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Julia wiggled her toes beneath her duvet and blinked into the darkness. Something had woken her. What was it? She shifted her body slightly, feeling the warmth of her bed, and the irritation of her right pyjama leg having shifted up around the knee.

Hang on – there it was again, the noise that had woken her. Julia pulled the duvet up around her head, breathing in the hot, close air, thick in her nostrils. Shouts drifted up from downstairs. It was the same predicament as always, she didn’t want to hear a word of it, and yet she couldn’t help but strain her ears, her brain scrambling to figure out the muffled words without her permission. Julia pulled her face out into the air again, and sniffed. There was some lower muttering, angry words that she couldn’t quite make out, and then –

‘You absolute –‘

Julia stuffed her fingers into her ears, the last word disguised by the beat, beat, beat, of her heart. Julia flinched, pulling her fingers out of her ears and gripping the paw of the monkey beside her. She manoeuvred her body so that she was lying parallel to him, and rested her face on his round, furry stomach.

‘Monkey – did you hear that?’ Julia whispered into the night.

The monkey made a strange noise, a sort of sleepy, curious, affirmation. Julia shook his fur slightly, and he grumbled in response.

‘What is it?’ He finally said, his gruff voice a comfort to her.

‘They’re arguing,’ said Julia, swallowing firmly.

‘Perhaps he ate all the peanut butter again,’ said the monkey, to which another, higher voice responded, ‘Yes, probably.’

Julia stretched out an arm beside her and flicked her bedside light on, and stared at the monkey and squid that were wrapped beneath the blanket beside her. The squid stretched out his long, glittery tentacles and yawned widely, his large eyes blinking in the light.

Short stories for kids - The Letter - stories about separation and divorce illustration 1

‘Squiddy, Monkey, what shall we do?’ asked Julia.

‘We should go and have a snack, I think,’ said Squiddy, not quite understanding the situation. Monkey rolled his eyes and pulled his tail right up to his chin, inspecting the end in silence.

‘We can’t go downstairs, they’re arguing,’ said Julia. ‘Monkey, what are you doing?’

‘I’m just seeing if there is any peanut butter left on the end of my tail,’ he said, in a matter-of-fact way. ‘Anyway. We can go downstairs, if that’s where the snacks are.’

Squiddy nodded and swam through the air toward Julia, landing delicately on her shoulder. He patted her gently on the ear. ‘I agree. Didn’t Mammy do the food shopping earlier? I bet there’s a whole new bag of onions just waiting to be investigated.’

Julia sighed and lifted Squiddy from her shoulder carefully, holding him on the palm of her hand. His soft tentacles brushed against her skin, making it tickle and tingle, and she gently stroked the top of his head in an absent minded way. He cooed quietly at the attention.

‘But if we go downstairs, they’ll know that we’ve heard them arguing.’

Monkey stopped staring at his tail, and dropped it beside him, springing suddenly onto his hind legs. ‘We have heard them though.’

The three stared at each other, and then listened for a moment. Further cross words floated up the stairs and though Julia’s door, and she sighed heavily.

‘I think, if we go downstairs, we should say ‘Excuse me, but you’re keeping me awake.’ And then we should help ourselves to some peanut butter,’ said Monkey, with his hands on his hips, and a very serious expression on his face.

Squiddy watched him from the palm of Julia’s hand, and used two tentacles to copy his stance. ‘I agree. After all, we got told off on Monkey’s birthday, didn’t we? They said that we were making too much noise, and that we should have been asleep hours ago.’

Julia smiled at her two friends. It was true, they had indeed been told off for staying up too late on Monkey’s birthday. ‘I suppose so. But I don’t want to see them arguing.’

Squiddy nodded and used a single tentacle to pat Julia’s arm. ‘Then we shall write a letter. Shan’t we Monkey? We shall write a letter and tell them how we feel.’

Julia shifted herself out from under the duvet and tiptoed across her room to the door, her right pyjama leg finally working its way down from her knee. Monkey and Squiddy followed behind, Squiddy floating through the air with four tentacles still hovering over imaginary hips, and Monkey holding onto his tail for support. Julia pulled the door open carefully, turning up the volume on the voices that continued to argue below. The three breathed in collectively, and then Julia pushed the door closed again. She reached down and held Monkey’s paw, giving it a squeeze for comfort. He grinned up at her, his soft fluffy ears twitching slightly.

‘A letter is a good idea. We’ll write it together.’ Julia said, and she walked to her writing desk and sat down on the chair. Monkey used his tail to swing himself up onto the table top, and Squiddy settled on Julia’s shoulder. The three stared at the blank piece of paper before them.

‘You should start with…Dear Stupidheads,’ said Squiddy, knowledgeable in his correspondence ability. Julia nodded, and carefully scratched out the words with her pen.

‘Hang on…’ said Monkey, sitting down on his squashy beany bum. ‘We can’t just call them stupidheads because we’re feeling upset with them. Change it to…Dear Mom and Dad.’

Julia grinned. Monkey was right, she should be polite. She crossed out the word ‘Stupidheads’, and wrote ‘Mom and Dad’.

Squiddy sighed. ‘Alright. We must tell them how you feel.’ He scratched his head for a second, and thought hard. ‘How do you feel Julia?’

Julia scratched her head too, and sighed. ‘When they argue I feel…angry.’

Squiddy nodded. ‘That’s a good start. Write that down.’

Julia dutifully wrote down the words, and her two friends watched.

‘Good,’ said Monkey, re-reading what was written. ‘Why do you feel angry? We should add that bit in too.’

‘Yes,’ said Julia. She leant over the paper and wrote the words as she spoke them. ‘I feel angry because you woke me up, and I don’t like feeling scared.’

Squiddy laid a tentacle against Julia’s cheek and stroked it. ‘It’s okay to feel scared. Sometimes they sound scary.’

‘They do sound scary,’ said Monkey, nodding. ‘And when they sound scary, it makes me feel cross too.’

Julia continued to write, voicing her words. ‘It also makes me angry because when I argue with people you tell me to calm down. I want you to calm down.’

Squiddy floated down from Julia’s shoulder and landed on the page, the paper puckering beneath the slight weight of his tentacles. ‘Do you remember that great day at the zoo we had last week? I wish we could be happy like that every day.’

Monkey smiled sadly. ‘That was a fantastic day, Squiddy.’

Julia scratched Monkey on the head and nodded. ‘I suppose though…’ she said, ‘that we couldn’t go to the zoo every day. I know mom and dad have to work. And I have school. I’d just like everyone to be happy though, even though we have to do stuff we don’t always want to.’

Squiddy nodded. ‘Write that bit down, that last bit. That’s important.’

Julia leaned over the page and wrote down the following:

It makes me upset when you fight. I want everyone to be happy.

‘There,’ she said. ‘What else should I add?’

Monkey grabbed the pen from Julia and wrote the word Monkey at the bottom of the page. He grinned at it, and nodded at Julia. ‘Now you write your name and Squiddy can write his name.’

Julia took the pen, and wrote her name, and then helped Squiddy hold it with his tentacles, and scratch out a shaky Squiddy. Once this was done, Julia carefully folded the paper in half, and wrote Mom and Dad on the outside. The three friends smiled at each other.

‘I’ll take it downstairs,’ said Monkey, picking it up and holding it beneath his arm. He ran toward the door, and turned the handle carefully, opening it just a little. It now seemed calm and silent downstairs. Monkey swung out into the hallway, peeking his head over the banister, and stared at the landing downstairs. He pulled the letter from his armpit, and dropped it quickly, watching it fall through the air, and hearing it land with a soft thud. As it landed he saw Julia’s mother walk past, and pause momentarily, noticing the piece of paper. Quickly, Monkey hurried back into the room.

‘Get into bed!’ he whispered, running across the carpet. Julia and Squiddy blinked at him in surprise, and quickly shuffled toward the bed too, jumping in and pulling the duvet up around their heads. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door, and it creaked open. The three held their breath.

‘Julia?’ said her mother’s voice, gently.

‘Julia, love, can we come in?’ said her father’s voice. Julia flinched slightly, and pulled down the blanket from her face, peeping at the pair as they walked through the doorway.

Her mother sat down beside her and pulled the blanket back further, to reveal Monkey and Squiddy, squished against each other.

‘Hello Monkey. Hello Squiddy,’ said Julia’s mother. ‘We wanted to thank you all for writing us that letter.’

Julia’s father nodded, and knelt down beside the bed, with a sigh. ‘We also wanted to say that we’re sorry. Sometimes we feel like there’s a lot to do, and not much time to do it in…and we get short tempered and ratty with each other.’

Julia’s mother nodded, and reached a hand out to stroke Julia’s hair away from her face. Monkey and Squiddy stayed very still, blinking at each other quietly.

‘That’s right. It doesn’t mean that we don’t love each other, very much. And the last thing we want is for you to feel angry, or scared, or upset, because we love you very much too.’

Julia nodded, and pushed herself up in the bed, so that she was sitting. ‘When I get angry, you tell me to take a deep breath, count to ten, and then to be kind,’ she said.

Julia’s father grinned and nodded. ‘And that is very good advice. Sometimes though, we forget our own good advice. Have you ever felt really cross with somebody at school, and you realise that you’re raising your voice and losing your temper?’

Julia glanced at Monkey, and lowered her voice to a whisper. ‘I know that Monkey gets cross when Squiddy eats the last of the peanut butter.’

Monkey heard this and stuck his little pink tongue out at Squiddy, who did his best to ignore it.

‘So, you know what we’re talking about then,’ said Julia’s mother. ‘But it doesn’t mean that Monkey doesn’t love Squiddy, or that he wouldn’t share his next jar of peanut butter with him. And I promise you that we are going to do better, and that we won’t argue like that again.’

Julia’s father opened his arms wide, and swept both Julia and her mother up into a bear hug. Squiddy saw this and wrapped all of his tentacles around Monkey tightly, closing his eyes and nestling into his warm fur. Julia closed her eyes and smiled, feeling pleased that she’d had the courage to tell someone how she was feeling.

© Rachel Grosvenor 2020

Short bedtime story written by Rachel Grosvenor

Illustrations purchased under license.

LET’S CHAT ABOUT THE STORY ~ IDEAS FOR TALKING WITH KIDS

Feelings, Conversation, Family

1. Have you ever listened to people fighting? How did it make you feel?

2. Do you think people who are fighting are thinking of how the people around them feel? Why or why not?

3. Do you think Julia did the right thing in this story? How did it help her? How did it help her parents?