Jenny’s Gift

Home­work causes havoc in Julie Cof­fin’s hope­ful com­plete story.

The People's Friend Special - - CONTENTS -

A fam­ily story by Julie Cof­fin

IDON’T want to go to school, Daddy. I haven’t got a present to take.” It was Mon­day morn­ing and Jenny stood bare­foot on the front-door mat, her eyes look­ing up at me like dew-drenched corn­flow­ers. I broke off search­ing for her socks and shoes and stroked her soft hair.

“What sort of present, sweet­heart? Who is it for? One of the other chil­dren? Is it some­one’s birth­day?”

Jenny shook her head vig­or­ously, send­ing her hair spi­ralling.

“Did Miss Elvin ask you to? What did she say?” Jenny gave me a de­spair­ing look. “To bring a present.” “Then we’ll ask her about it when we get there.”

My eyes cast around again for the miss­ing socks and I re­solved yet again to pre­pare bet­ter on a Sun­day evening.

One lit­tle foot stamped down on to the mat.

“No, Daddy! It’s for to­day. Miss Elf in said so.”

Ev­ery­thing has changed so much since I went to pri­mary school. No sit­ting at my desk, half-ter­rif ied, un­der the steely gaze of a mid­dle-aged bat­tle-axe!

Last time I’d seen her Miss Elvin, Jenny’s teacher, had looked about twelve years old in her T-shirt and jeans, with her dark curls swing­ing in a pony­tail.

“Where are your socks and shoes, Jenny?” I asked, hop­ing to dis­tract my daugh­ter.

Jenny usu­ally loved go­ing to school and I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with this mini-re­bel­lion.

A tear brimmed, then me­an­dered down her plump lit­tle cheek. It hes­i­tated in a dim­ple, then dripped from her chin.

Another tear fol­lowed, trac­ing the same path. “Please, Jenny,” I begged. I had f in­ally spot­ted one screwed-up, grey-white sock un­der the ra­di­a­tor, the other in her black patent shoe. “We’re go­ing to be late.” I sat her on the bot­tom stair and be­gan to tug the socks over re­luc­tant feet. Her toes bunched. The silent tears con­tin­ued to drip.

“I want to stay here with you to­day, Daddy.”

Her arms clung round my neck, wet face pressed into my cheek as I hugged her.

Poor lit­tle scrap. There had been so much up­heaval in her life al­ready. So much for her to try to un­der­stand. It was al­most three years since Anna died. How do you ex­plain that to a child?

The mem­ory filled my mind. Jenny was eigh­teen months old so she had stayed home with me that Satur­day af­ter­noon, while Anna did some last-minute Christ­mas shop­ping.

Rain was pelt­ing down. Dark­ness had come early. Peo­ple were in a hurry to get home.

The car driver in­sisted he didn’t see Anna step off the kerb at the pedes­trian cross­ing; that the traff ic lights had only just turned to red.

That the road was too wet to put his brakes on quickly . . .

What­ever his ex­cuse, the re­sult was the same.

I lost my wife and Jenny her mother.

****

My em­ploy­ers were very un­der­stand­ing and agreed I could work from home. Com­put­ers and e-mails make life so much eas­ier. I was there for Jenny when­ever she needed me.

Ev­ery­thing seemed to be set­tling down – un­til she started school. On the first day par­ents were al­lowed to stay for a

My lit­tle daugh­ter liked school, and seemed to love her teacher, too. So why was she re­fus­ing to go to­day?

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