From: ‘The Discomfort of Evening’ (2020), by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

” ‘Promise me this will stay between us, dear toads, but sometimes I wish I had different parents. Do you understand that?’ I continue. ‘Parents like Belle’s who are as soft as shortbread just out of the oven and give her lots of cuddles when she’s sad, frightened or even very happy. Parents that chase away all the ghosts from under your bed, from inside your head, and run through a summary of the week with you every weekend like Dieuwertje Blok does on TV, so you don’t forget everything you achieved that week, all the things you tripped up on before scrabbling to your feet again. Parents that see you when you’re talking to them – even though I find it terrifying to look people in the eye, as though other people’s eyeballs are two lovely marbles you can continuously win or lose. Belle’s parents go on exotic holidays and make tea for her when she comes home from school. They’ve got hundreds of different sorts including aniseed and fennel, my favourite tea. Sometimes they drink it sitting on the floor because that’s more comfortable than sitting in a chair. And they horse around with each other without it turning into fighting. And they say sorry as often as they’re nasty to each other…”

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