I hear her calling from the bathroom. ‘Katie,’ she says, the end of my name sounding like the beginning of a wail.
I rush in to find her standing naked on the bath-mat, covered in bubble-bath suds and shivering. She points towards the ceiling.
‘There’s a spider,’ she says. ‘And he’s moving.’
A tiny daddy-long-legs is tucked alongside the white cornice. He’s a small dark speck and seems immobile.
‘He’s only small. He won’t hurt you.’
‘But he moved. He might fall into the bath.’
I look at the bathtub full of warm water, the exact depth and temperature she’d specified. She had been in the bath for less than five minutes before the spider incident.
‘Are you going to let that little thing stop you from having a lovely warm bath?’
‘Hop back in. You’ll be fine,’ I say.
‘No. You have to get rid of him.’
I contemplate how I might reach the spider and transport him to safety. I can’t get to him and keep the bath water intact. I’m not going to take the easy way out and spray him with flyspray. I don’t kill spiders.
‘I can’t reach him,’ I say. ‘You’ll have to learn to coexist.’
She frowns at me and her bottom lip starts to quiver.
I want to say everyone is frightened of something but we carry on anyway. I’m frightened of you, little one, you are a strange small creature inhabiting my house. And yet, here I am pretending to take care of you. We’re learning to coexist.
‘Go on,’ I say, ‘finish your bath.’
‘No,’ she says, crossing her arms.
‘Then dry yourself and get dressed,’ I say. ‘Don’t catch cold.’
I walk out of the bathroom, wondering if I’d made the right decision. Would a real mother have killed the spider, killed a tiger, killed anyone to save their offspring? Surely I’m here to protect her from all life’s terrors, real or imagined.
Or maybe I’m not. Maybe we all have to learn to coexist with spiders?
The next morning, when I go to the bathroom, the daddy-long-legs has disappeared from his spot on the ceiling. He must have realised the danger he was in. Because tonight, worn out from a million other questions and preferences and requests for help, I probably would have killed him for the sake of peace.