Gifts | by Kate J (6.1)

When she was born she was given the softest of teddy bears (a present from an aunt), which she clutched in little fists and wouldn’t let go of no matter how hard people tried. The name her parents had given it was the first word she ever spoke in her squeaking voice and when she was scared it was that item she’d find, the item she’d hold as if she were again a baby.

Four years old, she got her school uniform from her grandparents, a little red pinafore which she wore around the house for the whole summer before she actually got to join the reception class at the other end of the village. It didn’t totally fit, and the plaid pattern clashed with the turtles on her socks, but she wore it anyway, beaming when she finally went to school with her hair tied up smartly in little pigtails.

At age seven she received a book which became like an extension of her hand. It was a compilation of her favourite fairy tales, golden lettering decorating the outside with beautiful illustrations, which she lugged with her everywhere. On long car journeys, all the way to school and back and even next to her chair at dinner, just in case she needed to check which princess had done what. (She never did have to check. She knew it off by heart.)

Ten brought a notebook into which she spilled her soul, every emotion she ever felt, the contents of which were read out loud by her older brother whilst she tried desperately to grab it back. Pages and pages that she then ripped out and stored at the bottom of a trunk, hoping that they’d never see the light of day again.

When she was twelve, she gave her mother a heartfelt poem written in shaky handwriting which then sat in pride of place for the rest of her life framed in the kitchen, so that it could be shown to every friend that came round. She blushed every time, told her mother she was embarrassing her, but she secretly loved it. She was especially proud of the small drawing in the corner.

Aged fourteen, for Christmas, a collection of DVDs that she spent the whole holiday watching, tucked up with her brother on the sofa. He perfected his signature hot chocolate which she used to beg him to make for her, she learned exactly when to pass him tissues when watching his favourite films.

The year of her sixteenth, she got a beautiful silver locket and gave her brother a hand-knitted jumper to take with him to university. In the locket she put a picture of her best friends, wore it around her neck always, and smiled when she got a photograph from her brother of him shivering in his dorm room, the jumper pulled up to his nose. When the chain snapped, caught on a zip as she pulled off a shirt at the end of a long day, she cried and kept the locket safely in her bedside cabinet until her father went with her to buy a new one.

The car that she and her parents bought together when she was eighteen was her pride and joy, bright yellow and tiny, a means of freedom that she’d never felt before. It moved with her to university some months later, changing from trips to the cinema to trips home, filled haphazardly with cushions and books. She’d never forget the jolting sensation the first time she crashed it, bumping over a pothole and into a hedge by the side of a winding country road. (Her brother never let her forget it either; He never crashed his car.)

At twenty she cried her heart out to a friend, bemoaning both her stupidness and her boyfriend’s, as she sipped from a chipped mug given to her for Christmas by her best friend some years before. The mug had been damaged when the boyfriend had done the breaking up, dropped on the counter in shock, but was still perfectly functional for holding the best cup of tea ever.

The keys she was given to her first flat at twenty-two fit perfectly in her hands, and never left her pocket, the comforting click of the lock making her feel safe in the space that was filled with her, her books and her films and her photos. Filled with notebooks bursting with stories and drawers stuffed with pens.

When she was twenty-four she gave her newborn niece the softest of teddy bears.