Fifteen Nightingale Road – Extract 2

The unveiling of the dinosaurs… 

 (Please note this has not been edited.)

Jenna covered Ben’s eyes as she led him down the hallway to his bedroom. Joel and Pete were walking just ahead of them, and she couldn’t help noticing the protective way Pete had his arm round her brother’s shoulder. She missed having someone to do that for her, to be strong when she felt weak.

“You too, Jen,” Joel said, his hand resting on the door handle. “Eyes closed.”

“What?”

“You heard me. If your eyes are open too soon, you’ll spoil the magic.”

“Yeah, Mummy, don’t spoil the magic!” Ben admonished her.

Jenna sighed and rolled her eyes at Joel, but closed them without saying anything further. The murky colours that floated behind her eyelids filled her vision, and she felt a moment of disorientation before someone took her arm and she heard the door being opened.

She felt the grip on her arm lead her into the room and she pushed Ben gently in front of her, hands still over his face. When she had taken four or five stumbling steps, she heard Joel’s voice.

“Okay, stop there! Right, ready? Open your eyes.”

Blinking in the warm light, Jenna found herself face to face with a stegosaurus. It was painted on the back wall, just as Ben had requested, its tail raised as if to attack. Its cold, reptilian eye stared at her, sizing her up.

“Oh wow,” Ben murmured. “Wow!” The last word came out in a long drawn out breath.

“I take it you like it, then?” Joel asked. He was standing behind her, but Jenna could hear the grin in his voice. “It’s not all finished yet, but anything we don’t get done today, I think we can trust your mum to do.”

“If your head swells any more you’re not going to be able to get out the door,” Jenna said drily, but she was impressed. She could handle a pencil or brush reasonably well, but Joel had always been the one with the real talent.

The stegosaurus was not the only inhabitant of the room. There were a pair of velociraptors stalking an ankylosaurus on the wall with the window and on the other wall was a triceratops standing by a nest filled with eggs. There was even a pterodactyl on the ceiling. Not everything was fully coloured in and detailed, but everything had an outline and a face at least.

“What do you say?” she prompted Ben, who was still staring at the room with his mouth open.

“Thanks, Uncle Joel!” Ben threw his arms around Joel’s waist, hugging him so hard he was nearly knocked off his feet. “They’re the best dinosaurs. I don’t even mind that velociraptors wouldn’t have actually hunted ankylosaurus.”

Joel blushed slightly and rubbed the back of his head. “Ah, sorry, Ben. I’m not really much of a dinosaur expert. I just painted the ones I knew. Your mum said I wasn’t allowed to do any of the big scary ones. She didn’t say anything about the little scary ones.” He gave Jenna a wink.

“If either of us has nightmares about being eaten, I’m phoning you in the middle of the night,” Jenna promised.

“I won’t have nightmares, I promised,” Ben said. “And don’t worry, Uncle Joel, I don’t mind a bit. They’re all really cool.”

“I’m glad you like it. Don’t forget to thank Pete, too. He helped lots.”

“I don’t know about lots,” Pete admitted. “I’m not much of an artist. I did the grass, though.”

“It’s very good grass, love,” Joel said, leaning over to kiss his ear.

“Yeah, it’s the best! Thanks, Uncle Pete!” Ben could not stand still. He hopped from foot to foot, his gaze darting around the room, drinking in the sight, taking in every detail. His eyes were the widest Jenna had ever seen them, and his mouth would flap when he spotted something new. A gentle breeze from the open window ruffled his hair occasionally, like a friendly caress.

“Is there anything for lunch, Jen?” Joel asked. “All this excitement is making me hungry.”

“I’m sure I can find something,” she replied. “What about you, Ben?” He said nothing, staring intently at a space near the stegosaurus’ tail. “Ben?”

“I think we’ve lost him to the age of the dinosaurs.” Joel grinned. He put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and Jenna saw Ben jump and then blink as he had just woken up. “What do you want for lunch, little palaeontologist? Brontosaurus burger?”

“There’s no such thing as a brontosaurus, Uncle Joel. Can I have a cheese sandwich, Mum?”

“That’s the second time I’ve been schooled by a seven year old today,” Joel admitted as they headed downstairs. “I’m just going to stop talking.”

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