“Margaret! Why are you in Ruth’s bed?”
“She’s scared of thunderstorms and she couldn’t sleep!” Ruth glared at her great aunt.
Peggy had jumped out of the bed and scambled back into her own, huddling in the bedclothes. Storms were scary, but an angry Great Aunt Maria was worse.
“That’s enough, Ruth. Speak only when you’re spoken to”. The gaunt woman turned to her niece, hovering worriedly in the doorway.
“You see, Mary, how you’ve pampered and spoilt them? I’ve told you many times that Margaret must be made to confront this ridiculous fear. I’ve a good mind to make her sleep in my room tonight”.
Molly flinched at the idea, feeling weak under Peggy’s pleading gaze and Ruth’s furious eyes. Her aunt was probably right, and she had brought up Molly and her brother, but she couldn’t do that to her daughter. There would be plenty of time for Peggy to confront her childhood fears when she grew up. She wanted to hug her and tell her it’s all right, there’s nothing to be scared of, but she knew that would be considered pampering.
“I’m sure that won’t be necessary, Aunt Maria. Peg - Margaret will stay in her bed, won’t you, darling?”
The little girl nodded furiously. Here at least she had Ruth with her. She could think of nothing more terrifying than spending a stormy night with Great Aunt Maria, who might even stop her from hiding her head when the thunder was loud.
Maria Turner looked unimpressed, but didn’t purse the subject; instead, she swept out of the room, taking Molly with her. As she closed the door, though, she admonished “Stay in your own bed, Margaret. I will know if you don’t”.
Her eldest great-niece waited until the steps down the corridor faded, then got quietly out of bed. Silent movements weren’t something for which she was known, but the Great Aunt’s ears were - she knew only too well - sharp, and she didn’t mean to get caught. Walking carefully across the room, she poked the lump of blankets that was her sister.
“Move up, I’m getting in”.
“Ruth! She´ll be cross!” A head poked out and retreated again as a thunderclap boomed.
“Don’t care” Ruth retorted with her usual bravado. “Anyway, she said you couldn’t get out of bed, but she didn’t say I couldn't”.
Peggy considered this obvious logic and nodded, making space for her sister. Ruth curled up with her, determined to stay awake and comfort her. She rather liked storms, but Peggy couldn’t help being scared. And she wouldn’t have her sister, so brave about everything else, think herself a coward. So she pulled sheets over their heads to shut out the lightning, and whispered silly jokes to make her giggle through the thunder, until the storm passed. Then, leaving a sleepy Peggy, Ruth returned to her bed. As she fell asleep, she had a mischievous grin on her face. Great Aunt Maria might think she’d won, but they always would.