This week I reread The Hunger Games trilogy. In two-and-a-half days. And here’s an interesting discovery: you can’t swallow fourteen hundred pages that fast without starting to feel like you’re the heroine in a book written by Suzanne Collins. Which makes you all present tense, short sentences, heavy on the drama, heavy on the eyebrows (my new fringe isn’t helping with this much. I find fringes terribly dramatic, somehow). Bless Ms Collins: she also ends every chapter with a cliffhanger in which at least one person, somewhere, is shouting ‘nooooooooooooo!’
Fourteen hundred pages. That’s a lot of cliffhangers.
My days are easily that dramatic, since you ask.
It’s dark when I wake up. I glower across the room at the clock, as my fingers stretch automatically over the faded coverlet to replace Edward’s dummy. I can hear a rhythmic banging on the stairs.
Burglars, I think. They’ve come for us at last.
The door creaks open, creakily. I realise I am yawning, and bite my tongue. I must not show weakness, not here. There’s a figure in the doorway, and now I’m sure I know who it is.
‘Porridge time?’ it enquires, in a plaintive voice I know only too well.
It’s not burglars. It’s not even the postman.
Panic. That’s what I feel as I hurtle down the stairs three at a time. Teds is wailing, and it’s a cry that means only one thing.
I enter the room and choke on the fog of nappy fumes that fills the air. I get down low on my hands and knees, searching for the source of the explosion. I know I’ll only get one chance to defuse it. Perhaps it’s already too late.
After what feels like a lifetime I find Teddy’s foot, and yank open his babygro with one hand. The smell is bad, but it in no way prepares me for what is waiting underneath. The stickily evil swamp. The orange and brown stains flooding up his back. Worst of all, the twitching that tells me another bomb is on its way.
I have just enough time to cover my face before the baby bowel explodes, and I am thrown backwards into the air.
CRASHHH! I whip around, hands full of the sausages I’ve been skinning at the stove, to find Henry covered in broken remnants of Christmas ornament.
‘I smashed it’, he says, blue eyes bright underneath his mop of gold hair. He looks so like his father. I soften.
‘Let me sing you a song’, I say. I don’t sing very often, but it feels like the right moment. I begin, my voice low and persuasive.
Small potatoes, on the moon
Small potatoes, in the sea
Small potatoes, take a bath
Small potatoes, sing with me
Potatoes, oh, potatoes
As I finish the song we sit still, tears of emotion making my throat ache. Then I realise that I can no longer hear the goats calling to each other outside the window. Guess it’s true, the goats really do fall silent when I sing.
Henry is silent too. Then he smiles, and smashes another Christmas ornament onto his own head.
He’s here. Finally, he’s here. I run from the bathroom, where I’ve been foraging for old nappies, and cannon into him. Straight into the warmth of his arms. His face is amused as he looks down at me.
‘Why are you carrying a plastic Furby?’
I don’t want to tell him, but I have to. I avoid his eyes and mutter ‘it’s a Happy Meal toy. We went to McDonald’s today’.
Immediately his face darkens with sorrow, and I wish I hadn’t said anything. ‘Didn’t you get me a Festive Pie?’
I hang my head. ‘They’d run out’.
In the night, I dream of lost pies and skinned sausages. I wake up screaming, breathless with horror. He eases me back into sleep and as I float off into oblivion, I hear him say ‘there’ll be more pies tomorrow’.
And I know he’s telling me the truth.
‘The Baby Games is awesome’ – Stephenie Meyer
‘A gripping dystopian thriller that had me hooked till the final pages’ – The New York Times
STAY TUNED FOR NEXT YEAR’S EXPLOSIVE SEQUEL: