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Chapter Twenty-seven

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I got sick of asking Henry to take down the Halloween decorations, so I took the task upon myself. The worn oak stool wobbled with my weight as I untangled the laughing pumpkin decorations from the top of the staircase.

"Your dad's a nightmare," I said to Mabel through the crack of the kitchen door as she stuffed a cream cheese bagel into her mouth.

I'd bugged and bugged him to put the decorations away, but he was adamant about their tradition, seeming vague with his answers.

He really was a closed book.

"Are you going to be at school the whole day?" she replied, covering her mouth.

I lifted the plastic lid to the box I'd found to store away the decorations and put the pumpkin inside, along with the banners and light-up cat. "Not all day, sweetheart."

"Why?" she replied.

Once all the spooky stuff was away inside the box for another year, I wandered over to the dining table and sat down next to her. "I'm supporting Jack. It's his first day back."

"Jack's back at school?" she whispered, pushing her plate to the side before snuggling in close to my side.

I nodded. "Yes, he's staying for the morning and then his grandma will pick him up. Are you looking forward to seeing him?"

Mabel buried her face in my shoulder as if wanting to hide from the question. "I guess. Will he be sitting next to me?"

"That depends on what your teacher says. You know, he could do with some friends right now, baby." I pressed her nose with my finger, which made her giggle. "And, I believe you're the perfect person for that job."

"I am a good friend," she replied, semi-talking to herself and me at the same time. "I gave Becky all of my animal biscuits at lunch once because George tripped her up."

I bit my lip. "That's very kind of you. Isn't George the boy you're going to marry?"

Mabel tugged out of my arms and placed her hands on the table, shaking her head in the process. "No, I brokened up with him. I don't like him anymore, and he hugged Louise instead of me!"

Oh, I could gobble this up every minute of every day. It was extremely precious. "You don't need a husband right now, anyway."

Mabel turned her head around to look back towards the fridge. "Can I take two fruit jelly pots to school? One for me and one for Jack?"

This little girl's kindness was never ending. "Of course you can."

Mabel jumped off the seat and dashed towards the cupboards, using the kiddie step to reach the one containing her lunch bag. I watched as she opened it up, laying two pieces of kitchen roll inside, an apple and banana before skipping to the fridge to retrieve the jelly pots.

"You're such a good girl, Mabel," I let her know, because it was the truth.

I doubted many would want to think on their feet like she always did. Credit to Henry's parenting skills, I guessed.

She grinned. "I'll let him choose what fruit he wants too. I usually have both, but I'll share."

I checked the clock on the wall to see we had twenty minutes to get to school before they did the register. Not wanting Mabel to get a late mark, I grabbed her padded jacket from the back of the chair and helped her into it and then dressed in my own.

We were through the school gates ten minutes later, the school playground packed with parents and children. Mabel gripped onto my hand as we passed them all and headed for the year two classroom.

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