"I won't," she shouted, bearing her milk teeth to the world.
"You WILL," said her mother. "It's a school day."
The girl responded by coughing. It was a real liquid lung cough, and the child's little frame shook with the effort.
"God damn it, you are not going to make yourself sick. Get into that car."
As the small engine rattled to life, the windscreen needed clearing of a heavy frost. Dutifully, the school girl heated some water and presented it to her mother.
"Did you boil this water? Asked her mother.
"No" came the response.
"Great" said her mother. As she poured the water onto the windshield, the steam rose in great billows as it met the freezing air. The water hit the frost full on and took it away effortlessly.
"Like a hot knife through butter," said the mother, a tone of satisfaction in her voice.
It was then that the windscreen began to fracture. Imperceptibly at first, but there was no doubt about it. Soon it fell through into the interior, covering the seats and the floor.
"NO," came the cry. "You did let that water boil, didn't you," she said as she firmly gripped the hand of her daughter.
"I told you I didn't want to go to school today," came the reply.
It was the wrong answer. Lifting her up, her mother put her into the car and threw her schoolbag into the boot. Getting into the front seat, mindful of the glass, she looked like grim death. There was purpose in her eyes.
Driving through Croydon she stopped outside the Streatham school. Opening the back door, she grabbed the little arm of her daughter, and smacked her on the bottom, saying "I'll see you at the end of school."
As the girl skipped into the distance, Jane Bates had her breakdown. Dropping away from the here and now into a mess of human emotions, she had to call her husband to drive her home.