Bardie iz cul
‘But Mum!’ Rachie’s eyes were wide and innocent. ‘It wasn’t me! God did it!’
Leah glared at her. ‘No he didn’t. God doesn’t write on walls.’
‘But he does, Mummy!’ Rachie smirked. ‘We had the story in Sunday School.’
Great. The first time she’s ever remembered the Sunday School lesson.
‘Well, when God writes on walls, he doesn’t use blue crayon. He uses his finger.’ Leah frowned down at the four year old. ‘How dare you scribble on your sister’s bedroom wall? I’m very angry. Go to your room.’
‘But Mum!’ The second word had two syllables, in the manner of aggrieved toddlers everywhere. ‘It really was God.’
Leah sighed and gave the words a rub. No good.
‘Bardie iz cul,’ declared the wall.
The front door slammed.
‘Diana!’ Leah tried to sound cheerful and welcoming.
‘What?’ Diana looked aggrieved. ‘What have I done now?’
‘Nothing. That I know of. But I need to tell you something. I’m afraid Rachie wrote on your bedroom wall today.’
‘The little brat! I’ll kill her.’ Diana spat the words over her shoulder as she flew up the stairs.
‘She’s out at Gran’s!’
Thirty seconds later, Diana was back.
‘Mum! How could you let her?’
OK, so teenagers have the two-syllable ‘Mum’, too.
‘I didn’t let her, Diana. I didn’t stand there handing her the crayons and helping her with the spelling. She just did it while my back was turned.’
‘What’s it mean, anyway? Bardie iz cul?’
‘’Barbie is cool’ of course. You used to think so, once.’
‘Anyway, if you pop round to Dave’s, he might have some white spirit or something to get it off.’
Diana looked at her incredulously. ‘You’re asking me to go round to Dave?’
‘Well I’m only suggesting you nip round for a drop of turps. I’m not giving you permission to elope with him.’
‘I’m gone. See ya.’
‘Don’t stay too long.’
Leah dipped her rag in the noxious fluid. ‘Are you sure this is the right stuff?’
‘Are you saying Dave doesn’t know what he’s talking about?’
No, he knows everything. He is fifteen, after all.
Without answering, Leah began to rub at the crayon marks. Diana started from the other end. They worked in silence, the wall squeaking in protest.
Foul colour for a bedroom, maroon. Looks like a brothel.
But Leah had spotted it at the same time. Little patches were appearing; growing; coalescing. Dave had been right. The crayon was coming off beautifully. Shame he forgot to mention that the paint would dissolve, too.
‘Oh, no!’ Leah stared, appalled. Diana stood beside her, their faces twinned in horror.
Then, suddenly, they began to laugh.
‘D’you think we rubbed too hard?’
‘No, it was that home-brew Dave sold me.’
‘Sold you? I thought he was your boyfriend.’
‘Not any more. Suppose we got married. We’d have spots on every wall in the house. Welcome to our little patch.’
‘Oh, it isn’t a patch on my place.’ Leah’s sides were aching.
‘Oh, Mum, look!’ Diana grabbed Leah’s sleeve and pointed. ‘My Barbies!’
The laughter died on their lips. Leah saw Mark, paintbrush in hand, putting the finishing touches to Diana’s mural. Two Barbies sharing a book; a Barbie being swept into the sky with her kite; a Barbie picnic. Diana had been beside herself when she saw it; demanding to be lifted up to kiss each Barbie in turn.
Mark, how could you die and leave me to bring up your girls alone?
‘Daddy painted these, didn’t he?’ Diana traced the outline with her finger. ‘I loved these Barbies. Why did I go and paint over them?’
Leah had a sudden vision: the two of them stripping off all that foul paint; reclaiming a piece of Diana’s childhood that she’d thought forever lost.
Suddenly she realised. Those were happy times, but she didn’t need to look backwards for her joy.
She took Diana’s hand. ‘How about we makeover your room?’
Diana gave it a squeeze. ‘What about lilac? It’s so gloomy, this maroon.’
A shame-faced Rachie was hugging Leah’s knees.
‘Mummy, I’m very sorry about the writing. It was me, not God.’
Leah knelt and put her arms around the little girl. ‘I know you’re sorry, Rachie. But you mustn’t blame other people for your badness. Now, go and say sorry to Diana, and it’ll all be over.’
She watched her daughter running off.
She wasn’t entirely wrong. God had a hand in it, too.
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