She searches for her favourite place in the crook of my arm. ‘Charlotte,’ I whisper, ‘stay with me.’I kiss her as gently as I can, again and again. I want to remember that on this very day she smelled sweet, round, warm. I want my heart to become like a freshly ploughed field where I sow every one of her life’s moments. I want to prepare myself for a life filled with memories of her. Was it hearing about the side effects of chemotherapy?
Together we stare at the ceiling until her eyes fall shut. Parents always want to do everything for their child, the doctor had said. What all that poison would do to her delicate body? The next morning when I am taking Charlotte for a walk, the sky darkens.
A man with a friendly face walks over to me and asks if he can help. Children always love stories about animals.’ I start to thank him but he brushes it off. Late in the evening he is always searching for things to inspire him.
The only thing we can offer for leukaemia is chemotherapy. For newborns it is so dangerous that it can cause them to die.
I duck into the first shop to find shelter and notice I’ve landed in a bookshop. We go to the children’s department where we step over a stuffed toy giraffe. It’s a picture book about a rabbit, a duck and a badger who find their friend, a blackbird, dead in the woods. There is still time.* * * * *In my half sleep I hear Robbert scurrying through the house.
As long as I’m here I might as well start searching for books about grief. In case the worst happens.’ He glances at my hand, shielding Charlotte’s head. They realise he’ll never fly again, but they each share their dearest memories of him. I listen to the familiar sounds while Charlotte nestles in my arm.
What will she become, later when she is all grown up?
We still live in a dense fog but occasionally a light shimmers through. ‘Her skin is clean,’ the oncologist says after her checkup. Charlotte lies on the exam table, her feet paddling in the air. She is in remission.’Like me, he seems to find it hard to believe. ’‘In my profession this is as close as I can give you to certainty.