“I love you mummy,” she whispers in the dark. Warm body curled into mine.
I am the matador. She the bull. We have danced our dance. Her horns, my red cape. Swirling, skidding, almost colliding, side stepping. The chance of a goring always close.
Ten minutes earlier a scream in the dark. Full throated. A mama who had reached the end of a very long tether, of side stepping and distracting this bull child who has been needling for a fight for days. Like seeding rain clouds she finds some inner relief in it, it seems.
But it is exhausting, this battle of wills and patience.
It has taken every tactic I know to keep a smile on my face and the show on the road. We have had not a threat, nor a raised voice from the matador. Tights have been adjusted and readjusted for half an hour at a time. Every morning. And blankets. Multiple times. Every night. And everything else has been done and redone for her. Until finally, and suddenly, red. Enough. Scream.
The horns were there ready to gore me. My weakness finally exposed. “You hate your children,” her voice crows, triumphant. No, no, no I don’t, I say inside and out. Just this matador’s body and brain are tired. There is no more fight, nor patience left in me.
A retreat. I am followed. An explanation. And back into bed. Together. In stony silence and blackness. Broken by a kiss. “I love you Mummy,” she says.