“Ella? Can you come here a second?”
She looked up from her drawing, ears perking up at her name. “Coming!” she called, standing up. She’d finish it later.
Lor looked up as she walked into the room, a smile on his face.
“Have you done all your homework?”
“Even the maths?”
She screwed up her face. Eww, maths.
“Good girl” he said, turning back to his food. She was about to leave when suddenly he bent over, hissing in pain.
“Is the baby coming?!”
He couldn’t help laughing at the excitement and panic on his daughter’s face. “No, sweetie. There’s still a while left before that happens. If I had the baby now, it would be absolutely tiny.”
“You might put it down and forget where you put it!”
Lor looked at her with a mixture of horror and amusement. “Ella Centauri, you frighten me sometimes.”
“I’m gonna go ask dad where the glitter is” she said, getting down from the table and skipping out the door.
“Ellie, don’t wake your father! He’s sleeping.”
Sadly, the door shut part way through his sentence, muffling the words.
“Wake dad, got it.”
She burst into the bedroom, a smile on her face as she looked around. She tugged on the duvet cover, shaking Malik out of his sleep. “Dad? Where’s the glitter?”
Malik just growled, a cross expression on his face as he pulled the cover over his head. “Ellie…”
Lor burst into the room, just a bit too late. “Ellie, I said ‘don’t’ wake him.”
She looked down at the shape under the covers and grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, dad.”
She heard a muttering from the lump, decided all was forgiven and left the room.
“Sorry, Mal. I tried.”
Ella woke in the middle of the night to the unnerving feeling that she wasn’t alone. She peeked over the side of her bed and jumped out in terror when tentacles slid out from under the frame.
She bit back a scream. Maybe it worked the same way as spiders – they were more afraid of you than you were of them.
“Sorry, Mr Monster. I didn’t mean to scare you” she said, kneeling down to get closer. Maybe the poor thing was lost.
It flicked her on the nose. “This is my bed, now” it said, wrapping itself around the legs.
“Papa?” she whispered, tiptoeing into the room. “A monster’s stolen my bed.”
Lor woke, processed the comment and almost fell asleep again. Then he remembered his own encounter with the creature and sighed, carefully sliding out of bed.
“Don’t worry, Ellie. I know how to deal with this.”
She let out a squeak of joy, and Malik stirred groggily. “Ellie…”
“No! I didn’t wake you, it was papa.”
He opened one eye grumpily and looked at his boyfriend. “Sorry, love” Lor said, kissing him on the cheek. “We’ve got a monster problem. I’ll deal with it.”
“All sorted” Lor said, a smile on his face as he put the spray bottle down. Ellie wrapped her arms around his legs, and he bent down to hug her properly.
“You’re safe now. Tell you what, I’ve still probably got the anti-monster light in storage from when I was little. I’ll find it tomorrow and then you won’t be bothered again. It even matches your hair!”
She looked down at it. Red tonight. Huh. She’d grown used to the changing, and this colour actually suited her. Unlike that bright yellow she’d woken up with last week. She shuddered just thinking about it. School had been a nightmare.
Speaking of nightmares…
She shifted from foot to foot before looking up at him.
“Papa? I’m scared. Can you stay with me for a while?”
“Of course. I’ll grab a beanbag and be right back.”
“Papa?” she said, an hour later.
“Yes, Ellie?” Lor looked up from his book.
“Why is dad so grumpy when he gets woken up?”
“Have you ever heard the saying ‘Let sleeping bears lie’?”
“Well, it applies to your dad, too. He loves us to bits, but he needs his sleep.”
She rolled over and looked at him, getting back under the covers of her bed.
“I think I can sleep, now.”
“Are you sure?”
She nodded and closed her eyes. “Nunight, papa.”
“Goodnight, Ellie. Sweet dreams.”
Lor crept into the bedroom, only to find Malik sat up and waiting for him expectantly.
“Is she ok?”
He sat down next to him and leant into his embrace.
“She’s fine. Everything’s under control.”
“I’m glad” Malik said, closing his eyes. “I’m sorry for being such a grump, I’m just really bad at waking up.”
“I noticed” Lor said, giggling at the mock glare it earnt him. “Don’t worry, Mal. We love you anyway.”
“I love you, too. Both of you.”
They stayed that way for a while, enjoying the closeness. “So,” Malik said after a while, “she’s asleep now?”
“And we’re both awake…”
Lor raised an eyebrow at him before laughing quietly and burying his face in the other man’s neck.
“I thought you were tired?”
“Not that tired.”
Well, Ellie was asleep.