Outside the snow is falling. White cottony balls float past the window. I lean my head on the glass. The cold bites my skin. I like the hurt. The first thing Jessica and I used to do when there was a covering of snow was put on jackets and boots, go out and make snow angels on the lawn. We found a space and lay down. Then with arms and legs wide, we carved wings and a skirt in the snow. The trick was to step out of your shape without leaving a raggedy edge or footprints. Then we would rush upstairs to view them from above. “My angel is nearly as big as yours, Mummy.” Jessica had said last year. It was true. She was growing tall. Nine going on nineteen. I grind my head against the glass, taking pleasure in the cold pain. The snow continues to fall, the candyfloss flakes dancing and twisting across the garden, sticking to the wooden fence, the metal swing frame that creaks slightly in the wind, and the trunk of the apple tree. Fat, hot tears tumble down my cheeks as I cry for Jessica, and the snow and for the year we’ve lost. She had gone to school as normal. It was the first day of term after the Christmas holiday. She was listening to the new IPod Jack and I had bought her. The police say maybe she didn’t hear the car, but that’s not the point, is it? He came round the corner too fast and spun on the ice. The first thing we knew was when her friend “I’ve called an ambulance … it’s … Jessy … Jessy is … is hurt! Mrs Andrews … you’ve got to come straight away …” Her voice trailed off in a wail and I heard the wail of sirens in the background. My heart was thumping and questions sprang into my head that I couldn’t get answers “Sally … Sally, where are you?” I screamed down the phone, but although I could hear murmured words Sally didn’t talk to me again. I rang Jack. “Jessica’s hurt … no, I don’t know where. Sally just rang … but she didn’t say … way home from school I guess …” I was rushing round the house searching for my car keys. I managed to get one shoe on as I hopped about with the mobile in my hand. “I’m going to find them …” I said and didn’t wait for Jack’s reply. I raced along the route she took. I saw the blue Audi crunched against a fence post. I noticed the folded metal where the car had crumpled like paper and the paint had flaked away. Please dear God, don’t let Jessica have been in front of that, I The next few hours were hazy, as if I passing through thick fog. I drove to the hospital. No one would let me see her. Sally was waiting outside but she just kept saying, “He came out of nowhere, we didn’t see him.” The police refused to give us any answers, the doctors rushed by in white coats, stethoscopes swinging, a busy expression on their faces. Jack and I clung to each other and looked on helplessly. Eventually a young female doctor urged us into a corner of a waiting area. She motioned us to sit down. “Jessica was hit by the car. I don’t know the details of the accident, but somehow she hit her head. It was some blow. There is extensive bruising and she is in a coma. We have operated and plastered her leg, but that is our least concern. We are most worried about the head injury. We’ll do a scan tomorrow …” Her voice went on, but I didn’t hear anymore. A coma. How bad was that? Didn’t they put people into medically-induced-coma sometimes to help them recover? Jessica would recover. She would, wouldn’t she? I found Jack and the doctor staring at me, and realised I’d been shouting out my thoughts. My fingers gripped the top of Jack’s arm, and he was prying them off one by one. I was shaking so hard I could hardly stand but I pulled myself to my feet “I’ve got to see her … see her,” I gasped. I knew what I wanted to say, but it was really hard to catch the words that were flying around in my head. “Of course,” said the doctor. “I just wanted to prepare you first.” My fingers entwined with Jack’s, I walked stiffly after the doctor. The blood was pounding round my body but I felt shaky and shivery. Jessica was lying in the bed, white sheets, white walls, white skin and a creamy crepe bandage wrapped around her skull. The scene was like an overexposed negative. Her eyes were closed and wires attached her to machines, which bleeped every minute. She looked so very peaceful that I felt a great knot in my stomach. I crouched one side of her and stroked her face while Jack stood on the other side and I don’t know how long we stayed like that. Minutes or hours maybe. We returned to the same positions time and time again over the next few weeks. Our life went on hold while we waited, hoped and prayed. I think of that white hospital room as I watch the snow falling faster now. It absorbs the sound in the same way that small room did. “The scan shows swelling, but the ECG indicated a good level of activity in the cortex,” the doctors told us. “We just have to wait and see.” We went to the hospital every day, Jack and I. I read to Jessica. Her favourite stories. Jack sorted out pictures to put on the bedside table, photos of her friends, her stuffed animals, and he found her music on the computer and bought a new IPod to We clung to each other, walking in and out together, sitting hunched together over hospital coffee, eagerly approaching doctors who said “no further change,” to us time after time. After two weeks, Jack went back to the office and I came alone. Each time I saw Jessica I couldn’t believe it was her lying there. I thought she’d wake any As the days passed she became thinner. Her eyes wore dark shadows and her cheekbones pushed against the fine skin across her face. Freckles faded and she wore the bleached look of over-washed clothes. If I was there when a nurse was bathing her I saw how thin her legs had become. It was shocking how fast muscle wasted away. My little girl looked like labour camp victim. “Is she eating enough?” I worried at the staff. “She is having the minimum calories,” they assured me. “It is OK. As soon as They carried on believing in her. I found it more difficult. I stopped eating. It became too difficult to prepare meals, and the excuse that I was at hospital made it easy. Jack ate at the office I think, but I didn’t ask. Getting out of bed each day became an ordeal. If I could stay asleep or hover on the edge of consciousness I could pretend everything was just as it was a few months ago. Jessica was still whole and we were a happy family. A terrible weight kept me pinned to the bed as if the covers “Are you going to see Jessy today?” Jack would ask as he put a cup of tea beside my bed. “And please eat. I’ve left you a biscuit here. You are looking as thin as Jessica.” I’d sigh. As soon as he had left, I would scrabble around in the bedside drawer and take a Prozac. Gradually I would work myself out of bed and into the day. For four weeks we waited for a sign that things might improve for Jessica. Then one day I was reading her Winnie the Pooh. Pooh and Piglet were trudging through the snow and as I looked up at her I thought I caught a flicker under her eyelid. It was so gentle I couldn’t be sure, but I felt my heart beat faster. I took her hand and squeezed it. There was nothing. I carried on reading but there was a catch in Later though, when the nurse came in, I told her. “That’s good!” she said. “I’ll let the doctor know. Maybe she is starting to The following day we noticed the eye movements again. Tiny movements. Jack and I gripped hands with each other, beaming at this small miracle. Daily the movements became a little stronger, but still her eyes didn’t open and her limbs remained motionless. After the initial hope I sunk back into despair. “Do you think she’ll ever get better?” I asked anyone who would still listen to me. People who had rallied round at first had drifted away. It was difficult for them to know what to say. How many platitudes can you shower on people before they drown? We had no news to reassure them with either. People wanted news, not Jessica opened her eyes for the first time nearly three weeks later, just for a second. She screwed them shut again as if the light hurt her, and when I called her name she was asleep again. It took further weeks for her wake for a few minutes and then weeks to stretch that time into quarter and half hours. By early summer she was able to sit up for a few minutes each day. She was confused, and stared about her. “She is disorientated and has no idea what has happened to her,” the doctors told us. “She will need considerable rehabilitation. When we are sure she is fully awake we will consider moving her to a centre where they can help with her speech I gasped. It hadn’t occurred to me that Jessica wouldn’t be Jessica when she woke. Too many films with happy endings, I suppose. “It could be a long road ahead,” the doctor said, “but it is important to stay Jessica couldn’t speak. She couldn’t feed herself. She wasn’t interested in anything she had known before. She didn’t recognise friends. I think she recognised us, but it was hard to know. Jack and I visited her with fixed smiles on our faces. Sometimes when I left the room my cheek muscles ached with the pain of smiling and laughing. We had to teach her like a toddler. In the autumn they moved her to a rehabilitation centre. A speech therapist worked with her every day, trying to help her remember the vocabulary she had lost. A physio had her walking and playing in a pool to build up the wasted muscles. Her legs were bone thin, her skin as transparent as dragonfly wings. She fluttered all the time between the real world and a stagnant space where we couldn’t reach her. I take my head off the cold pane and gulp back the tears, trying to shake myself together. After months of rehabilitation Jessica is showing such signs of improvement that the doctors have allowed her home for Christmas. I wasn’t sure we could cope as she needs so much care, but it is wonderful to have her here. I left her with Jack, reading Winnie the Pooh together while I came upstairs for something. I’ve forgotten what it is now as I watch the snow. I do that a lot at the I turn to go downstairs when I spot Jessica coming out into the garden. She isn’t wearing a coat. What is Jack doing, letting her out like that? I’m about to rush downstairs and scold him. She is so fragile, but as I watch she stands and looks at the snow. She puts out a hand to catch stray flakes. She sniffs them and touches them to her lips. She takes a step, an extra large step as if she isn’t sure what she is walking into. Then as she reaches the grass where the snow has drifted slightly, she lies down and moves her arms up and down and her legs outwards. Carefully she stands up, brushes down a little snow from her sweater and leaps lightly back, away from the shape she has carved in the snow. She looks up at the house and sees me watching. She waves a hand at the I feel breathless and lean my head against the window, shuddering with excitement. She has remembered. Jessica has remembered the snow angels. With a heady lightness I bounce down the stairs to share this news.


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