Ellie was nine and didn’t want to go. She never liked going there. The dog always smelled and was continually bothering the cat. All that meowing, hissing, growling and barking made her feel anxious. Surely, keeping two animals in such a tiny flat is cruel, especially with six children there, too. No wonder the cat and dog are so discontented and fractious – hardly surprising.
Ellie’s aunt, Lily, was strict and unkind. Ellie never liked her. She was harsh and emotionless, or so it seemed. She had a wicked streak in her, always telling off her young niece for biting her nails. She would rub nasty Germolene* onto the ends of Ellie’s fingers, so every time Ellie started to nibble her nails, she got the disgusting taste of the ointment. Why didn’t Lily understand how traumatised the child was? Ellie was always crying – she was missing her mum, naturally, with her being in hospital again. Why didn’t Lily see that?
Ellie got on reasonably well with her two older cousins and one of the twins, but the other was domineering and a bully. Ellie was scared of Amy, who always made a point of saying she was twenty minutes older than her twin, Kate. She was glad to have her own sister, Jill, there with her. Although her sister was one year younger than her, she was a fair bit bigger and would often stick up for Ellie if there were arguments or a lot of bossing going on.
Ellie hated going to the twins’ school. She was in a different class from Jill, and she also didn’t understand the language in Hebrew classes, as her own family didn’t use it, not being religious. She had no friends and always stood alone in the playground corner during break times. She felt so isolated and very much wanted to go home. She wondered how many weeks she’d have to stay at the flat. However long it was going to be, it was far, far too long.
*Germolene is a strong-smelling antiseptic ointment.