Like so many children before her, Meriel was going through a phase where she was completely obsessed with fairy tales. She didn’t want anything else read to her at bedtime, happily listening to the same stories over and over until Jack and Ianto felt certain they knew her favourites by heart.
Their daughter did as well, since now she’d taken to acting them out, playing endless games of make-believe with her bestest friend.
“What on earth are you doing?” Ianto looked up at his four-year-old daughter, who was standing at the safety railing of the wide balcony outside the master bedroom. He wasn’t concerned she might fall because Nosy was with her, and the Fluff was very protective of its young charge. Nosy wasn’t looking quite its usual self, however; instead of being grass green it was a sunny golden yellow.
“I’m Rapunzel of course, Taddy,” Meriel explained as she helped Nosy slither over the railing to dangle by its tail. “I’m letting down my golden hair. Then the prince will climb up to save me from my prison in the tower.”
“And where is this prince?” Jack was at work so obviously he hadn’t been cast in the role.
“Hmmm,” said Nosy indistinctly. It had one of Meriel’s favourite teddies gripped in its mouth, and by twisting back on itself, contrived to make the bear appear to be climbing the Fluff’s long body.
“Ah, I see. Carry on.” Smiling and shaking his head, Ianto left the trio to their game and went back to fixing dinner.
A few days later, Nosy, pale blue in colour this time, was coiled like a snake with the front metre of its body swaying sinuously above its coils. Meriel stood in front of it holding Ianto’s silver plastic indoor watering can and rubbing it with one hand.
Ianto paused to watch; Meriel had clearly inherited her father’s vivid imagination. “Let me guess; you’re Aladdin and Nosy’s the genie from the lamp.”
“That’s right, Taddy!” Meriel beamed proudly up at her father, impressed by how clever he was. Maybe he really did know everything!
“Well, I hope the magic lamp doesn’t have any water in it.”
“Oh no, Taddy, don’t worry, I was very careful! I watered the plants for you before I borrowed it.”
“Ah, of course you did. That’s my good girl.” Ianto made a mental note to empty the excess water from the plant saucers before any of his houseplants could drown.
Jack frowned when he found his missing daughter lying in the middle of his and Ianto’s bed. “Are you alright, sweetheart?” Usually Meriel only climbed in with them when she wasn’t feeling well.
“I’m fine, Daddy, but I’m being Goldilocks today, so I have to try out all the beds.”
“Right.” Jack nodded, understanding. “Daddy Bear’s bed is too hard, isn’t it?”
Meriel frowned. “It should be, that’s how the story goes, but it’s really comfy.”
Jack chuckled. “Of course it is, you wouldn’t want your daddies sleeping in a hard bed, would you?”
“No, I suppose not, but it’s hard to be Goldilocks when this bed’s so nice.”
“Maybe you could pretend you already tried the other beds, and this is the one that’s just right.”
Meriel considered that and grinned. “That would work. Thank you, Daddy! You’re almost as clever as Taddy!”
“Well, good, I’m glad to hear it. I don’t want to spoil your game, but we’re having beans on toast for lunch, not porridge. Sorry.”
“That’s okay, I like beans better. Porridge doesn’t make a very good lunch.”
The next day, Meriel went skipping past Ianto, wearing her red coat, and carrying a toy shopping basket. He smiled; this one was easy to guess.
“Little Red Riding Hood, I presume.”
“Yep! I’m on my way to Grandma’s house,” Meriel said.
“This I must see. Can I be the woodcutter and rescue you?”
“Okay, Taddy.” Meriel skipped away to her room, where Nosy, its fur all silvery grey, was tucked up in bed with a scarf tied around its head in place of a bonnet. Ianto had to bite his lip to keep from laughing.
“Oh Grandma, what big eyes you have!”
“HUM!” Nosy agreed in surprisingly deep tones, goggling at her with its huge, green eyes.
Ianto watched, enthralled, as the story played out, with Nosy coiling around Meriel and pretending to gobble her up as the little girl giggled happily.
When he judged the moment to be right, Ianto strode forward, wielding an imaginary axe and pretending to hack at the Big Bad Wolf until Nosy released Meriel, and its silvery fur returned to its usual grassy green.
“It’s okay, Grandma, you’re safe!” Meriel threw her arms around her furry friend, hugging it tight. She looked up at Ianto. “Thank you, Taddy woodcutter.”
Ianto gave a sweeping bow. “Happy to be of service. Now, who wants a snack?”
“I do, please Taddy!”
“HUM!” Nosy agreed, in its usual friendly tone.
The following day, Meriel decided she was Cinderella. Wearing her best nightie, she ran from the ballroom at midnight, or really noon. As she fled, she left behind a furry slipper that Prince Charming, also known as Nosy the Fluff, could use to track down the beautiful Princess it had danced with all night.
Jack was a bit miffed that his daughter didn’t consider him charming enough to be the prince; she’d cast him as the wicked stepmother and both ugly sisters instead. Still, he swallowed his pride and did his best in all three roles, letting Nosy, resplendent in Meriel’s purple dressing gown, try the slipper on him time after time. It was better than being left out of the game.
When Ianto found Nosy, its usual green colour this time, once again hanging from the balcony railing beside the stairs as Meriel laboriously climbed them, he didn’t need anyone to tell him what he was seeing. Especially as Shaun, Nosy’s stuffed sheep, was sitting at the bottom of the steps, standing in for the fairy tale’s cow.
“Ah, Meriel and the Nosy-stalk, I see. Would you happen to be needing a giant?”
“You’re not ferocious enough to be a giant, Taddy.”
“Maybe I’m a Big, Friendly Giant.”
“That’s the wrong story.”
“Really? Ah well, it was just a thought.” Ianto turned away.
“You can be the giant anyway,” Meriel called after him. “I can just pretend you’re scary, like I pretended Nosy was scary as the Big Bad Wolf.”
“In that case, shouldn’t I be upstairs?”
“Yes! Hurry up, you have to be there before I finish climbing the beanstalk!”
“No problem.” Ianto bounded up the stairs, three at the time. He did his best to look scary, but Meriel kept giggling at him.
“You’re so funny, Taddy!”
“What’s wrong, Princess?” Jack asked as Meriel wandered into the living room. He and Ianto had put her to bed over an hour ago; she was supposed to be asleep.
“I can’t sleep, Daddy, there’s a big lump in my bed,” Meriel said, all wide-eyed solemnity.
“Well, we can’t have that, can we?” Jack followed his daughter into her bedroom and stared at the big lump in the middle of the bed before pulling the covers back to reveal Nosy, all coiled up.
“You’re a bit big for a pea, aren’t you?”
“Well, at least you’re the right colour.”
Finally managing to get Nosy into its own bed and their daughter settled again, Ianto sighed as he closed the bedroom door. “This is my favourite fairy tale. Sleeping Beauty.”
Jack just laughed.