Katie was four when her baby sister was born. She’d been asking mummy how long it would be before baby arrived for what seemed like forever. Every time mummy went to the shops, Katie thought she’d return with baby wrapped up and packaged, with a big red ribbon among all the other presents. As a little girl, she loved tearing apart the nice wrapping paper from Liberty’s; or if it was a really special occasion, from one of the exclusive boutiques mummy loved.
It was quite a surprise when she got back from playschool one day to find mummy and baby snug in bed, with daddy, grandma and grandpa and a few well-wishers fussing over them. Mummy had insisted on giving birth at home, just like when Katie was born. Baby was soooo tiny and wrinkly. “She’s just like Penny,” she thought.
Penny was Katie’s favourite doll. Katie loved singing to baby and telling her all about play school. She didn’t like it so much when baby, who was now called Angeline, cried and had a tantrum. Mummy said Katie had been just the same at that age.
Katie was five and a half when she got her first bike, although she liked to tell everybody that she was almost six. It was red, like everything she owned. All her little dresses and shoes and playthings were shades of red; from scarlet red through to bubblegum pink and pretty, pastel, powdery pink. Sometimes, when she felt like compromising, she accepted tangerine orange or magenta. Her bike, however, was as red as the phone box at the end of the street. It reminded her of the big buses that went into town and the post box outside her playschool.
At first, she had to cycle with the training wheels attached. She would whiz about the garden, golden ringlets framing her face, occasionally bumping into plants but as free as a bird. Then one day, daddy said, “Katie, I think you are really good with the bike now. Shall we try it without the training wheels?”
Mummy and baby watched from the porch as daddy guided Katie down the garden path. At first she wobbled a great deal and fell off when daddy let go. She scraped her knee but was undaunted. By the end of the next day, she could go round the garden by herself and couldn’t wait to show baby. But baby was still sooo small.
Katie had just turned ten when she had her first kiss from a boy. Of course, mummy and daddy and grandma and grandpa kissed her all the time but that didn’t count. It was only a little peck on the cheek from Tom who sat across the aisle from her but she was very pleased. Tom was really smart and kind and didn’t say mean things to the girls. Sometimes he carried her satchel when they walked home from school.
She declared she was going to marry Tom one day. Mummy said, “Sweetheart, that is a long way off. But Tom is a really nice boy. Ask him over to tea sometime.” Daddy thought Tom was a good lad. “He’s like his dad. Probably become a surgeon too. Very good family.”
At eighteen, Katie had passed her A Levels and was off to University to study Economics. Her parents, delighted, promised her a car once she had passed her driving test. It wouldn’t be anything too fancy. A small Peugeot or Fiat perhaps. And then she wouldn’t have to take a train down to visit them now she was moving to live closer to the University.
“Katie, how is the 3 Point Turn coming along,” daddy would ask.
“And the Reverse Parking?” mummy would add.
“Don’t forget your seatbelt,” they shouted in unison as she went off to another driving class.
She passed first time round and celebrated with her chums from school at the local pub. Mummy, daddy and Angeline took her out to dinner to the local bistro, her favourite. The next day, they all went along to pick up her brand new Peugeot 207. It was red of course.
After graduating and getting a good job in the city, Katie was now a swish high-flyer. She worked hard, played hard and had all the trimmings the job came with. She went on exotic holidays, trained at the City Point Club and shopped in Bond Street. When she met Hugo, she was immersed in her life but beginning to think about family and settling down.
Hugo worked in the city too. They went to the same places, knew the same people and were in sync in every possible way. He had the cutest way of flicking his rakish hair off his face. It was always just that length that covered part of his forehead if he didn’t sweep it back. They moved in together a year later and got married the following year. She had long forgotten Tom, he of the First Kiss.
As the midwife placed the pink little bundle in her arms, Katie smiled at Hugo, standing right there beside her. Her parents and Angeline gathered round to welcome the new member of the family.
“No natural births for me, thank you,” Katie had said. “I want to be in a hospital with doctors and drugs should they be needed.”
“You were just like this, I remember,” she said to Angeline as she observed the little mole on the baby’s upper right arm. Angeline had one in almost the same place.
Mummy nodded, “Katie thought you were so tiny and wrinkly.”
“She’s gorgeous,” beamed Hugo.
“Our very own granddaughter,” smiled daddy.
And she was precious and delicate. Her little Annabel. From the Latin Amabel: beautiful, graceful, the sweet one. They would watch her grow and teach her all those things her parents had taught her.