The Pearly Princess

"Ruby, Robby," their father James called to the little redheads playing in the garden. "Please come in for a minute, sweethearts? I’ve something to say."

 

"OK, Daddy, coming," the little girl said, putting the hoops-and-pegs game she was playing with in the playbox and running into the house. The almost identical-looking boy threw the ball he'd played with at the box, which hit the top and bounced under the hedge. The boy shrugged and went inside.

 

Ruby found the kitchen empty but saw her father sitting in the middle of the living room settee, leaving room for Ruby and Robert to sit either side of him. She picked her father's right side because he loved to cuddle her with his right arm and tickle with his left. James was a right-handed architectural draughtsman and careful to protect his drawing hand. Ruby knew he could tickle just as well right- or left-handed so it didn’t matter to her and alway chose to sit on his right side. Robert dropped into the other side of the settee with a thump.

 

"What this talk about, Daddy?" Ruby asked, turning her face to her father, sure it was about their 10th birthday next week. She knew it wasn’t going to be a normal birthday, not just because the twins’ age were going into double figures, but the COVID-19 lockdown meant they couldn’t have a birthday party with friends. But maybe they could go to McDonalds. Ruby didn’t mind If it was just the three of them, after all, there had always been just them.

 

She noticed he had a letter in his hand and a fairly flat brown paper parcel on his lap, tied up with string wrapped down and across, knotted and sealed with red wax, just like old fashioned packages she had only seen in illustrated books.

 

"Well," James said, "how’d you like a train ride up to London on your birthday instead of a boring old lunch at McDonalds?"

 

"London?" Ruby asked, unable to remove the surprise in her voice. She'd never been to London before. She wasn’t sure if Daddy had ever been to London, if he had he'd never said.

 

"Yes, London. We could go for the whole day, perhaps go on the London Eye-”

 

"I expect everything's closed, Daddy," Robert interrupted. He was quite excited about going to London because for a long time they hadn’t been abl...

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Tony Spencer
Oct 30 2020

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