He’s still here, even after what I said. He’s lying in bed, flat on his back. His eyes are open, but they’re staring at somewhere else. Perhaps he can’t sleep either. I start to get in next to Mummy, to curl myself into the hug of her body. I always do that when I can’t sleep. But he turns his head, and now he’s staring at me. I run back to my room and shut the door. I lean on it for a bit just in case he follows me. He doesn’t look like the man in Mummy’s photo. He’s too thin and brown-coloured. It all started to change ages ago, when I was only just three… when we had the big party on the grass outside the flats. Everyone came. I’m nearly four now so we’ll be having another party soon. There’ll be little flags on strings hanging between the trees again, and long tables with lots of food on − jelly and blancmange and little meat paste sandwiches cut into soldiers. It was after my party that all the Daddies started to come here. Just a few, every now and then. I watch them from my bedroom window as they come through the archway to the flats. I hear them walking past our door and up the stairs. I know they’re Daddies because they all carry brown cases and wear the same funny hats and baggy suits. There was one really small Daddy whose suit was so baggy he looked like Teddy after Billy from upstairs cut his growl out and lost some of the stuffing. And that Daddy had an eye patch like Teddy’s. Mummy sewed it on when Teddy lost one and there was a dangerous piece of metal sticking out. Our Daddy has only just arrived though. That’s because he’s come from far, far away. The Far East, that’s what Mummy said. He’s been here before, before I was born. Mummy says to sit on his knee and talk to him because he wants to get to know me, but his knees are too bony. And anyway she’s always saying not to speak to strangers, isn’t she?
‘Vera? Breakfast! Up you get.’ He’s sitting there again, next to Mummy. She’s had to put my cushion on another chair. She’s leaning over him, her hand on his shoulder. ‘Do you want your toast cut up, love, so you can dunk it?’ ‘I’m not an invalid, dear,’ he says. ‘You have the egg.’ ‘You need it more than me,’ she says. That’s what she always said to me. I won’t be getting an egg today. I always get one on Sunday. My nails are cutting into my palms, even though I bite them when Mummy isn’t looking. She says it’ll give me worms. But I don’t care! I stare at Daddy and say what I said yesterday. ‘Mummy and me don’t need you here. We like it better without you. When are you going home?’