Tommy came in late that afternoon, and sat down opposite Shahrazad, who was working on her jewellery. He watched her threading beads for a while, silently.
“I suppose you’re hungry?” said Shahrazad. She was glad to see him; reassured, now, that he was always going to come back. She packed away her things and went into the pantry, coming out a few minutes later with a bowl in one hand and a potato in the other.
“Rice, or potatoes?” said Shahrazad, holding them out to him in turn. Tommy pointed to the bowl of rice.
“Yes, that’s right, rice!”
“Rice it is then!”
Tommy stood around while she was chopping vegetables, pointing to the different types to make her say the names, and repeating them. She corrected him where he found them difficult to pronounce, but he mostly didn’t need it. She taught him to say “What is it?”when he pointed and from then on he didn’t stop asking it. He wanted a name for everything.
Soon he knew the words for almost everything in the apartment and more: ‘bed,’ ‘bath,’ ‘food,’ ‘water,’ ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ ‘more,’ ‘outside,’ ‘there’… Shahrazad talked to him constantly and his vocabulary grew more each day. One day, Shahrazad got out a pile of sheets of paper, wrote a letter on each one, and set about trying to teach Tommy the alphabet. He learned very fast, and soon got bored of naming the letters.
“Out?” he asked, pointing to the door.
“Oh, alright. But don’t be out too long! Come back soon, you understand? That’s if you want food!”
“Yes!” And he was out the door.