by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents|
Book II: Never So Good
Prologue: Now and Then
Of course, I don’t actually remember anything about that other Christmas Eve in 1952, eleven years ago. And my parents never ever talked about it.
But then I never needed to ask them, anyway. Because I heard it all from Jane, the first time she spoke to me, in June 1955 ...
Happy Birthday, Peter.
‘Who are you?’
I’m your twin sister Jane.
‘But you died. They told me.’
What did they tell you?
‘They said you went away to be with God ... on the day before Christmas, when I was only eighteen months old.’
And that’s all they’ve ever said about it, isn’t it?
I know. Well, I’m still here, Peter. I’ve been here all the time, even though no-one can see me.
But I decided it wasn’t right to try and talk to you until today. I think you’re old enough to start to understand it now. And it is my fourth birthday too ...
‘Oh! Of course it is! Happy Birthday, Jane! But you do sound very grown-up ...’
Peter, you must listen very carefully.
I am growing up and learning things a lot faster than you are. That’s because I don’t have any distractions! I’m already more like a seven or eight-year-old, I think. Older than Robert!
‘I don’t understand that at all. And how are we both able to talk without speaking?’
Be patient. I need to tell you first about the day I left you ...
Yes, we were both exactly eighteen months old. Daddy was out at work, of course, and Mummy was getting everything ready for Christmas. It had been really windy all morning, so she didn’t go down to the shops as usual. But after lunch it seemed a little calmer, and she had lots of last-minute things to buy, so she strapped us into our double pushchair and we all set off. Robert was holding her hand and singing a Christmas Carol.
But as we walked along between the tall buildings in our narrow road, Mummy didn’t know the wind was now gusting straight down the High Street, and bowling a huge empty cardboard box along the pavement. We reached the corner, and the box slammed right into the top of our pushchair and knocked it out of her hand and over onto its side. My head smashed down on the edge of the kerbstone, and you ended up suspended above me, crying your eyes out. But you only had a bruise on your arm ...
‘How do you know all this, Jane? I can’t remember any of it ...’
Because I heard about it, over and over again, later that day.
Anyway, Mummy got the pushchair upright at once, of course — I was watching everything for myself now, from above — and people rushed over to help, and somebody went to call an ambulance, and it came quite quickly ...
They took us all to the hospital. It was very close by. But there was nothing anyone could do for me.
‘You mean that’s when you died?’
Mummy was frantic for a while, and then she went very quiet. Poor Robert was really confused ... he was only four years old himself at the time, and he just couldn’t take it in. And you were still crying a lot. Another doctor made sure you weren’t badly hurt, and a nurse rubbed something on your arm.
And then Daddy arrived, and it all got very emotional again.
Later, they took my body somewhere else. But when the ambulance finally drove everybody home for Christmas, I came back too. To be with you.
‘And you really have been here all the time?’
In spirit, yes. I know everything you’ve said and done since that day, Peter. And I’ve seen and heard a lot more besides, while you’ve been asleep. I told you I’d been learning fast. Nothing else to do!
‘You seem quite happy about it ...’
Well, I’ve always been very sad about what our family has suffered, of course. But there’s nothing to be gained by staying down in the dumps, is there? I’ve enjoyed living through your life ever since I died, and now I hope we can share it together!
‘That sounds lovely! But we can’t really do anything together, can we?’
Not really, no. But I can be with you and talk to you at any time. And I’ve been thinking hard about what else we might actually be able to do together, and I’ve had an idea ...
‘What is it?’
Well, I thought that maybe you could start to keep a little diary — for both of us. I know Mummy’s already taught you to write very well for your age, even though you haven’t started school yet ...
‘That also sounds like a nice idea. But I don’t really know many big words yet.’
That doesn’t matter. With my help, you’ll learn a lot more very quickly! You can write down things I say, even if you can’t spell them all properly, and you can also record what you’ve been doing or thinking in your own words. And as you get older, we can go back from time to time and tidy it all up.
‘What will Mummy and Daddy think of that?’
Don’t try and hide it from them. I’ll tell you exactly what to say. Then they’ll believe you’re doing it especially to remember me, and they should be very impressed with the way it’s improving your writing and your creativity, and hopefully they won’t make you stop.
‘All right, I’ll try. But Jane — does everyone who dies stay behind in ... “spirit”? I’ve never heard anybody else talk about that ...’
It’s a very good question, Peter. I just can’t say. But I suspect most people don’t. I have a feeling it’s more likely to happen if you die before you really should. And maybe it’s particularly likely if you’re a twin. You see, I can watch and hear everything that happens, but I’m certain I’ll only ever be able to “speak” to you. Nobody else will ever know I’m still around.
‘Not even Robert? Or Mummy and Daddy?’
‘Oh! That’s really sad. But it means this is something very special for both of us, isn’t it?’
That’s also very perceptive of you. I think it shows you’re already starting to grow up even faster yourself!
Now, I think it’s time for you to get out of bed and enjoy your birthday. Our birthday! And I will be privately enjoying it too, along with you all. But I promise I’ll be back to talk to you later, once it’s nice and quiet again ...
* * *
Yes, that’s exactly how it happened that morning. Jane helped me write it down in those very words, a few days later, on the back pages of our first diary. But I’m already getting ahead of the story ...
And I’ve now completed the final set of improvements to the entire thing. I’ve been through it very carefully several times, over the years, and always with Jane’s help, just as she suggested on that very first day. But I’ve only ever corrected the spelling and the grammar. I haven’t changed one word of the spirit of what she and I said to each other, or what the others said and did.
And I’ve just spent most of this Christmas holiday finishing off the job I started many months ago — typing it all out on Mum’s new typewriter. What a labour of love that has been! But it’s done at last. And this is where it must stop.
Thank you for everything, Jane.
Peter W. Kerr
31 December 1963
Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd