We ventured all over the village, leaving traces of her everywhere.
She had left a mark on Sarah and me, but she was too young to have left her mark on the world. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair. I wanted everyone to see her, to know her, to feel the impact of her short existence.
On a post in the woods, we left her old shoe. She learnt to walk there.
On a jagged stone wall, we left a buttercup. She always stopped to pick them on our family walks.
On a roundabout in a playground, we left her toy microphone. She said her first word on there. ‘Sing’. We always sang while we pushed her.
We took her to a pantomime one Christmas. She wore pigtails, golden, drawn tight with glittery bobbles. They asked if we believed in fairies. Jojo shouted, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’, willing them with all her might to come to life. When Jojo died, I found myself doing the same thing.
On the stone window ledge of the village shop, we planned to leave her purple sloth, Sloffy.
‘Matt, I don’t think I can,’ Sarah said as I bent the sloth into a sitting position.
‘It’s where we bought it.’
She looked as tired as Jojo did when she was in the children’s ward. ‘I want to keep this one.’
‘Hello there?’ Avery, the old woman who minded the shop, leant out the door. ‘Matt, Sarah, whatever are you doing?’
I told her we were leaving Jojo’s mark on the world for her. She laughed. I was about to walk away, but Sarah tugged my hand back.
‘She did that all by herself,’ Avery said, leaning against the stone wall of the shop. ‘Many years ago, I lost a child of my own. Not many people around here know that.’ Her eyes wandered to Sloffy. ‘Your daughter was always so chatty, so like my little girl. Every time you came in with her, I was so glad. She gave me back the memories of my own child when I thought I’d blocked them all.’
‘I’m sorry,’ I replied, wanting to ask her how she ever learnt to smile again.
‘Your daughter left her mark on me, that’s for sure.’
I gripped Sloffy. We took him home with us that afternoon.