The story of a child who had to grow up…
It was early September, the leaves hadn’t fallen yet and the days were still long. Lacey was out of her comfort zone; almost catatonic with nerves. Her mum had been taken into hospital, and she wasn’t use to it being just her dad at home; it made the house feel empty. She was barely over four so everything about the situation confused her, she didn’t understand why her mum wasn’t around or why her dad looked tired all the time- all she knew was that something wasn’t quite right.
That year she grew up.
The day her mum went into hospital her dad gave her a fairy costume “for being such a good girl”. It was like a rainbow; pinks, oranges, purpes, blues and greens. It had a chiffon skirt which was cut like a leaf; she liked how the hem floated gracefully in the wind. It made her feel as lightless as a bird.
On the third day of her mum being away she decided that she was a real fairy. She twirled into the living room, chanting spells and waving around her wand. Her dad was sitting in the old armchair, one leg up and balanced on his knee. He had a sketch book in his hand and a pencil in his mouth- deep in thought.
She giggled. “You look funny daddy.”
He lifted his gaze from the paper, a smile playing on the corners of his mouth, and put the pencil behind his ear.“Do I now? Do you know what else is funny?” he said.
Lacey shook her head.
He dropped his book on the floor and lifted her onto his lap as though she weighed nothing. “Let me see. I think that…tickling is funny!” he tickled her sides until she was struggling for breath.
“Too much. Too much. Can’t breathe!” she squealed. “Too much daddy.”
Her dad chuckled and brushed his beard gently across her face. The windows were open, letting the late summer air in; the breeze tickled Lacey’s small bare feet which were kicking miles above the floor.
“Daddy, can mummy come home?” she asked, looking hopefully at him.
He ran his hand through his black, shiny hair; his long fingers looked like spider’s legs. He chuckled and his beard danced on his thin, olive toned face. “Lacey, when mummy is ready to come home, I promise you that you’ll be the first to know.”
“Pinky promise? Pinky! Can’t break it.” she held out her little finger and he shook it.
“Now.” he said, “Why don’t you go and cook us some dinner?” His thick eyebrow arched jokingly.
“Daddy!” Lacey scoffed, “I’m only four!”
He smiled affectionately and ruffled her brown, bobbed hair. Lacey quickly brushed it back- she never liked it to be out of place. “Ah. Of course. How could I forget? You convinced me that you were in charge for a minute there.” He winked.
Lacey was always bubbling with questions and dinner was no different. “How long will she be?”, “Can I see her tonight?”, “Will she be there when I wake up?” Her thoughts were high on sugar- she couldn’t wait anymore. She missed her mum so much that it made her restless. She longed for her delicate touch, the way she hummed when she was cleaning, the way she read stories.
After dinner she sat in the garden, still wearing her fairy costume. Through the window Lacey could see that her dad was on the phone. She sat down on the damp grass with her legs crossed, as if to start meditating. Lacey tried to distract herself from thinking of her mum.
“- but how is she?” he said.
She started counting seagulls.
“What do you mean, complications?” he said.
The seagulls were too hard to count- she decided to lie down instead.
“-worry, I’ll get there as soon as I can.”
Lacey could see shapes in the clouds; a little rabbit hopping, a crown, even a boat.
“Lacey, honey. Come and get your coat, we’re going to see mummy.” she heard dad call.
Her heart twinged and she sat up quickly. “Really?” she asked.
“Yes. Hurry up.” he said.
Lacey leapt up from the grass and ran to catch up with her dad.
The hallways were endless, continuously winding like a maze. Hurry up! She kept thinking. Lacey was always a few metres ahead of her dad; her skipping borderline impatient.
“Is mummy fine?” she asked.
“I’m not sure honey.”
Where is she? Door, after door, after door; each looked exactly the same.
“Daddy, we’re lost!”
“We’re not lost Lacey. Look, she’s in here” he said softly, his hand reaching for the door handle.
Lacey stopped abruptly on both feet- nearly tripping over. She looked up at his gentle brown eyes and smiled; his grip on her hand was clammy. Her stomach was a bundle of nerves, winding around her stomach and kidneys, pulling tighter and tighter. She couldn’t contain her skittish limbs; she’s in here! I’m going to see her, she thought gleefully.
Lacey’s skirt brushed against the door frame as she pushed into the bright box room; it stung her eyes and all she could see was a dark window. She looked up at her dad, confused. “Where’s mummy?”
“Hello darling.” She recognised her mum’s sweet voice. She sounded tired and strained.
Lacey turned around slightly and was greeted with her smiling face.
“Mummy!” she gasped excitedly.
Her mum’s face was flushed out- it looked too pale. She looked ill and it made Lacey nervous. Then she noticed that her mum was holding an off-white blanket in her arms; Lacey could see a tiny face in the bundle. What is that, she thought.
Lacey took a tentative step closer, needing to get a better view. She could make out a dark spot of fluff on top of its head, a button nose, a tiny pair of pink lips shaped like an ‘O’ and two half open eyes, fringed with long, elegant black lashes. It was sticky, more of a green than pink and a little podgy. “Why are you holding that mummy?”
She stood frozen in her spot, unsure of her next move, jealously biting at the base of her heart.
“She’s our baby. Come closer and see if you like.” Her mum edged, holding out her free hand.
Lacey wasn’t sure if she wanted to- she wanted her mum but she was so stunned that she couldn’t remember how to walk. Why is mummy holding that, she thought. She could feel the jealously increasing, like something huge was hatching inside her chest. The aroma of the room brought her back to her senses, it smelt strange and unfamiliar- a concoction of chemicals, plastic, paper and aeroplane food.
The baby suddenly let out a small cry and Lacey jumped. She managed to engage her feet and stepped closer to her mum. The baby tilted her face in Lacey’s direction. She could see her pink gummy mouth. She noted that the baby had no teeth. Lacey looked up at her mum, her brown fringe was clinging to her head in a sweaty clump. Her grey eyes watched Lacey carefully.
“Can I…can I touch…her?” she asked, pointing at the baby.
She nodded. “Of course darling, just be gentle.”
Lacey’s small hand reached out for the baby’s even smaller hand, it was like a dolly’s hand; she couldn’t work out if she was real. She observed her fingers carefully; her nails were tiny, no white bits, just tiny dots of pink. Her warm hand wrapped around one of Lacey’s fingers. She must be real, Lacey declared. She looked at her half open eyes. They were gooey. The baby opened them a little more and they sparkled; they were like a summer sky, or northern glaciers; they made Lacey feel like a cloud.
She distantly heard her mum say “Lacey, this is your baby sister. Olivia.”
She was drawn to Olivia; she was suddenly the only thing holding her to the floor. Olivia was the centre of her universe. Mine, she thought. Like two hearts connected by an invisible wire. She wanted to hold her.
“I like her. She’s very small.” She told the room. Her mum and dad were silent, they didn’t move, just watched. Lacey gently touched Olivia’s cheek with the back of her hand.
“My baby sister… Olive.”
Copyright: Laura Davis © 2016, all rights reserved*
*I set myself the task of writing a short story that was under 1,500 words and this was the result. I would like to add that this is entirely my own work and I have not copied the material or characters from anybody else’s work.
**Also, the image does not belong to me and can be found here: httpsthecliparts.comolive-branch-cliparts