The rest of the day went on fairly normally. Emily told Lucy all about Elixa. Lucy was mildly interested, but she didn't want Emily to like Elixa more than she liked her. Emily and Lucy had been close friends for a very long time and Lucy was maybe just slightly possessive, for a six year old.
"But that's impossible!" she protested when she was told of Elixa's disappearance.
"Elixa did it!" Emily pointed out loudly. "You can come and meet her, and then you'll see her do it."
"Really? What does she look like?" Lucy wondered. "Did you take a picture?"
"Yes!" Emily beamed and pulled the picture out of the pocket of her knitted cardigan and handed it to her friend.
Lucy inspected it overly closely, throwing in a few "Hmm"s and "Ahh"s here and there for emphasis. All the while, Emily was giggling at her. Finally, after about five minutes, Lucy came to her important conclusion.
"She's very pretty."
Emily burst into hysterics, her cute laughter causing a pretty smile to break over Lucy's face.
"That's what I said," Emily told her when she'd finally finished laughing.
"I really want to meet her," Lucy said.
"Well..." at that point, Emily forgot what she had been going to say, so instead she asked, "Do you think we're allowed in the kitchen now?"
Lucy frowned in thought for a few seconds. "I don't know," she decided. "Let's go and ask my mummy."
The two six year olds trotted downstairs and into the living room, where Amanda was watching a repeat of Jeremy Kyle.
"Ahh! It's the tiny terrors!" she exclaimed, grinning when she noticed them.
"Mummeeeeeee," Lucy dragged.
"Yeees?" her mother smiled.
"Can we go in the kitcheeeeen?"
"We're hungryyyyyyy," the girls told her.
Amanda smiled teasingly. "And what, my dears, do you propose to cook?"
The girls were shortly confused, and Emily understood just a second before Lucy caught on.
"Nooo!" Emily snickered.
"We want you to cook!" Lucy beamed, giggling.
"Oh, I see. You want me to cook so you don't have to."
Emily and Lucy shook their heads enthusiastically, making their hair fly into their faces. Lucy was strawberry blonde. Emily had always liked Lucy's hair, and sometimes wished she could have it as her own. They had discussed that they could both shave all their hair off, swap, and then stick it all on again with glue. Their teacher had recently told them that this would not work very well, as it would keep falling off and it would look a mess. They still thought it might work if they were very careful, despite Miss Sinder's tries at convincing them otherwise.
"No. We want you to cook because we can't." Amanda was told, matter-of-factly, by Lucy.
"Oh, is it now? Well then, I suppose I'll have to," Amanda jumped up. "What do you want?"
"Burgers!" Emily exclaimed.
"Chips!" Lucy followed.
"Right," Amanda wrote on an imaginary notepad. "So it's one burgers, and one chips?"
Lucy and Emily shared a glance of amusement.
Lucy yelled. "NO!"
Emily shouted. "Burgers and chips!"
"One burgers and chips, then." Amanda grinned at the children.
"Mummy," Lucy said. She folded her arms. "We both want burger and chips."
"Oh, I see." Amanda mirrored Lucy's serious look with her own, lips pressed together to stop her from laughing. "Two burgers and chips."
"Yes," the two young children said, false sincerity all over their faces and in their voices. Emily absolutely adored Lucy's mum. Amanda was so patient and she would play with Emily for hours while she was babysitting her. She was never too stern, and Emily had not heard her shout once in the time she had known her. She was also very nice-looking and pretty, not to mention that she gave amazing hugs.
As soon as Amanda was out of the room, Lucy grabbed the remote and started flicking rapidly through the channels. She passed the channel she wanted at least eleven times before Emily pushed her out of the way and stole the remote control so that she could do it herself. Then she moved considerably slower through the channels until she found Spongebob Squarepants, but the credits came on just as the girls sat down on the sofa to watch it. So, Lucy then took the remote and began rushing through the channels at high speed again.
This went on for about five minutes, with all the programmes they liked to watch having only just finished, and then for a further eight minutes in which all that was showing were adverts.
Eventually, they just stayed on a random channel, and were very happy when the opening sequence for Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom started.
"Somewhere, hidden amongst thorny brambles, is a little kingdom of elves and fairies," Amanda heard from the front room. "Everyone who lives there is very, very small." She smiled a small smile, but it faltered almost immediately. Amanda was thinking about Steven. Lately, he'd been spending less and less time at home and she was worried about him. Or rather, what he was doing on these 'five minute' trips out. Twice he had come back completely drunk, four others he had returned home tipsy, with the smell of alcohol on his breath. Other times, he would just completely ignore Amanda until the next day.
Steven was always shifty and fidgety when questioned about where he was going, and if he hadn't been drinking when he got back he would be nervous and would jump ever so slightly and almost unnoticeably every time Amanda talked to him. Sometimes, he would be extremely generous towards her, offering to cook, clean and to do various other things that Amanda normally occupied herself by doing.
At first, Amanda had ignored it, and pretended to be completely oblivious. She'd put it down to the fact that Steven could be very claustrophobic at times, and liked to spend most of his time outdoors. She'd passed it off with reason that his father had died recently and he was still grieving.
But two months was quite a long time, so she had asked him about it. Just subtle questions that didn't really show that she might have noticed his odd behaviour. She'd just dropped questions like 'are you OK?' and 'what's wrong?'
But now, now it was different. Now, she needed Steven more than ever because she had recently divorced her previous husband to be with him. Because her brother had been seriously injured in a car crash, and was now struggling in hospital. Now, Steven was gone more than ever. And Amanda hated it. She hated him for it. It was a feeling she never thought she would feel towards Steven, and yet here she was feeling it.
Steven was constantly telling Amanda how much he loved her, but Amanda didn't think he loved her as much as he said he did. Amanda had begun to feel uncomfortable around Steven, and it was something neither of them liked.
"What is it you're not telling me?" she asked aloud. "What is it that you're keeping a secret?" she knew she wasn't going to get an answer. She knew that even if Steven were here she wouldn't get an answer.