Four-year-old E suffers from a vivid imagination. She seizes upon single issues and pursues them doggedly, often worrying for hours into the night about the hows and the whys and the whens.
Unusually, for a mother as uncharitable as I am, I am enormously sympathetic to her. I think I was born worrying about something or other, and don’t seem to have stopped in the last thirty-six years. My husband, on the other hand (who appears to be capable of emptying his head at will, and thus doesn’t worry about anything) has no such empathy, particularly when E’s wakings interrupt his sleep.
At three o’clock this morning E woke up and padded into our room. I stirred as the door opened, sensing, rather than seeing, her anxious face beside mine.
‘Mummy?’ she whispered, battling the quiver which broke the word in two.
There was an unimpressed grunt from her father.
‘Yes, darling?’ I said.
‘Is Voldemort real?’
Before I could reassure her, there was an exasperated sigh from beside me.
‘Yes, he is,’ my husband muttered. ‘And he’s living under your bed.’
The stunned silence that followed lasted barely a second, before an ear-splitting wail put an end to any thoughts of sleep. Except, that is, for the perpetrator, who turned over and was snoring again within seconds.