Lottie looked up at her mum while she snuggled down under her duvet. She had an important question. It was very important for a five year old girl to ask. She needed the answer before she could possibly fall to sleep.
‘Mummy, are fairies real?’
‘Most undoubtedly so,’ her mum said.
Lottie nodded her head. That was the answer she had wanted and she remembered it for the whole of her life.
As a young teenager, Lottie still remembered the fairy answer. She also still had questions, this time for her father.
‘Dad,’ Lottie asked, as she lay on the floor listening to music on her mobile phone, ‘Do you know what my favourite thing in the world is?’.
Dad replied with a cheeky shrug – ‘I would say either sleeping or sulking’.
Lottie gave him a pretend sulky face. ‘Nooooo,’ she said, ‘guess properly’.
Dad thought about Lottie at school, doing her homework, Lottie on holiday and doing her after -school classes. ‘I still reckon sleeping,’ he said.
No, that was not what Lottie’s answer would have been. Of course she loved sleeping. Most girls her age loved sleeping, and dad was probably just jealous because he had to get up at six o’clock to go to work most mornings. Feeling sorry for him, she decided to ignore his teasing and tell him the truth.
‘Dad, my favourite thing in the world is reading. You can learn everything and feel like you know everything just from reading. Once you can read you can do anything and go anywhere.’
‘Got to agree with you on that one,’ said dad.
‘But what I like best about reading is when it feels real. As if you’re actually in the story and you could expect one of the people in it to come through the door and talk to you.’
Dad agreed… ‘So if you’re reading a story about the gingerbread man running away from all the people who want to eat a bit of him, then you might feel as if he was going to burst in through the bedroom door and start demanding you help him find a hiding place?’
‘Well, kind of,’ Lottie replied. ‘Though that is such a babyish book, dad. I mean more when the characters are written so brilliantly that it’s hard to imagine them not really existing. Do you understand?’
Dad did. Dad definitely did. Lottie’s enthusiasm took him back to a book he’d when he was Lottie’s age. It was called ‘I am the Watchman. I am the Thief’ and it had been one of the most vivid books he’d ever read. Even at the age of 10, he’d read a huge number. He hadn’t been much interested in playing board games or computer games – all he wanted to do was to run and to read. The Watchman book was the first in a long series of titles – ‘I am the Watchman. I am Afraid’ and ‘I am the Watchman. Waiting for Sunrise’ were the only ones whose titles he could still remember. But he remembered the stories and how frightening it had sometimes been to lie in bed reading them. The books were scarier than any horror he’d read as an adult and even scarier than some of the bloodbath films he’d seen as an adult at horror festivals.
He wanted to read them again so had taken a look on Amazon and found the first – ‘I am the Thief’. Should he buy it? Should he? How would he possibly excuse buying himself a children’s book to his family who already thought he was a bit barmy?
But still, he bought it. Lottie had seen him reading it one day and was totally confused. ‘Why are you reading a kids’ book, dad ? It’s a bit too young even for me, isn’t it? And you are REALLY old.’
But dad didn’t think like that. He carried on reading, sinking deep into the descriptive text. To himself he read out the first page, and it was heaven in black and white.