Alicia folded her newspaper over and sat it to the side. Leaning forward in the armchair, elbows resting on knees, and head resting on hands, she considered the child sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of her.
"You know, other children go through phases like 'how' and 'why'. I wish you would, because then I could answer with 'just because' or 'it just did'."
The little girl grinned, but didn't seem to be expecting anything else of her, so Alicia turned back to her newspaper.
"Alicia, when were you born?"
Alicia mumbled, eyes flicking upwards from behind the crossword. "Twenty-two years ago."
"And I was born six years ago."
"When were Mummy and Daddy born?"
"Longer ago than both of us put together."
That seemed to puzzle her into silence. Alicia pondered what it was like to be sent into such a philosophical fugue by questions so simple. Her sister was like that - her wonder was sustained long after the 'curious toddler' stage, and was more inclined to question - and actually take in and consider the answers - than Alicia had been.
"So... When was the world born?"
That was an interesting question, and it definitely pandered more to Alicia's interests.
"Well, scientists estimate that it's over four billion years old... Way older than you could imagine. And humans didn't even exist until about thirty five thousand years ago."
Alicia watched her sister assimilate this, fascinated by the process of information storing and sorting that was visible on her face. She studied her turning over and fitting together various facts, saw the cogs turning, and, eventually, a question forming. Her sister gave a shy little smirk, already fully aware of the irony of the situation, when she finally posed it:
Laughing, Alicia slid down off the chair to join her sister on the floor, and the two girls chatted into the night, long after the crackling fire had yawned itself into slumbering embers and the soft dayrise painted streaks of light on patterned walls.
Word count: 343