"Nobody likes me!" off Elise goes on another teenage tempest. "Hey honey, what happened?" I ask, using my mother voice. "Luke doesn't like me anymore. He's going out with Mara, 'cos she's prettier"
"Well then, he doesn't deserve you" I pat the couch next to me "would you like to hear a story?".
"Well, I want to tell you what happened one day, the summer I turned 16. It just might help you." Elise looks sceptical.
Closing my eyes, I go back in time. "It all started early one morning with a desperate call from my neighbour. Her babysitter had just cancelled, and she needed me to look after her kids for the day. She had two little boys. They both had green eyes and red hair, Max's curly and Tom's a messy mop. And they were trouble.
When I arrived, their Mother ran out in a hurry, leaving me with no instructions. First up, we did breakfast. "Mummy always lets us make pancakes" says Max, hands clasped eagerly behind his back. Tom nods earnestly "always!". Everything was fine until we got out the electric beater. "Its my turn!" "no, its my turn!" the beater, caught in the middle of a tug of war, continues its high-speed whizzing and mixture starts splattering on the ceiling. "Boys, behave yourselves!". And then I see it. The bag of flour is being tipped by tiny hands into the mixing bowl. WHOMPH! A cloud of white obscures my view, followed by a moment of silence. Pulling the plug out of the socket, I wait for the air to clear.
We were all absolutely covered, white as ghosts. Through flour-encrusted eyelashes I glimpse the boys looking frightened. "We didn't mean to do it!". I try to be stern, but I can't help it. Its just too funny. Bursting into laughter, I double over, and the boys join in, relieved. Phew, what a start to the day! "Right, you go get cleaned up in the bathroom while I sort out this mess".
After I wipe down every visible surface in the kitchen, I put two slices of bread in the toaster for the boys. What an organised babysitter I am.
As it turns out, leaving the boys alone was a bad idea. Bubbles escape out a gap in the bathroom door, and float down the hallway. One pops on my nose, and I wonder what's going on. "Cannonball!" Max yells, followed by an almighty splash. Oh dear. Opening the door, I recoil in horror. Bottles of shampoo, shaving cream and toothpaste are littered everywhere, and a mystery pink syrup lies in pools on the tiles. Tom grins guiltily, like a cat caught in the cream.
I dart towards the tap, but slide on the way, and next thing I find myself flat on my back. "Argh" I groan. What a morning.
"I'll take the recycling out" I declare, scooping up the empty bottles. Oh, for a moment to collect myself. Opening the garage door, I see a flash of white sprint past. Next come the little soapy terrors "You let the dog out!". I had forgotten that they even had a dog, but there he is, a big bounding greyhound with a shiny coat. "Prince charming! Come back!" we yell helplessly, as we watch him run away.
Then the fire alarm goes off. The toast! I'll have to sort that out in a minute. "I'm going after him. You boys stay right here. Understand?". Dropping my armload of cans and bottles, I hear them rattle down the driveway. Feeling a little rattled myself, I start running. "Prince charming!". When I get to the footpath, I'm hit by something unseen, knocked to the ground for the second time. Dazed, disorientated and dizzy, I look up. And there he is, the cutest boy in school. How embarrassing. "Hey" he says, a surprised look on his face. "I'm so sorry, are you alright?".
I nod, and he helps me to my feet. And in that moment, fire alarms and runaway dogs vanish from thought. I don't know what I say, but we both laugh. Despite the pink syrup on my clothing and the flour in my hair, he must have seen something in me." Having finished my story, I reluctantly snap out of my reverie. "Elise?" I ask. "Yes", she says, smiling. "That's how I met your father".
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