This morning, at the bottom of the stairs, they bumped into one of Adelaide’s favourite little girls. An intriguing soul she is, with a beautiful coat and a mother who delivers babies or something like that, so quite often at the end of the day, the receptionist calls out you’re going to out of school care, but your mum’s gonna get here as soon as she can.
‘You see this?’ the little girl said. She was wearing her beautiful coat with the buttons all done up, and she was holding a small, shimmery purple ball. She shook it, and the ball made a dull tinkling sound. ‘I found it on the road. It means I win the competition. We said the first one to find one of those on the road wins the competition.’
Her boys looked at Adelaide, because we don’t have competitions and winners in our house
‘One of Santa’s reindeers dropped it,’ the girl said.
Her oldest boy, a Santa Claus agnostic, looked again at Adelaide.
‘Did they?’ Adelaide said. She smiled and wished that she could put her arm around the girl’s shoulders, rub her hands down her hair. ‘We’d better start going up the stairs.’
‘Do you know what I wished for?’ They all walked on the left side and held the rail. There were no parents coming back down. ‘I wished that a reindeer would drop this on the road. And they did.’
Her oldest boy looked around at Adelaide. Adelaide shook her head.
And then, when they got to the top of the stairs, everyone’s favourite school support officer was there.
‘Oh, hello,’ the little girl said to the SSO. She did not look back at Adelaide and her boys. But even as Adelaide took the lunch box out of the bag, held the reader folder while the reader was painstakingly exchanged, Adelaide was watching the little girl.
‘This is from my cat,’ the little girl said showing the SSO the little purple ball. ‘We got her put down, and this is all that’s left.’
‘That’s very sad,’ the SSO said.
‘It was my dad’s cat,’ the little girl said.
‘Oh,’ the SSO said. ‘Do you think you need a hug?’ And that SSO was the kind of friend who could walk into your house at exactly the right time, and do the dishes for you, and you would like that she hadn’t asked, and then you’d let her make you a pot of tomato and lentil soup. And when she left, you’d realise you hadn’t cried for over an hour.
The little girl shook her head, turned and walked towards her classroom.
The SSO caught Adelaide’s eye, smiled.
‘How about those miners?’ she said to Adelaide.