Before the lost word, there was another. It arrived at the Scriptorium in a second-hand envelope, the old address crossed out and Dr Murray, Sunnyside, Oxford, written in its place.
It was Da’s job to open the post and mine to sit on his lap, like a queen on her throne, and help him ease each word out of its folded cradle. He’d tell me what pile to put it on and sometimes he’d pause, cover my hand with his, and guide my finger up and down and around the letters, sounding them into my ear. He’d say the word, and I would echo it, then he’d tell me what it meant.
This word was written on a scrap of brown paper, its edges rough where it had been torn to match Dr Murray’s preferred dimensions. Da paused, and I readied myself to learn it. But his hand didn’t cover mine, and when I turned to hurry him, the look on his face made me stop; as close as we were, he looked far away.
I turned back to the word and tried to understand. Without his hand to guide me, I traced each letter.
‘What does it say?’ I asked. ‘Lily,’ he said.