Janet Pywell ellie BravoAn unexpected friend for Elly.

My training with Simon has been non-existent and the strategy meeting dismal.

I sit flicking balled pieces of paper with an elastic band into my crash helmet balanced on the edge of the desk. My paper flicking skills are improving although I am developing red wheals on the back of my left hand.

A mop of brown hair and big round glasses appears around the door and I am distracted. The balled paper lands on the floor.

“Hey,” I call softly, “you made me miss my target.”

She moves cautiously into my office and I recognise her from the back of the car on my first morning. She has the same brown eyes as her mother and an inquisitive look on her face.

“Can you do this?” I ask, demonstrating my skill.

I think she is about eight; dressed in jeans and a Star Trek T-shirt. I toss an elastic band across the table. She studies what I do, takes aim and misses.

“You need to practice,” I say.

We spend a few minutes indulging in my new hobby; balling, rolling, flicking.

“Don’t you have any work to do?” she asks.

I shake my head and take aim.

“No phone calls to make?”

I shrug.

“Mummy’s always working.”

“I know.”

She moves to stand beside me. She closes one eye and her tongue pokes out the corner of her mouth. She grins when it lands in the helmet.

“Yeah,” I laugh. We high-five.

“What’s your name?”


“Mine’s Lily.”

“You like Star Trek? All that stuff about space and stars and the moon and things?”

“I love it!” She takes aim. “I’m waiting for mummy.”

She winces when the elastic band twangs her hand.

“Careful,” I say. “That reminds me of an old woman, a long time ago in Mexico, who owned a rabbit and a jaguar.” I nod at the elastic band in her hand. “She kept the rabbit in a cage until one day when she was preparing a saucepan of boiling water, the jaguar said, hey Conejo, you know they are going to boil you and eat you and the rabbit said, no, they’re making hot chocolate, come inside and she’ll give you some.” I exaggerate a high rabbit voice and a deep jaguar voice.

Lily turns to face me. Her eyes are serious.

“So when the jaguar opens the cage the Conejo springs loose and with a hop skip and a jump, he runs off. The jaguar waits and waits and waits, until – oh, there’s no hot chocolate I’ve been tricked!”

Lily smiles.

“So the jaguar goes into the forest and up into the mountain, and he finds the Conejo in a cave. Hey, he says, you tricked me, and the Conejo says, no, no that was some other rabbit. I’m busy I’m holding up walls to my cave, come and help me, put your paws here to hold up the roof. So the jaguar slinks into the cave and puts his strong paws against the wall.”

Lily giggles. She pushes her round glasses further up her nose. Her eyes do not leave my face.

“The jaguar waits and waits and waits until – oh, I’ve been tricked, he says. So he leaps out of the cave and strides through the forest. Then hears the Conejo laughing; hahahah hehehehe, I’ve tricked the jaguar. The Conejo is hanging from an elastic vine.” I twang my elastic band and Lily blinks rapidly. “The Conejo is bouncing up and down,” I pause, “but the jaguar pounces. He leaps through the air and presses the Conejo to the ground but the Conejo wriggles and wriggles between his great big paws that hold him tight and he squeezes and then he pops free, and with the spring of the elastic vine he flies high, high, high, and right on up into the air until he lands on the moon.”

Lily watches my hand in the air and regards me carefully.

“And they say, in Mexico, that if you gaze up at night when it’s a full red moon you can see the Conejo lying on his back and laughing at how he tricked the jaguar.”

I roll and flick a ball. It lands in the helmet.

I know she is studying me and thinking.

She leans against my arm. I smell lemon shampoo from her hair and I think of my two nephews in London whom I miss. She picks up her elastic band and we take turns flicking. Lily scores and we are cheering and giggling when Maria appears in the doorway. She doesn’t look at me.

“Lily? Come on, it’s time to go.”

“Goodnight,” I say, to their retreating backs.

Only Lily turns and waves.

As they go down the stairs I hear her say. “Mummy, can we go to Mexico on holiday this year?”