Hide and Seek

Free Hide and Seek by Amy Bird

Book: Hide and Seek by Amy Bird Read Free Book Online
Authors: Amy Bird
shoes off too, partly to be quiet, partly so as not to tread soil into the house. That’s how I’ve been brought up.
    At that thought, I wonder what I’m doing; why am I betraying my upbringing to sneak around my parents’ house in the middle of the night? If I was twelve, I could pretend it was a game of spies. Now, aged thirty-four with my five-months-pregnant wife in tow, that will not wash. I am not convinced the champagne really works as a cover either. But better, we decided, than claiming I needed a document urgently. What need could have arisen between the end of sociable hours today and be required before tomorrow morning? Logically, we have our reasons, but emotionally it does not do. My parents know me. They know I do not creep into houses in the middle of the night delivering Taittinger.
    Ellie does not seem to have these concerns, though, because she is ahead of me. On tiptoes, she is heading for our target zone: the study. I follow. The door starts to creak as she opens it. Of course it does; the whole mission is ill-fated. She freezes. I freeze. We look upwards, into the dark of the staircase. Still no lights. Still safe to continue. Ellie manages to slide herself through the gap in the door, with a millimetre to spare – a few weeks later, and we would not be able to do this exercise – and I, thanks to the swimming, make it too, with the champagne.
    It is dark, so I switch on the standard lamp. Ellie flicks it straight off again.
    “Are you mad?” she asks.
    In the darkness, she probably cannot see my expression of incredulity; she has brought me to break into my parents’ house to find out if my dad is my dad, and yet she accuses
me
of being mad?
    This is not the time for another argument. “If we’re here to bring champagne, we’d put on the lamp,” I say, instead.
    “If we get to having to use the champagne, we’ve failed,” she retorts, flicking on a narrow-beamed torch.
    Ellie lights a path over to the desk area. All the objects I’ve grown up seeing in here acquire a new eeriness in the torchlight. Glass paperweights, their millefiori patterns a source of fascination when I was younger, now become desk boulders that could roll and noisily smash if disturbed. The gold carriage clock becomes a time bomb, whose loud ticks could suddenly awaken the household. Wallpaper rolls and samples propped against the wall until they can cover the walls of Mum’s interior design clients could unfurl and trip us. The photo of the three of us, from when I was about six, could slide and break, loudly and irrevocably.
    “Hurry up,” I say, as though that will help.
    Ellie goes straight to the bureau. She tries to slide up the front, but it is locked. She shoots me a glance, a small smile, as if this is significant. Putting down her handbag, she gets out her tools and kneels next to the bureau.
    “Hold the torch for me,” she whispers.
    So I do. And whatever she’s learnt on the internet seems to work, because after a minute of fiddling round with the wrench, there are a couple of clicks, she inserts the pick and waggles it around, and then she is sliding up the lid of the bureau. I lean over and kiss her.
    “Well done!” I whisper. It should not be sexy that my wife can pick a lock. But it is.
    She takes the torch from me and shines it into the bureau.
    “No photo album,” she whispers.
    She rifles through the little drawers and inlets of the bureau. Quick and efficient, she goes systematically from left to right.
    “No letter either, by the looks of it,” she says.
    I am about to suggest we should call it off, end the search, crack open the champagne, when there is an intake of breath from Ellie.
    “What?” I whisper.
    “Keys!” she proclaims. “Maybe to the desk.”
    So we scurry over to the desk and insert one of the keys into the lock.
    At the same moment, there is a creak from above us, and the sound of footsteps.
    “Shit!” I whisper. Ellie glares at me and puts her fingers over her

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