How do we safeguard our children in a changing and dangerous world? And what if the greatest danger is from ourselves?
Elizabeth gives an overview of the book:
On the baby’s first birthday the Smarties on the cake went frilly round the edges. The first sign of odd things happening.
No one took it seriously.
He said it was magic. (He; he doesn’t have a name, not here, not in my head.). ‘I told you,’ he said afterwards, ‘things would start happening now you and I have met.’
‘Magic,’ said Danny too, four years old and excited, waiting in an agony of impatience for the start of the birthday tea in the garden, though never in any doubt that things would go as planned, or that birthday teas would go on happening, and Daddy always come to join them in time.
And, this time, he did. He came round the side of the house, Daddy, my husband, ducking under the honeysuckle and coming to kiss us all, smelling faintly of the lab, that sharp high chemical smell.
He was a scientist, my husband. He had a rational explanation. He looked at the Smarties and grinned. Lovely teeth, he had, not a single filling, and naturally curly hair. The kinks of it glistened in the sun. It came back to me then, all the reasons I loved my husband.
‘See,’ said Danny, pointing the funny way he did with his left middle finger, ‘they’re like little mince pies.’
And they were, each sweet surrounded by a perfect row of frills. My husband looked at them and laughed.
‘Osmosis,’ I think he said, I wasn’t in a state to remember the actual word. Something about things running, their contents seeping through their skins, leaving themselves behind. At any rate, he said I must have put them on when the icing was too wet.
Of course. Because of what had happened, I hadn’t been in a state to judge the drying time of icing.
But it was odd. Why, for instance, if things had melted, had the colours not run?
I cut the cake. I doled them out, the magic Smarties. A piece for my husband, and one for each child.
And the blackbird pipped confidently, as if that garden and those hedges would always be there for him to call across; and there we sat, husband and wife and two-point-four children, point-four being the child we might have had if certain chemical chances in our bodies had or hadn’t occurred, and which we’d never have now, now things had started to happen.
Elizabeth Baines is a writer of prose fiction and plays. Her latest novel is Too Many Magpies (Salt, 2009). 'Moving and compelling' - Sarah Salway.
'Terrific... There's a definite air of menace... It’s very clever indeed and finally, very moving too...