Amy’s Birth­day Wish

Could any­one give the lit­tle girl what she longed for most of all?

The People's Friend - - News - by Natalie Klein­man

AMY had never seen snow be­fore, though she’d heard about it in the fairy sto­ries that the staff some­times read be­fore it was time to turn out the light. She’d seen pic­tures, too, in books with pages made of stiff card.

Lately they’d been told the story of the Na­tiv­ity; about baby Je­sus, and how he lay in a manger. She hadn’t known what a manger was un­til they’d started to build a model in the big day room.

There were eigh­teen chil­dren in the or­phan­age. Amy had been there for nearly six months, ever since her mummy and daddy had gone.

She didn’t know where they were, but she’d been given a big hug and told they wouldn’t be com­ing back.

Soon it would be her fourth birth­day, and they’d promised to make her a spe­cial cake.

She’d tried to tell them that all she re­ally wanted for her birth­day was her mummy and daddy, but the words just wouldn’t come out.

The gar­den was usu­ally in dark­ness at this time, but tonight the moon il­lu­mi­nated a scene that had Amy en­thralled.

Right in the mid­dle of the snow-cov­ered lawn was the large snow­man they had all built that af­ter­noon.

Amy had been given the hon­our of giv­ing him a car­rot nose, which was a bit skew-whiff as Mrs Ben­nett had needed to lift her up to reach.

The oth­ers had laughed, but Mrs Ben­nett told her it was the very fin­ish­ing touch that was needed. Mrs Ben­nett was a kind lady. All the ladies were kind, but they weren’t her mummy.

Snow be­gan to fall again – faster now, and in big­ger drops that looked like the dec­o­ra­tions on the Christ­mas tree in the en­trance hall.

Amy wanted to reach out and catch some but the lower win­dows were locked, and she couldn’t reach the small open one at the top.

She turned away with a sigh and picked up her teddy bear from the bed.

He was all she had left from her pre­vi­ous life; Teddy and a framed photo of her and her mummy. Even her clothes were new, be­cause her old ones didn’t fit her any more.

In the photo, Amy was sit­ting on a swing and her mummy was stand­ing be­hind her with a big smile on her face. Daddy wasn’t in the photo be­cause he had taken it. She was find­ing it hard to re­mem­ber ex­actly what he looked like, and that made her very sad.

A bell rang, sig­nalling it was time for tea.

Amy came out of her room and met some of the oth­ers in the cor­ri­dor. She didn’t have a par­tic­u­lar friend yet, but she did have Teddy un­der her arm, so that made her feel bet­ter.

At first one of the grownups had of­fered to hold Teddy while she came down­stairs, but she’d clutched him tightly, un­aware of the panic on her lit­tle face. They hadn’t asked again, but they kept a care­ful eye on her – on all the chil­dren.

It wasn’t long now till Christ­mas. There was a huge pile of presents un­der the big tree, and each one had a name on.

Amy had seen her own on one of the parcels. It only had three let­ters, so she could recog­nise it even though she couldn’t read yet. She couldn’t imag­ine who would have bought her a present, though.

There was a lot of ex­cite­ment on Christ­mas Eve.

The chil­dren were putting on a Na­tiv­ity play for all the staff and vis­i­tors, and ev­ery sin­gle one of them was tak­ing part. Amy had asked if she could be a snowflake, and some­how Mrs Ben­nett had man­aged to run up a suit­able cos­tume for her.

Amy didn’t have a speak­ing part, and she was thank­ful for that. Be­cause, truth­fully, she was very ner­vous.

She looked out at the au­di­ence and saw Mrs Ben­nett beam­ing at her, her face send­ing her silent en­cour­age­ment.

Amy re­laxed, and she even man­aged to en­joy her­self.

The play was a big

suc­cess, and af­ter­wards Mrs Ben­nett in­tro­duced Amy to her hus­band. He was a funny man, and he made her gig­gle when he put some choco­late ic­ing on the end of her nose.

“Tastes like Christ­mas cake,” he said, wip­ing it off again and lick­ing his fin­ger. “Yummy. Do you like Christ­mas cake?”

“I don’t know. I don’t re­mem­ber if we had it be­fore. I don’t re­mem­ber much about Christ­mas at all.”

Even though she felt sad, the ex­cite­ment of the other chil­dren was in­fec­tious. On Christ­mas morn­ing, Amy awoke as full of it as any of the oth­ers.

They’d been told they could open their presents after break­fast, and she wolfed her ce­real down in dou­ble-quick time, only to have to wait un­til every­one else had fin­ished.

They sat cross-legged in rows on the floor in front of the tree. They were sup­posed to take it in turns, but that idea soon went out of the win­dow.

Lots of small fingers tore at wrap­pings, and de­light shone on each small face. Each ex­cept Amy’s.

Her chin trem­bled, and though she man­aged not to cry it was a close-run thing.

The staff had tried hard to match the gifts to the chil­dren, and they couldn’t have known that the pa­per doll with the cut-out cloth­ing was iden­ti­cal to the one her mummy had bought her be­fore she’d dis­ap­peared.

The doll had dis­ap­peared as well, lost with her other be­long­ings.

While it was an ideal choice – and she loved it – the mem­o­ries it brought back were hard for such a lit­tle one to deal with.

Mrs Ben­nett man­aged to dis­tract her by fetch­ing some crayons and of­fer­ing to help Amy colour in one of the out­fits.

The mo­ment passed, and she was once again the ex­cited lit­tle girl who’d bolted down her break­fast.

Time went by, and as Amy’s birth­day ap­proached she won­dered if this was when her mummy and daddy would come back. She couldn’t be­lieve they’d miss her spe­cial day.

She’d set­tled in and made some friends at the or­phan­age, but it wasn’t the same.

Lots of grown-ups vis­ited – some even two or three times – and Amy watched as first one friend, and then an­other, left with strangers and never re­turned.

The hard­est, though, was when Nel­lie went away. Nel­lie was her best friend of all, and Amy cried her­self to sleep when they told her she wouldn’t be com­ing back.

The next day, Sally came to visit.

She’d been a few times and played with all the chil­dren, but mostly she spent her time with Amy.

This time she brought her hus­band with her.

“They tell me you’re go­ing to be four soon. Is there any­thing spe­cial you’d like? Keith and I would like to give you a present.”

“If you could find Mummy and Daddy and Granny and Grandad, that would be the best birth­day present ever.”

“I wish I could, dar­ling, but they won’t be com­ing back. Did no-one ever tell you?”

And for the first time, some­one ex­plained to Amy what had hap­pened. She didn’t men­tion the crash, which Amy, the only sur­vivor, had some­how man­aged to blot out.

Sally paused, be­cause what she had to say next was cru­cial.

“We might not be able to give you the best birth­day present ever. But there is one thing we could give you, if you like. A new tri­cy­cle. Of course, there isn’t re­ally room for one here. You’d have to come and live with us, where there’s plenty of space.”

She paused and took a deep breath.

“We’ve asked the or­phan­age, and if it’s all right with you, we’d like you to be our lit­tle girl.”

She just man­aged to get all the words out be­fore Amy flew into her arms.

“Oh, that would be the best birth­day present ever!”

Sally looked at her hus­band over the top of her head, tears stream­ing down her face.

“I think that’s a ‘yes’!” ■

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