Bonnie Lou Comes to Stay

Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a safe, comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

One morning Benson’s mother said, “Mick’s auntie is sick, and his mother has to go away for a while to look after her. She needs someone to look after Mick and Bonnie Lou while she’s away.”

“Can Mick come and stay with us?” Benson said. He started thinking about all the fun things he and Mick could do together, digging, and riding their bikes, and building cubby houses and stuff.

“Mick’s going to stay with his cousins,” his mother said, “but Bonnie Lou’s coming to stay with us.”

“Bonnie Lou?” Benson said, disappointed. Bonnie Lou was no fun. She was always complaining, and wanting to have things her own way, and she got mad really easily.

When she arrived, it was worse than Benson had thought. She had to sleep in his room, and she started complaining as soon as she walked in. “Can’t you move your stuff off the floor?” she said. “Where am I going to put my things?”

“I like my stuff on the floor,” Benson said. “Why did you bring so much stuff, anyway?”

“I had to bring my paper dolls with me because I’m in the middle of making them, and I brought my wild-flower book in case I need it,” Bonnie Lou said. She swept Benson’s rock collection off his shelves and put her things there instead.

“Hey, leave my things alone!” Benson said.

“It’s just a bunch of dirty, old rocks,” Bonnie Lou said. “If you put your saxophone under your bed, there’d be a lot more room.”

“I can’t put it under my bed,” Benson said.

“Why not?” Bonnie Lou said. She looked under his bed. “Eeyuuwww!” It was crowded with dirty socks and an old ant farm, and Benson’s favourite hat and a flipper. Bonnie Loud climbed under, and heaved everything out. She put the socks in the wash and the flipper in the cupboard with the other flipper. Benson put his hat on.

“So that’s where that was,” he said.

“You should give that ant farm to Ralph,” she said. “He loves bugs and things.” She shoved the saxophone under the bed. “There!” she said. There was a lot more room now, but she filled it up straight away with her scooter and her skipping rope.

The next morning, Benson started to think that having Bonnie Lou to stay was the worst thing that had ever happened to him. Everyone was eating breakfast, and she suddenly said, “Benson, you talked in your sleep.”

“I don’t talk in my sleep!” he said. He was sure he’d never heard himself talk in his sleep.

“You did!” she said, giggling. “You said ‘This pillow needs a tomato.'” Everyone laughed, except Benson. He felt silly. He went outside to dig.

Bonnie Lou came out and said, “Do you want to ride your bike while I ride my scooter?”

“I’m busy,” Benson said grumpily.

“Do you want to play pirates?” she asked.

“I told you, I’m busy,” he said.

Bonnie Lou went inside, feeling disappointed and lonely. After a lot of digging, Benson went in to get a drink. Bonnie Lou was sitting at the table with Aunt Lillibet and they were making sharks out of salt dough. It looked like fun. “Can I do that too?” he asked.

“Not with those dirty hands,” Aunt Lillibet said.

“I thought you said you were busy,” Bonnie Lou said. She made a fat octopus with long twisty legs.

Benson went outside again, feeling even grumpier. In a little while Aunt Moss came out, wearing an eye-patch. Benson said, “Do you want to look at the hole I’m digging, Aunt Moss?”

“Not just now, dear,” she said. “Bonnie Lou and I are playing pirates. I just came out to get some celery to make a cutlass.” She picked a long stick of celery and went inside again.

Benson kept on digging his hole, but his heart wasn’t in it. He went inside to see if it was lunchtime yet. Bonnie Lou and his mother were in the kitchen, making banana bread. Benson cheered up straight away. “Can I help?” he said.

“We’ve just finished,” his mother said, “but you can help with the washing-up if you like.”

“No, thanks,” Benson said. He went into his room and got out his paper and his pencils and spread them out all over the floor so Bonnie Lou couldn’t come in even if she wanted to.

His mother looked in and said, “Bonnie Lou and I are going to take your old ant farm over to Ralph’s place. Do you want to come?”

“I’m too busy drawing,” he said, keeping his head down. He didn’t want to go anywhere with Bonnie Lou, and or do anything Bonnie Lou was doing. “Why did she have to come anyway?” he said to his mother. “She ruins everything.”

His mother looked at him, and said, “Don’t you think Bonnie Lou might be feeling a bit lonely?”

“How could she be lonely?” Benson said. “Everyone’s doing fun things with her all the time.”

At bedtime, Benson got into bed without even speaking to Bonnie Lou. He kept his eyes shut and pretended to be asleep even when she tried to say goodnight to him. After a while, he heard a kind of sniffling noise, like someone was crying with their face in their pillow. Then he heard Bonnie Lou’s voice whimpering very softly, “I want my mum.”

Benson couldn’t stand it. He felt terrible about all the mean things he had said and done, when Bonnie Lou was feeling lonely and homesick the whole time. He called softly, “You can come and sleep in my bed with me if you want to.”

Bonnie Lou stopped crying. “Can I?” she said. She padded across to his bed and he made room for her. She snuggled up against him, and they both went to sleep straight away.

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