Bronte’s collected the twins and Emily from school.
As she eased her Range Rover around country bends heading for home, she glanced in the rear view mirror at her eldest daughter who’s sitting on her booster seat staring out of the window. When Sophia’s too quiet it usually means something’s up. Bronte didn’t have to wait long to find out.
“Our badges are sooooo cool,” Luca said to Emily.
Emily nodded, and checked out the badge pinned to her school blazer. “You have a blue one and mine’s pink.”
“What did you get a badge for?” Bronte asked.
“For kindness,” Luca piped up.
“That is cool. Who were you kind to?”
“Our friends voted for the kindest boy, that’s me, and the kindest girl, that’s Emily,” Luca said. “I sent Tom a get well card when he broke his leg. And Emily gave Susie a cuddle when she skinned her knee when she fell in the playground.”
Another glance in the rear view mirror and the look on Sophia’s face, as if she’d swallowed a wasp, told its own story.
“You okay, Sophia?”
Still facing the window, Sophia sent her mama a side-eye. “Fine.”
Emily stroked Sophia’s arm. “She’s upset because Miss Brown said we shouldn’t have best friends at school. That we should be inclusive and everyone is our friend.”
“She’s as dumb as a turnip,” Sophia said, channelling her Auntie Rosie. “I’ll never be friends with horrible people who are nasty. We need to stand up to bullies, not be friends with them.”
Well then, seemed that by asking a simple question, she’d opened up a whole can of worms. “We’ll talk about it when we get home.”
“Emily’s been my best friend since we were little babies. We’re sistas, just like you and Auntie Rosie. How would you feel if a dumb teacher told you not to be best friends with Auntie Rosie?”
“Calling a teacher names is disrespectful, Sophia. I won’t tolerate it. Modify your language please.”
Sophia heaved a deep sigh as she bored holes through the back of her mama’s head.
“Okay. Miss Brown is wrong. Being kind to bad people is silly because they do not deserve it.”
“We’ll talk about it when we get home,” Bronte repeated and breathed a sigh of relief as she drove the car through the gates of The Dower House.
When Sophia raced past her without offering her usual hug of welcome, Rosie’s dark brows winged into her hairline.
The Ferranti Bichon Frise, Jimmy Chew, was hot on Sophia’s heels.
Rosie turned to eye a pale-looking Emily and suspiciously quiet Luca.
“Okay. What’s up?”
“Me and Emily gotta kindness badge.”
Rosie crouched down to take a closer look. “Nice. What’s up with my favorite niece? She upset because she didn’t get a badge?”
Emily shook her head hard enough to have her curls bounce. “Uh-uh. Miss Brown told us we can’t have best friends in school. Everyone is our friend.”
Rosie made a face. “That’s just stu…” When Bronte looked to heaven, she added, “What I mean is, that of course everyone should be friends. However, in my honest opinion, there is also a place for best friends.”
“That’s what Sophia said. I will always be her bestest friend for ever and ever,” Emily said in her high girly voice.
Rosie stroked a gentle hand down the river of shiny copper curls. “You’re a glutton for punishment, aren’t you?”
Since the meaning of the statement went right over her head, Emily nodded. “I love Sophia.”
Rosie grinned at the determined tone.
“What’s not to love?”
“Since the pair of you are wearing kindness badges, go up and spread a little to someone who needs it. Dinner will be ready in two hours,” Bronte said.
Luca’s dark eyes lit up. “What are we having?”
“Home made pizza.”
He sent her a deeply suspicious look. “The one with stupid vegetables and little trees?”
“Good,” he muttered, leading Emily towards the stairs. “I hate the little trees.”
Rosie had to laugh. “Him and his little trees. Why did you give me a dirty look?”
“Sophia was rude about Miss Brown in the car and I told her name calling is unacceptable.”
Rosie perched on a high stool at the counter top. “Yeah? What did she call her?”
Bronte slid her a black look. “As dumb as a turnip.”
“Can’t say I disagree.”
“Of course you don’t. Just wait until Mila’s six. You’ll change your tune then.”
“Nah. She takes after Alexander in nature, which is just as well. Can you imagine two of me living under the same roof? We’d kill each other.”
Frowning, Bronte filled the kettle and switched it on. “Sophia needs to respect her teacher. Miss Brown’s lovely.”
“Hmm. Respect needs to be earned. The kindness badge is a good idea though. Maybe expand it to include the community at large rather than inside the classroom.”
When a miserable looking Emily and Luca returned to the kitchen and slid into seats at the table, Rosie sent Bronte big eyes. “What’s the matter now?”
“She wants to be left alone,” Emily said.
Her blue sad eyes just broke Rosie’s heart. “She’s doing a Greta Garbo.”
Luca looked at Rosie. “Who’s Greta Garbo?”
“She was a famous Hollywood actress who gave up her career and told the world she wanted to be left alone. She’s dead.”
Luca glowered. “Sophia’s not dead.”
“This is true. Forget I mentioned it. I’ll go speak to her.”
As Rosie left, Luca turned pleading brown eyes on his mama.
“I’m starving. Can I have something that isn’t healthy?”
Bronte had to laugh. “You can have a glass of milk and a white chocolate chip mini muffin. How does that sound?”
“How about you, Emily?”
The little girl shook her head. “Sophia’s sad.”
“Rosie will cheer her up. You can save your milk and muffin until she brings Sophia down, what do you say?”
Emily smiled. “Okay.”
Bronte decided that she was the sweetest child and most definitely deserved her kindness badge. “Why don’t I play the Ninja Turtles video for you and Luca?”
“Thank you, Bronte.”
“You’re very welcome, Emily.”
Rosie knocked Sophia’s bedroom door and entered to find her niece dressed in soft jeans and her favorite Elsa T-shirt. She was sprawled on cushions on her window seat with Jimmy Chew dozing on her lap.
“Hey, what’s with the long face. And how come you didn’t give me a hug?”
In response, Rosie scooped up Sophia and the dog.
She sat on the window seat with them on her lap and wrapped her arms around both.
“I love the view from here. We can see right over the fields and the river to Ludlow Hall.”
“I’m watching for papa’s car.”
“Emily said the no best friend rule has upset you.”
“I don’t understand how I can be a friend to bad people.”
“The girls who pull hair or nip and scratch and say nasty things.”
“Hmm. Thing is, over time, people can change.”
Sophia shifted to look up into Rosie’s face. “Did you have people you didn’t like at school?”
“Sure did. When I was seven I used to dislike Janine.”
Sophia’s eyes were like saucers. “But, I love auntie Janine. She decorated my bedroom and does really cool things for us.”
“Yeah. Like I said, people change. When she was younger, she was a spoilt brat.”
“Yep. But once she got older and had Boo, she was a changed person.”
“Why did she change?”
“Well, she went through a hard time when she had the baby. She needed help to pay the bills and your mama and me gave her a job at Sweet Sensations.”
“You helped her even when you didn’t like her?”
Rosie wondered why she’d begun this conversation in the first place and decided to keep it simple. “Something like that. But, mostly I fell in love with Boo and realized the Janine I knew as a child and the grown-up were not the same person. Now Janine’s one of my best friends and I love her to bits. Maybe think about giving people a chance. See what happens.”
Sophia nodded. “‘Kay. But Emily will always be my best friend.”
The persistent stubborn streak within her niece made Rosie grin. “That’s cool. But maybe think about including a couple of the shy girls who find it hard to make friends in your circle. That would be a kind thing to do for them.”
“I didn’t think of it like that.”
“Of course you didn’t. You’re only six and I’m the adult who understands these things. Fancy milk and a chocolate chip mini muffin?”
As soon as she’d mentioned the word chocolate, Jimmy Chew leapt off Sophia’s knee and shot out the door.
Rosie looked at Sophia. “I swear that dog understands every single word we say.”
Sophia’s dimple popped. “He understands chocolate and cookie.”
As Rosie took her hand as they strolled out the door, she mused, “And I wonder why that is?”
“Yes, my child?”
“Did you get into trouble all the time when you were my age?”
“Do birds fly in the sky? Do fish swim in the sea? Of course I did.”
“Were you kind to people you didn’t like?”
Rosie could not lie. “No.”
Sophia nodded. “That’s what I thought.”
“I always say to forgive, but never forget.”
“And you always say don’t get angry, get even.”
“Growing up is hard.”
“Sure is. But you’re lucky because you’ve got me and your Uncle Alexander and your mama and papa to guide you. Trust me, between us there is nothing we haven’t seen.”
Rosie and Sophie entered the kitchen to find Bronte busy preparing dinner, including the ingredients for a huge bowl of salad. Luca won’t be pleased.
When Sophia skipped over to the table to join Emily, Rosie winked at a smiling Bronte.
“What did you say to her?” Bronte asked out of the corner of her mouth.
Rosie’s hand hovered over a sliced red pepper. “Just gave her the benefit of my infinite wisdom and vast experience.”
“She’s a bright girl. All she needed was time to work through her thoughts.”
“I don’t want to micro-manage her life.”
“I get that. On the other hand, it’s good to keep tabs on what’s going on. We’re all she has between her and the rest of the world.”
Bronte blinked. “I hadn’t thought of it like that.”
“Scary shit, isn’t it?”
“I’ve been wondering what sort of badge Miss Brown could give Sophia.”
Rosie munched on a pepper. “That’s dead easy. I am Italian.”
#bekind #kindness #amwriting #amediting