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Tina just smiled and stroked Solly’s ears.
Bette picked up Pad Thai on the way home for dinner, and then it was the usual school night routine. Food, homework, screen time, then bed – Sasha, of course, first.
‘Dory!’ said Sasha, when Bette asked what book she wanted.
‘Okay.’ She looked around the little girl’s room, which she’d tidied only that morning, and marvelled at this kid’s ability to create a mess in record time. ‘Where is it?’
Sasha shrugged and climbed into bed, giving off big not-my-problem energy. Bette rolled her eyes and hunted around on the bookshelves, on the little desk in the corner, in the toy box, and eventually found the book under the bed.
‘Try and be tidier, honey, okay?’
Sasha nodded as Bette switched on the nightlight, got on the bed and they cuddled up. She read a page and then her daughter pulled away, snuggling into Pat the octopus instead.
In the story, Dory was the youngest in her family too. She had a big brother and a big sister, but they don’t want to play with her, so she has to go on adventures of her own. It was one of Bette’s favourite books too, and she sometimes inserted little bits of her own, like putting Pat into a scene where they’re having tea and he needs eight cups all to himself. Every time Sasha spotted she’d deviated from the book, she would get very excited, but never quite sure whether she liked it or not. ‘Don’t make it up, Mama!’ battling with ‘What did Pat do next?’
Tonight, with the finale of ‘What did Fake Bette do next?’ to watch, Bette was in the mood to get the chapter done and dusted. She read in a soft, soothing voice, glancing down at her youngest, at the mop of curly blonde hair and her eyes blinking ever more slowly, until she judged it was time and then closed the book.
‘I love you, darling,’ she whispered, kissing the child’s forehead.
Sasha breathed deeply, slipping into dreams.
Ben went up at nine, and Angie was already in her room, so Bette and Tina finally got to say a proper hello.
‘How was your day?’ Bette asked, bringing laundry from upstairs and dumping it in the utility room.