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  • As her younger sister, Mia mixed 'shots' behind the garden bar, from sickly non-alcoholic drink flavourings with juices and lemonade, I noticed Emily (12) was sporting a glass of the Amaretto liqueur that her mother drinks.

    "Is that Amaretto?"

    "Yep. I've had three!" She said gleefully.

    "How long have you been drinking, Emily?" I asked.

    "Since Christmas I didn't used to like any alcohol but when we went camping they all had different drinks and I tried a bit of everyone's to see what they were all like and nearly got sick, so now I just stick with Amaretto."

    "It's quite sweet."

    "Mmmhmmm.. it's lovely." She said enthusiastically.

    "So how many are you allowed?"


    "And you've had three?!"

    She motioned for me to be quiet just then because her dad walked close by.

    "Dad isn't supposed to know how many this one is." she said quietly when he'd passed.

    "Oooh.. I dunno, Emily. Your cheeks are very pink." I teased.

    She frowned her eyebrows in a pleading way as her dad returned on his path past us.

    "Okay." I smiled, colluding in her secret, pretty sure her dad wasn't as oblivious as she imagined.

    Later, the girls were dressed for bed, Mia was still behind the bar mixing drinks under supervision in her stripey long johns, an eye mask at the ready on her head. Emily too had changed her ladylike outfit to sport a furry Tigger pajama suit complete with hood and ears, looking much younger with her hair covered and her high heeled wedges put aside, her cheeks still flushed and her eyes shining she bounced about dancing and giddy. The girls were growing up, but not yet grown.

    I remembered my own summers with my cousins sneaking more drinks than we were allowed and liking yet not quite liking the alcohol and the faint buzz of being tipsy. Nostalgia gripped me, not for the alcohol but for the secret autonomy you begin to take for yourself when you start to feel grown up, and being able to share that secret with someone you trust, knowing they are always there for you, be you child or adult, or something in between.
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