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It was Friday night and Juniper was going to a sleepover at her friend, Tiger-Lily’s house.  Another three girls from their class were going too.

Carrie, Tiger-Lily’s mum, ensured that the girls would be comfortable in her daughter’s room.  There was a flat screen television, dvd, laptop and some futons.  Carrie had filled the mini-fridge with Innocent smoothies and she had confiscated the Alcopops from under the bed. Tiger’s brothers were directed to keep to their rooms, or to go to the playroom in the cellar and to leave the friends in peace.

The girls had brought their duvets, soft toys, pyjamas and mobile phones.  Soon they had changed into comfortable nightwear, over-sized anthropomorphic slippers and were ordering pizzas on their mobiles.  One Direction was blasting from the bedroom.

Juniper stood on the landing, crying.

What’s the matter, June? asked Carrie, solicitously.  Are you homesick?  You’ve only been here half an hour.

I’ve got too much prep, the child sobbed.  I can’t concentrate with all this noise.

But it’s the weekend, surely? placated Carrie.

Yes, but if I don’t stick to my three hour schedule every night, I won’t get an A* in all my subjects.

One night off won’t harm you, reassured Carrie. Have a slice of pizza.

I daren’t.  I’m wheat intolerant.

Oh dear.  Well, would you like a gluten-free sandwich and a nice mug of hot chocolate?

Can’t.  I react to dairy. Please don’t worry.  Mum gave me a packed supper.

She took a plastic tub out of her luminous satchel.  It contained two oatcakes and some tubes of paste.

Are you sure that’s enough? asked Carrie, watching the others fighting over the remaindered slices.

Positive.  I think I should go to sleep now.  It’s past my bedtime.

But, it’s only half past seven, the girls chorused.  We were going to watch last week’s ‘Strictly’.  Mum recorded it.

No, I’ve got to get up early to practise my flute.

So that was what the other case contained.  Carrie had helped Juniper to carry it into the house and it seemed really heavy.  The other girls were losing interest and had started to spray themselves with fake tan and apply hair straighteners to each other’s locks.  Juniper started to cough, so Carrie dragged a futon into the study next door and brought in a pillow, so that June, as she preferred to be called, could have her own space.

Maybe you’d like to sleep here then?

Yes.  I don’t really like girlie things.  My psychologist says that I am gender fluid.  You wouldn’t have a hypo-allergenic pillow, would you?  Feathers and aerosols make me wheeze a bit.

Carrie was beginning to worry about being in loco parentis to this child.

Do you have an inhaler with you?

Oh yes.  And my two Epipens.  Do you have dogs?  I thought that I could smell some.

Just the pugs, dear, but they sleep in the kitchen, next to the Aga and they are not allowed up here.

Juniper rolled up her Pussy Riot Rules sweatshirt and placed it on the futon as a make-shift pillow.  Carrie felt a failure as a caring mother.  Suddenly, Juniper shot a hand to her throat and said:

Oh, Mrs Brewer-Mead, I can’t be in the same room as a bowl of peanuts.  There seems to be one next to the computer.  They’re completely contraindicated for me.

Well, said Carrie, pretty much at the end of her tether, perhaps you’d be better joining the boys in the playroom until the girls want to put the lights out.  I’ll write a note to your form teacher to explain any substandard prep.  I’m sure you’ll get an extension.

Oh, thank you SO much, said Juniper demurely and trotted off downstairs in the direction of the cellar.

MerlotLater Carrie, after a large Merlot, thought that she’d better check on the boys as there seemed to be excessive noise from the cellar.

Ferdy, Rollo, Ming, Bill-come upstairs this minute!  It’s well past your bedtime and you are keeping the girls awake now that they have put out their lights.  Juniper, do you want…?

But the boys were reeling around the cellar, laughing uncontrollably.  Juniper was lying in a corner, incoherent and dribbling.  There were a lot of empty Alcopop bottles lying on the floor and the instrument case seemed to contain further supplies.

Wait till your father comes home!  Carrie shrieked.

She egged us on!  Ferdy grassed.  She said ‘Dewlap Gin’ was only 4% and, if it was for grannies, it would be all right.

Clearly Juniper was well-named and had more experience of the champagne flute than the musical instrument.  This was one child who wouldn’t be coming to Nutwood again, if Carrie had anything to do with it.

 

 

 

 

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