Childhood,  Family,  Friendship

First Class

‘How long?’ I breathed down the phone.

‘Weeks,’ Martin’s voice choked back.

The day after, at four o’clock in the afternoon, I popped around to the red-bricked house next door. Jenny was setting the table, and the smell of home-cooked cottage pie filled the air. She kindly put a teapot on for us while young Sophie played with her ice blue princess castle.

‘Does she…’ I asked, narrowing my eyes.

Jenny shook her head. ‘We need to. But I just…’ Her cup shook against her saucer.

‘Let me help,’ I offered, placing my aged hand over hers. Her skin was so young.

‘How?’ Her eyes were lost, strong, and full of fear.

‘I’ll read to her.’

And so the next day, after school, I popped around. Except, Sophie and I went into her bedroom. There was a whale painted on the wall next to her bed.

‘What book is it?’ she asked.

‘A book about heaven,’ I replied.

Every other day, not including the weekend, I read a few pages to her. She had so many questions that it took a while to get through just a few.

‘Is that where my mummy’s going?’ Sophie asked.

I nodded.

‘It’s the end,’ she said, her uncertain blue eyes staring up at me. ‘What happens now?’

‘Would you like to write a letter to your mummy and send it up to heaven, so she’s got something to read when she gets there?’ I held her small hand. ‘I think she’d like that.’

Sophie’s little brow wrinkled.

‘We’ll do it together,’ I reassured her.

On Friday afternoon, Sophie and I popped out of her house in the dripping rain with the letter.

‘We better stick a stamp on it.’ I got out my booklet. ‘First class for a first-class lady.’

Sophie smiled and took a stamp to stick on. ‘Oh no!’

‘It’s no matter, dear, I’ve got plenty more. Right, there we go. Pop it in.’

She slotted the envelope into the post box, and I stuck on a big old smile to cover my failing optimism, blinking back any potential runaway tears.

‘Mummy will love my letter.’

‘She certainly will, dear.’ We crossed the road back to her house, and there was Jenny’s face at the window, a picture so beautiful, I couldn’t imagine anything terrible happening to it.

Writer. Faith walker. Notebook collector. Coffee drinker. Coffee Drinker. Coffee Drinker. Mother of two...and counting... @BathSpaUni MA CW grad.

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