His heels are hanging over the edge, he is clinging to stay on. She grimaces.
He’ll be a climber, her mother said.
She can’t think of anything worse. She wants him to be a housewife, a pianist, a baker. No Everest, no cliffs.
He reaches for the next shelf, pudgy toes scrambling for a hold, fat fingers barely long enough to grip. One toe on and up. Peachy face set skywards, baby eyes fierce with determination.
He won’t be a housewife – he always seeks the next step, standing in his high chair, scrambling up the stairs… his balance perfect, her terror sickening. Not a baker.
He’s going for the third shelf. He has to lean backwards to reach, sliding his hands along to find a section not covered in books. He will fall, if not this shelf then the next.
His fingers skid, a foot slides free. She hears his gasp.
She can’t let him fall. She leaps forward.
She can’t let his first fall be Everest. She stops.
She must keep him safe.
She must teach him about falls.
She grips her own mouth.
His second foot slips and he is dangling from the sweaty fingers of one hand, “Maaaaaaa…!”
She shuts her eyes.