It's a treat for Helena some evenings to curl up on the sofa, already pyjama-ed, with blanket and favoured plush toy du jour, and watch the hockey game with her father.
This particular evening* she shows as much interest in the game as I do (ie, none) and clambers onto my lap with a "so, whatcha reading" expression on her face.
She gingerly extricates my book from my hands, searching my face for a reaction, to make sure it's ok. She identifies all the "H"'s on the cover — front, side, and back. (It's Craven House, by Patrick Hamilton.) She riffles the pages, confirming there are no pictures within. She mischievously suggests we read it together.
"Ca c'est toi," she points at the dumpy old woman drawing back curtains from a window pictured on the cover. This is not flattering — I'm almost insulted — but "on fait semblant."**
She turns to page 1, appropriately flipping past the author info and title pages, and begins.
"Il était une fois une petite fille, s'appelle Mommy Isabella."***
Helena offers me a sentence per page. There's a witch, and she wants the little girl's magic shoes. There's also a little boy imprisoned somewhere. He wants candy. The little girl marches up the steps to her house. "Hurry, hurry, I want coffee."
Helena tells me I have to calm down, stop laughing, or she won't read any more to me this evening. I bite my lip.
Fortunately, Helena has begun to turn pages 10 at a time. The witch makes occasional appearances to thwart some action or other but she is beaten off. The little boy doesn't want to take a bath.
At page 223 Helena yawns. She promises she'll finish reading to me another night. She wants to go to bed.
*That would be Tuesday, for those of you fact-checking against team schedules.
***"Once upon a time, there was a little girl, called Mommy Isabella."