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Four Lost Words

Mum started going out with Tim when I was five. That was four years ago. I could tell that they were in love, because Mum smiled, laughed and sang a lot every time Tim was around. More than usual anyway. Oh yeah, and Tim's visits became more and more frequent as well. Now, he practically lives here.

I liked Tim too. He always made me laugh. He used to carry me on piggy-back, but now I was too heavy. And sometimes, we would all go to the amusement park and Tim would buy me a gigantic chocolate ice-cream.

But most importantly, he made Mum happy. He was like a dad to me, except that I knew he was not my real dad. My real one had died when I was very young. Mum said that he had gone to some place called Heaven. Apparently, all the good people lived there. When I asked her why Tim, her or myself did not live there, she just laughed, and said that we had to get invited first.

Anyway, as far as I was concerned, I wanted Tim to be my dad.

So one day, while we were watching TV, I asked him.


Tim looked up, from the TV screen. Yes, Vicki?

When are you going to get married to Mum?

Get married? Tim sounded confused, as if he didn't know what I talking about.

Yeah, married!

Why would we want to get married? Tim asked me.

I thought that's what people do when they love each other.

Oh, that. Tim paused, looking at me before saying, Vicki, sometimes it's easier not to get married, less complicated.

Oh, I was disappointed.

I tried to look as if I understood, but I didn't really.

Tim must have noticed the long face. Why...what's the matter, Vicki?

I just thought that if you got married, then you could be my dad.

As I said it, I looked straight at Tim.

His initial reaction was shock, but that soon changed into a big smile.

Hmm, Tim paused again. I'll see what I can do.

A week later, Tim proposed to Mum. He showed me the diamond ring beforehand.

It was absolutely gorgeous.

Anyway, I was already off to bed and sound asleep when he asked her to marry him.

The next morning I asked him what she'd said when he proposed.

"Vicki, your Mum could not find four words", he said.

I was confused.

Mum was a journalist, so she knew lots of words. Surely four didn't matter?

But I reasoned that Tim wouldn't have told me Mum couldn't find four words, if it wasn't important.

And I certainly didn't want anything to stop them from getting married, so I decided then and there to look for the four missing words.

I looked at least four times underneath every cushion, table and chair in the living room, and I still couldn't find any words.

I went to search in my bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen.

I even crept into Mum's bedroom, though I was not allowed, so that I could try to find her missing words.

I practically turned the entire house upside down.

Back in the living room, I was lifting up one of the cushions on the settee when Mum asked me: Vicki, what are you looking for?

I wanted to surprise her.

Nothing, I replied.

Mum probably thought I must be playing a game, the way she looked at Tim, raised her eyebrows and rolled her eyes. Then they shared a smile and wandered back into the kitchen.

I was on the verge of giving up when I noticed a scrap of paper lying on the table by the telephone.

I walked toward the phone, and picked up the piece of paper. There was something written on it. It said:

John called about work.

I didn't know what the message meant - actually I did, but I didn't know what the context was... in other words, I didn't understand how it could possibly make a difference about them getting married and all - but sure enough, that was four words.

I took the piece of paper into the kitchen and happily handed it to Mum.

What's this? she asked, looking at it.

It's the four words you were looking for, Mum! Now you and Tim can get married!

What are you talking about, Vicki? Now Mum looked confused.

Tim said that when he asked you to marry him, you couldn't find four words, I said.

Mum looked at Tim.

I looked at Tim, then at Mum, then back to Tim.

Suddenly, the two of them burst into laughter and left me standing there, confused and wondering what was so funny.

Four Lost Words by Pravin Jeyaraj - Copyright 1999 - 2001
All Rights Reserved

About the Author: Pravin Jeyaraj lives in London, England with his parents and sister. He graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Computing Science, and is working on his Masters in Journalism. While Pravin has been writing on and off since the age of six, it became serious when he started university. He has had several poems, articles and short stories published in magazines and anthologies, and has written for his college and local newspapers. Write to Pravin Jeyaraj and tell him how much you enjoyed reading his tale Four Lost Words at Bedtime-Story.

Interim Illustrations Courtesy of Bedtime-Story


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