "An' the purple daggon."
Mum's eyes lit up. "Really, Charlie?" she asked. "I can?"
Charlie shrugged, though he was starting to smile again. "Yeah…but not tha blue daggon, okay? You hafta save that one."
"What should I save it for?" Mum asked, rubbing Charlie's back.
"For tha babies," Charlie said, shrugging and rubbing one hand on Mum's huge belly. "That one's for them."
"Oh, Charlie," said Mum, putting one hand under his chin and lifting it. She looked into his eyes seriously. "That is very, very nice of you," she told him, leaning forward and giving him a kiss on his forehead.
Charlie felt his lower lip trembling. "I'm just tryin' ta be good like Bill an' Percy," he whispered.
Mum sighed, ruffling Charlie's hair. "Charlie, Mummy's sorry for snapping at you," she said. "I'm just very tired right now, and so is Daddy. I know that doesn't really make it better, but…things'll be easier for us when the babies are here. Having one baby is hard, and having two is harder, but I promise that it'll get better, okay?"
Charlie sniffed and leaned against Mum's side. "Can we read stories again after the babies are here?" he asked, looking at Mum's free hand, which was resting on her knee, while the other one played with his hair.
"Of course we can," Mum said gently, kissing the top of Charlie's head. "But I'll tell you what. Let's read one right now, just you and me."
Charlie looked up at her, his eyes wide. "Really?" he asked. Mum smiled.
"Really," she said. "Show me what Daddy's been reading to you at bedtime."
"I can read it too, now!" Charlie said excitedly, scurrying over to his bookshelf and producing a worn-out copy of Beedle the Bard.
"You can?" Mum asked, as Charlie clambered up onto the bed beside her.
"Yeah, but you an' Daddy are better," he insisted. "Don't worry."
"All right," said Mum, resting her back against the wall and allowing Charlie to snuggle close to her. "As long as I'm not being replaced."
Charlie looked up at her, horrified. "Never!" he insisted.
Mum laughed and opened the book with one hand. "Which one do you want, Charlie?" she asked.
"Babbitty Rabbitty!" Charlie said eagerly, and Mum laughed again before finding the right page.
"Once upon a time…"
I'm on a roll. This is for Morning Lilies' Forgotten Family Ties Competition!
The fact that I feel like the quality improves slightly with every story is making me laugh. :D