Lucy walked down the busy, dusty pavement, the road bursting at the curb with traffic and commotion. She walked slowly behind her mum who was occupied in ‘grown-up’ chat with her friend, whilst the other children were either walking by their sides, or running off in front and hiding behind trees. “That’s my mum’s hand she’s holding,” Lucy thought to herself. She understood the meaning of sharing and that mum had to keep the other children safe, but she wasn’t expecting to have to share her mum’s hand of all things.
“Some of the children feel insecure and would prefer their mums were walking them to school, rather than their childminder,” Lucy’s mum said before the Monday morning ‘drop-off’ of children. “By holding my hand they feel safe and assured. You’re just going to have to share Lucy!”
Lucy did share. She shared her house, her toys, the family television, her bedroom, her school holidays, even her non-immediate family sometimes, but she didn’t expect to have to share her mum’s hand. Her mum had the accurate number of hands for her children. Lucy’s younger sister Jasmine had one hand and Lucy had the other. But now, she was the one beginning to feel insecure.
Her mum had taken up childminding when Jasmine had started nursery school. Lucy was seven. Her mum had decided she’d rather be there for her girls growing up, but also needed to work, so childminding seemed the most viable option. But Lucy had never been very keen on the idea and was struggling with adjusting to her new lifestyle.
The novelty of friends at your house all the time soon wore thin with Lucy. Her toys got broken, her house was never her own (or quiet) and worst of all she could not get to grips with sharing her mum. The hand holding issue grew in Lucy’s head as the weeks went on, like a small gremlin hiding in the back of her head. “She’s holding your mum’s hand again Lucy,” it would whisper, whilst scratching the inside of her eardrum. Although her mum tried to share her hands fairly each day, it still grated on Lucy, like a pummel stone chaffing her skin each time she witnessed the harmless act.
“When I die,” her mum said looking down at Lucy who was holding her hand in the playground, early one morning, “I’ll get them to cut off my hand and stuff it especially for you!” she said, looking at her friend and they both laughed. Lucy didn’t find it funny. Her mum had a valid point and the fear of her mum dying suddenly struck her. And who were ‘they’? And why would they have the rights to cut off her mum’s hand? She had an image of getting up for school one morning and seeing her mum’s hand displayed on a wooden plinth on the kitchen counter. The image stayed with her all day.
Walking home that afternoon, Lucy sneakily kept glimpsing down at her mum’s hand to look for anything she could use to identify her mum’s hand, if it was cut off. Her mum’s hands were smooth and just the right size for a mum’s hand. Her nails were perfectly formed and shiny, like seashells glistening ever so slightly in the light. Each nail was surrounded by pink raw skin where her mum would frantically bite at it, (a strange tactic to prevent her from biting her actual nails).
Lucy was very sensitive to other people emotions and moods. She tended to try and find small areas in the house or garden to sit quietly on her own. Although her mum accused her of sulking, Lucy merely needed time to herself to gather her thoughts and find her bearings. The cupboard under the stairs was a good place, as she could hide behind the coats and pretend she was living in a cave.
* * *
“I’m holding your mum’s hand tonight” Jenni said through an innocent but stern smile during playtime. Jenni was a ‘full-time’ girl Lucy’s mum was minding, the same age as Lucy. She would often make comments to Lucy when no-one was in ear shot.
Lucy began to panic, as if she was underwater and someone had turned off her oxygen tank on purpose. What if her mum did die, Lucy wouldn’t have been the last one to hold her hand. Did that mean the last child to hold her hand would automatically get the hand on a plinth? She had to think of a plan.
The walk home that evening was a long one, with Lucy trailing behind her mum watching as Jenni held ‘her’ hand. Like an ant on jam, she held the hand so tightly. When they arrived home Lucy went to her room to get changed. As she took off her uniform and folded it into piles, she had an idea.
That evening Lucy had set her alarm clock for midnight. When the alarm went off, Lucy crept out of bed and along the landing to her parent’s bedroom. She didn’t like the dark, especially when it was windy outside. The trees shadows moved and whistled, like ghosts in the night. She could hear her dad snoring like a big grizzly bear in a cartoon. She quietly opened the door. She crept inside, walking on tiptoes and in slow motion, avoiding the creaky floorboards. Her mum’s hand was on top of the duvet and as both parents slept soundly Lucy began her mission.
* * *
“Luuuuuuuuuuucy!” she heard her mum bellow from her bedroom. Lucy pulled the covers over her head as if they were a magical shield or invisible blanket. Her mum’s soft but forceful footsteps came along the landing towards Lucy’s bedroom.
“Lucy!” she said sternly, now at the bedroom door “What on earth were you thinking?”
Lucy pulled the covers so just the top of her head and one eye was able to look out onto the dilemma.
She muttered from under the covers, “You always put name tags on my school uniform, so if I loose it, people know who it belongs to. I just wanted to make sure everyone knows that’s my hand if you die”.
She spoke very matter of fact and as if her point was not only valid, but totally justified. She looked at her mum’s hand and a satisfied smile grew on her face. The name Lucy was written in black permanent marker all over her mum’s right hand and wrist, overlapping and in lots of different sizes.
“The right hand is my favourite” she reassured her mum.