Each night Charlie’s dad would tuck him up tight in bed, kiss his head gently and with a “sleep well Charlie” he would turn out the light and pull the door almost closed, leaving it ever so slightly ajar to allow the light from the hall to dilute the darkness just a little.
Charlie would lie quite still until he heard his dad’s footsteps trail away and, unless he was particularly tired, he would grab his torch and his favourite books and head under the blanket to escape to fantastical other worlds and far away places.
Tonight, however, was different. Tonight Charlie was not under his blanket, instead he stood with his ear to the door, listening for the familiar sounds of his parents chatting in their bedroom until everything went quiet and he knew they were fast asleep.
As quietly as he could Charlie grabbed his rucksack from his wardrobe, and into it he pushed his Torch, a notebook and pen, his favourite teddy – Winston, a compass, some clean socks and the blue woolly hat his grandmother had knotted him for his birthday. “Perfect things for an adventure” he said to himself under his breath.
Quickly and quietly he dressed, and with his bag on his back and his shoes in his hands he tiptoed out of the room and along the hall until he came to his parents bedroom.
The door was open, and he could hear his father snoring inside.
He couldn’t fall at the first hurdle he told himself, there was an adventure to be had and he had been planning it for quite some time, at least a week. Dropping to his hands and knees, holding his breath, he crept along the floor as low and as quietly as he could to avoid being detected until he was past the open door without incident.
He breathed again as he slipped down the stairs, avoiding the creaky steps, and slipped into the kitchen. He took a small bar of chocolate from the treat drawer, 2 apples and a banana from the fruit bowl and a bottle of water from the fridge and added it to his bag and zipped it closed. That should do for a few days he told himself, just long enough for him to find more food along the way.
After slipping on his shoes, struggling a little to do the laces – mum always helped with the laces – he grabbed his coat from the hook near the door, pulled it on and then put on his now rather heavy backpack. He took a deep breath. This was it.
He reached for the key in the door, and was about to turn it then remembered the note. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small handwritten letter which was folded in half and on the front he had written “To Mum and Dad”. Inside it explained that he was going on an adventure, but not to worry because he was a big boy now and that he would be back in a few days once he had seen an elephant. Charlie did like elephants.
Charlie returned to the kitchen, popped the note on the counter top and headed quietly back to the front door. Turning the key ever so slowly the lock clicked and he pulled on the handle, not daring to breathe in case he was heard. He stood motionless, listening for any noise from upstairs.
No noise came.
He pulled on the handle, the door swinging just wide enough for him to pass through and he felt the cold night air on his face as he slipped outside, pulling the door closed as quietly as he could.
“This is it Charlie” he said to himself, “the beginning of a great adventure”, and with that he walked off down the garden path into the night. Reaching the old wooden gate at the end of the path he looked up, the sky full of more stars than he remembered seeing before. It was so very very dark. He suddenly felt rather alone.
Across the street Charlie noticed an old man in a long brown coat walking a small white dog. It was Mr Morley and Chops, the man who owned the corner shop. Chops barked eagerly when he saw him and Charlie was just quick enough to duck down behind the gate before my Morley turned to see what Chops was making such a fuss about.
“Calm yourself Chops” said Mr Morley as the passed down the street “People are sleeping”.
Charlie’s heart raced as he let out a long sigh. This was far scarier than he had thought it might be. “Come on Charlie” he said to himself getting up off the ground, “you want to see that elephant don’t you.” He stood at the gate and listened to the sounds of the night. Far off he could hear more dogs barking there was the unmistakable sound of a police siren not too far away.
Charlie wasn’t too fond of dogs. Or police cars, the sirens heart his ears.
Charlie scratched his head, then looked back at the house. The landing light shone gold through the upstairs window and he could just make out the familiar pattern of space ships on his bedroom curtains in the darkness.
With a sudden change of heart Charlie raced back down the path, and opening the door hurried inside and pushed it closed. He stood breathing heavily with his back to the door and then raced back upstairs, as quietly as he could, back to his bedroom – not stopping to crawl past his parents open door – and slipped into his room. With his bag still on his back and his shoes still on his feer he jumped back into bed and pulled the blankets tight around his ears, only his eyes peering out.
The light from the hall was suddenly obscured by the familiar silhouette of his father. “Are you okay Charlie” he asked, “what are you doing up?”
“I just went to the toilet” Charlie replied.
“I told you drinking that hot chocolate would have you up in the night” his father said and smiled, “back to sleep okay.”
Charlie nodded as his father turned to leave the room.
“Dad” he said.
“Yes charlie?” his father replied.
“Can we go to the zoo to see an elephant?” Charlie asked.
His father laughed. “Of course” he answered, “now get back to sleep.”
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