I’m still getting used to this InMon on Fridays, FF not on Fridays malarkey. Has it effected the stories I write? Only time will tell, I suppose!
Thanks as always to Steph for the prompt this week. It was just the excuse I needed to bring Melanie back out to play, although this one needed her Mom’s help.
Mel held my hand as we passed the lions’ enclosure. They looked bored and I was reminded why I hate zoos – especially when I see the big cats. Lions should be roaming miles and miles of territory, chasing wildebeest and antelopes. We saw a large male sitting on a rock, gazing into space. I wondered if he was dreaming about the wild, but I guessed he’d probably never seen it. Was it true that we couldn’t miss what we hadn’t known?
I was pulled from my introspection by an eager tug on my arm.
“Look, Mummy!” She was pointing across the grassy picnic area, at another enclosure. My eyes gradually focussed and I saw two elephants: one large and one smaller one.
“Oh, a baby elephant,” I said. “Let’s take a closer look.”
The elephant enclosure was almost as bleak as the lions’. Most of the ground was hard, baked mud, with a few trees dotted around it, and a bathing pool at one end which didn’t look big enough to hold the mother elephant. But Mel didn’t see any of that. She was looking at the mother elephant, gently nosing its baby towards the water.
“Bathtime for the elephant,” Mel whispered, her eyes filled with awe. “Can we stay and watch it?”
A cough tickled the back of my throat. “Not now,” I thought, swallowing hard to get rid of it. “Of course,” I croaked.
“Mummy? Are you OK? Should we go and sit down?” Suddenly, Mel’s eyes were fixed on me. She had forgotten the elephants, the zoo, everything but my welfare. I wanted to cry.
“I’m fine,” I said, trying to smile although my eyes were watering from holding in the cough. Then it came. Not one, but wave after wave of scraping lungful. I leaned on the railing that separated us from the elephants. People were probably staring, but I couldn’t see through streaming tears. Mel clung tight to my arm as I bent over, trying to breathe. Someone put a bottle of water in my hand, but I couldn’t work out how to open it and it fell from my grasp.
Out of nowhere, strong hands took hold of me and somehow I walked to a bench and sat down. Another bottle of water, this time already open, was gently held to my lips and I took a sip. Some poured over my t-shirt, but the cough began to subside and eventually I leaned back on the bench, exhausted.
Mel was there, here face between me and a sea of concerned onlookers. She was smiling her “You’re going to be OK,” smile.
“I’d like to go home now, Mummy,” she said. “We’ve seen everything.”
We’d hardly begun, of course, but Mel was used to it by now. Steve had taught her well that Mummy’s health had to come first. It’s a lesson no child should have to learn, but what could we do?
“What shall we have for dinner?” I asked as we walked gingerly to the exit.
“Elephant soup,” said Mel, trying not to let me see her craning her head over her shoulder. I held back my tears for the second time that morning. She meant Alphabet Soup, of course. It’s her favourite meal and she knows how to cook it herself, when I’m not up to it.