Isobel burst into tears.
“Oh, Izzy. Don’t be such a cry baby.”
“Edward!” Sophie glared at her husband, picked their daughter off the rocking horse and carried her into one of the adjoining upstairs rooms of the old rambling house.
Edward followed without replying.
“You’re turning into your…” Sophie hesitated. “No, I’m not going to say it. They’re trying.”
“Yes, dear, sometimes they are… very.”
Sophie smiled, ice cracking.
“I’m just trying to instil into her that if you’re going to do something then you should do it 100% – no half measures.”
“But she’s only 18 months old.”
“Well, they say to start young.”
“I think that’s languages, Edward.”
His eyes lit up.
“Decus et tutamen,” Edward said, walking towards Izzy who by then was sitting on an overgrown royal-blue sofa, playing with a toy giraffe. Looking up, she burst into tears again.
Edward looked over at his wife.
“It’s not my fault,” she said. “I guess you look too much like your brother.”
“Which one?… Oh, he scares her that much?”
“I think it’s his ears.”
Edward thought for a moment then put one of his fingers in the air. “Ah, ha!”
Sophie watched him leave the room. She waited. And waited. Finally, he returned with a mobile in one hand and catalogue in the other.
“Yes, hello. I’d like to order item number… 117342E please. Size? Oh. Erm, the largest you have please. Yes, certainly. Oh. Account number…”
Sophie watched him flick back to the inside front page.
“HRH001,” he laughed. “And how quickly do you… really? Yes, 15 minutes would be fantastic. You have the home address. OK, well, thank you. Goodbye.”
Turning to Isobel, he said, “Izzy. Daddy’s got a present for you.”
The little girl’s eyes widened followed by a toothy grin. Discarding the giraffe, she held out both hands, palms up.
Sophie laughed. “Daddy’s girl after all.”
Edward walked over to a large Queen Anne table, picked up a remote and zapped it at an impressive TV situated in one corner of the room.
At the sound of ‘In the Night Garden’ theme tune, Izzy squealed and turned her head round in an owl-like fashion. Sophie walked over to her and turned her body to face the TV.
Izzy looked up at her mother and chuckled, then the family sat together as the programme started.
A knock at the door soon distracted them and the girls watched as Edward walked towards a man in a smart black uniform as he brought in a huge brown cardboard box. Edward pointed at the floor by the sofa.
Izzy screamed and jumped down, lunging herself at the box.
“Would you like me open it for you, sir?” the man asked.
“Oh no,” Edward said a little too dramatically, turning to Izzy. “That would spoil all the fun wouldn’t it?”
Izzy nodded seriously.
The uniformed man bowed his head at Edward, who thanked him, and the man left the room.
Edward picked up Izzy while Sophie pulled at the ends of the Hamley’s picture parcel tape to loosen them, then sat on the sofa as Izzy, hovered over the box by Edward, did the rest.
As the strips came off, a gigantic grey and pink nose shot out of the top.
Izzy screamed and buried her head into Edward’s chest.
“It’s OK,” he soothed, and, with one hand, tucked over the two cardboard lids until they sat limply by the side of the box. He then turned Izzy to face the top so she could see what the nose was attached to. She immediately started giggling.
Sophie stood up and the three of them peered into the dark space.
“Oh, Edward,” Sophie laughed, “that’s hilarious.”
Edward then handed Izzy to Sophie while he leaned over the box to take the creature out of its cardboard enclosure. Izzy’s eyes watched his every move.
As its tail finally appeared, she squealed and held out her hands as Edward placed it on the floor and moved the box out the way.
Sophie sat her gently next to the beast and joined Edward on the sofa.
Izzy started with a hug, then flicked its tail, pretended to walk its feet along the priceless Egyptian rug, then clasped its trunk making a distinctly cow-like moo.
“Mr Elephant doesn’t moo, Izzy,” Edward said.
“Ellie,” Izzy replied.
“Yes, Izzy, he’s an elephant.”
Izzy shook her head.
Edward and Sophie nodded theirs.
“Ellie,” Izzy repeated. “Ellie… girl.”
“Oh,” Sophie said. “She’s a girl.”
“Like you Izzy,” Edward added.
Izzy nodded, then sighed, turned to look at the cardboard box, and stood up.
“It’s empty,” Edward said as Izzy started walking towards it.
“All gone,” Sophie confirmed.
Izzy craned her neck to try and see inside the box but wasn’t tall enough.
Sophie stood up, walked over to her and tipped the box on to one side so that the open top faced them. “See,” she said.
But Izzy wasn’t listening. She walked into the box, sat down and thrust out her arms.
“Brmmm,” she shouted. “Brmmm, brmmm.”
Sophie laughed and turned to Edward, who was frowning. “Buy her the most expensive toy on the planet,” she said, “and she turns a cardboard box into a car. Now that’s clever.”
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