RICHIE'S APARTMENT IN PARIS
Richie had expected to tuck Mary into bed and spend a quiet evening
with Altea, but as it happened it was Altea who fell into bed
exhausted at eight o'clock, while Mary remained wide awake and full
of energy. Richie and Mary were completing their fifth or sixth tour
of the apartment playing "horsie" when Richie spotted a pile of
children's books in the toybag Anne had provided.
"Hey Mary," he panted, "This horsie needs some time in the barn! You
want Uncle Richie to read you a story?"
"Read?" asked Mary brightly, and slid off Richie's back with a thud.
She tore over to the bag and returned with several books. Richie
straightened, stifling a groan and giving silent thanks for the
immortal healing powers which were already starting to alleviate the
ache in his back and knees. He led Mary to the couch and snuggled
her in the crook of his arm.
"What books have you got here, sweetie?" he asked, accepting the pile
she handed him. The first two were picture books about farm animals;
each featured a horse prominently on the cover. Given the activities
of the last fifteen minutes, those books deifinitely did not appeal!
He set them aside and picked up a third book. It was a beautifully
illustrated copy of "The Nutcracker".
"Hey!" Richie exclaimed, "This is the story your Mommy and Uncle
Duncan are going to see tonight. Would you like me to read you the
same story?" Mary was already opening the book. "Once upon a time
there was a little girl named Clara," Richie began.
"Tree!" exclaimed Mary, pointing to the large Christmas tree
"Yes, Christmas tree," Richie agreed, and returned to the printed
text. "Every year Clara's family gave a lavish holiday party, to
which they invited. . . "
"Moon!" cried Mary, then turned the page. "More moon!" Richie
smiled and tried to turn the page back.
"Wait Mary, there's still more of the story on that page."
"No!" cried Mary, quickly becoming distressed. She turned ahead yet
another page, and pointed out a bearded gentleman leaning on a cane,
his other arm loaded with presents. "Uncle Joe!" she declared.
"No, Mary, that's actually. . ." Something Methos had once said
about choosing one's battles wisely flashed through Richie's mind and
he sighed. But he brightened as a new idea came to mind. "Yes
Mary," he said, "that's Uncle Joe. And do you know who the little
girl is?" Mary waited with rapt attention. "It's you, Mary! Uncle
Joe has come to bring Mary a present!" Mary beamed at Richie and
turned the page.
"Presen' ! Big presen'!" she exclaimed, pointing to a huge box
pictured standing next to the tree.
"Yes, and what do you think it is, Mary? What do you want it to be?"
"Horse!" she replied instantly. Richie groaned inwardly and felt the
ghost of rugburn on his knees.
"Nope, not a horse." He turned the page. "It's a giant Nutcracker
in the shape of a toy soldier. " Mary looked baffled.
"Policeman?" she ventured.
"Something like that."