Pretend Grown-ups

The three set out to go to the canal, bundled up against the January cold. The parents had stayed at home and the others were sleeping, but these three wanted to go outside. Dark clouds hung low; the air was clear save for the soft sprinkling of mist. They had worn their wellies, having been told it was muddy.

The canal was iced over. They took turns throwing things at the ice to see if it would break, and the middle one grew bolder. The youngest turned her attention from petting the pretty horse that leaned its head over the fence, nuzzling her pockets and scarf for any hidden treats. ‘I want to stamp, too!’ exclaimed the youngest, skipping up behind the older two.

‘Shall I hold your arm?’ asked the oldest. She did, and the youngest stamped on the ice on the edge of the canal, just like the middle one had done. But being much smaller than he, more of her weight had to go into stamping. One stamp, two, three and four — crack, went the ice and then — splash!

Foot and welly boot fell through the ice. The one holding her arm sat back and slipped. The youngest fell backward onto the ice and sat there bewildered for a second before the older two hauled her back onto the shore. Amidst worried, ‘Are you all rights’ and ‘Do you need my coat’, the youngest only laughed. Then the middle one started laughing, too.

‘Oh, you’re just grown-up children,’ cried the oldest with exasperation. They were, after all, grown-ups.

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