This Is Me

This is the story of a girl who got lost along the way. Her journey is one threaded in between that of thousands of others and fate will take its path. Follow your yellow brick road.

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2. Chapter 2

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Let me see. I guess this whole mess we call life started when my parents told me and my sister that they wanted a private chat so could we please be quiet? As an over enthusiastic eleven year old, I naturally asked if we could go put the telly on. My Mum must have been thinking, anything to get them out of my hair, as she said yes straight away. That was probably the first warning bell.

I began to get a bit weary as the minutes ticked on. There was no shouting and the scraping of chairs which, rather than calming me down, made me more nervous. I couldn’t concentrate on the TV which kept freezing anyway. I idly thought that Daddy had promised to fix that soon. He probably wouldn’t do it properly, bless him.

Finally, my Mum came through and asked me and Ellen to go through with her so we got up and followed her, Ellen with the relaxed pace of someone who has no idea of what is about to unfold as one of the greatest changes to our whole lives and I with the pace of one who is wary of what will happen next.

What happened next will forever be ingrained into my head. Everything else after that is a blur. I remember my dog lying in the shade under the sheltered part of our back garden, the Cyprus summer heat making her lazy. My Dad was sat in the small armchair opposite where my Mum sat, leaving me and Ellie to sit together on the two-seater.  The hills in the distance where gentle swells against the singing sky, signifying how far away we were from the rest of the world. I swallowed loudly and turned to look at my mum as she cleared her throat.

I don’t remember everything that happened, I don’t remember the whole conversation but I do remember my Mum telling us that we had the choice of moving to England if we wanted to. We could move to England and finally have the proper English education that we weren’t being supplied with at our expensive-but-rubbish private school in Cyprus, or we could stay and go to Greek school and have to move away from our beautiful stone bungalow snuggled between swelling hills in the middle of Cyprus, but we would be staying with everyone and everything we knew.

For some reason, my heart swelled with the excitement at the adventure that would surely come with moving to England. I remember saying that I wasn’t sure whether to be excited or to cry, veiled excitement tinting my tone. My dad glanced at my mum, the universal sign for ‘you tell them.’ I could almost hear my mum muttering ‘wuss’ under her breath.

The next part of the conversation snatched away my awakening excitement and threw it into a box, almost not to be discovered again for a while.

‘If we go to England,’ my mum hesitantly started, ‘Daddy won’t be coming with us.’

My Dad was one of the biggest parts of my life. I think that the parent you spend the least time with is the one that you probably get on with best as you have a lot less arguments. My Daddy was the one I went to when I was upset, the one I shared almost all my secrets with, the one I preferred to do my homework with. I think it was likewise for Ellen.

Ellen immediately burst into tears, throwing herself into my Dads’ awaiting arms and I could swear I saw tears glistening in his eyes for the first time.

At the sound of my sisters’ anguished wail, Jessy the dog lumbered over to see what the problem was and when I beckoned for her to climb onto the sofa with me, we both hesitated to see my Mum’s reaction but, with tears of her own in her eyes, she waved her on. I remember burying my face in Jess’s fur and telling myself that I wouldn’t cry. That resolution lasted only a minute.

I remember my Dad tapping my arm, reaching over for me and with that touch, my resolution crumbled. I threw myself onto my Dads’ other side, silent tears dripping down my face. I think it was then as I buried my face into my Daddys’ shoulder that I knew what my choice was.

As much as it would hurt, as much as the pain would leak out of the invisible wounds on my body like a poisonous air sometimes, I would have to go. I would have to leave my home, my life, my Dad, my family and my friends. It might seem like the right choice and it probably was, but to an eleven year old, that was one of the hardest choices I have ever had to make.

The next few weeks were a blur of packing and goodbyes, that final goodbye that you don’t want to have to say. The one that leaves you choking on your tears, trying valiantly to hold them back but you somehow always fail. I think me and my Mum made that choice for my sister because she was too young at the tender age of seven to see that this was the best choice. Her Daddy was the only important thing to her.

I think that I probably got my work ethic from my Mum. For the next few weeks, I was able to pack and not think about the moment, rather to think about the future and focus on what I would have rather that what I wouldn’t have any longer.

Maybe one of the reasons in was able to pull through bets was that I knew for certain that I would have friends. Since we were going back to my Mum’s home town of Maidenhead where she had kept a handful of friends for years and they had kids the same age as me, I knew I wouldn’t be alone.

It also helped that one of my Mum’s oldest friends, in fact her oldest friend, was over from Maidenhead at the time with her daughters Hailey and Abby, Hailey fifteen at the time and Abby twelve,  and they supported us when we needed it the most. Hailey and Abby went to the local all-girls school in Maidenhead which they claimed to be the best school in the borough and we quickly made plans for me to join them there and for Ellen to go to the primary school that they had attended as youngsters. My Mum constantly tried to remind me that there might not be any spaces there but I batted those thoughts away.  With Hailey and Abby there, it was easy to look forward to the future rather than stay stuck in the past.

It soon hit home that our pets would have no home. It also finally slammed into place in my mind that we would have to rent out our beautiful home. It wouldn’t be ours anymore. Not our home. To this day I sometimes wish that I could go back to how it was one more time.

My Mum rushed around like a blue arsed fly, doing brilliantly to keep us all in check and the household still running. She sent out e-mails for homes for our pets and went to hundreds of agents to find the best one for our home. Sometimes I selfishly wish she hadn’t.

No-one seemed to want a just turned six year old dog and a thirteen year old cat. Finally, our saviours came to the rescue once again.

Hailey and Abby’s parents, Roland and Karris, valiantly volunteered to have Jessy flown over to England to have her. Jessy was my baby, the dog my godfather had gotten me for my sixth birthday. At the same time as being so happy I could cry, I didn’t want them to have her. I didn’t want anyone else to have to look after my baby girl but me. I think deep down that I jealously thought that Jessy would begin to prefer them and that she might think that we had abandoned her. That thought popped into my head so many times that I began to try to think of ways I could get around it. Not that I didn’t want Jessy to come to England, I was thrilled about that, just that I wanted her to live with us, her real family. Maybe my wish came true, in a twisted way.

I have come to realise that nothing that happens is a coincidence. So think me crazy but I think that all of my wishing led us to what happened next.

Jessy had always been an ill dog. She was the runt of the litter and, as runts go, she was riddled with illnesses. Jess was supposed to be a boxer but instead she was white with faded small grey spots all over her body, floppy ears, a protruding jaw and a tongue that was far too big for her mouth. Anyone who called her ugly had to answer to me, though on reflection I can laugh affectionately and call her my doozy babes who was a little ugly yes, but the most lovely dog I had ever met.

She had always had problems with her eyes and had had quite a few operations on them but it wasn’t until one of our packing days when I went outside to find her with one eyes bunched up tight and another drooping so low you could see the socket that we really began to realise how ill she was. I am so glad I found her rather than Ellen otherwise she would have broken down. All I remember is rushing for my Mum and her rushing Jess to hospital, coming back later with her brave face on to tell us that my baby Jess had a fatal disease called leishmaniasis that is spread through sand tics and insects. She told us that it would be kinder to let her go.

Jess had always been a sickly dog. I remember on her first summer with us, she lost almost all of her fur and was almost completely bald, bless her. I always lived her despite her somewhat tatty appearance.

My Mum put on a brave face throughout it all but later that night I heard her howling in pain. She loved Jessy as much as I did.

Maybe that was what I wished for without knowing it. I did know that that would be the kindest thing for her. Mum told us she wasn’t in pain but she was constantly uncomfortable and I knew that I couldn’t wish that on anyone, not even if I hated them. So for the one I loved, I definitely couldn’t.

Jessy was scheduled to leave us on the 22nd September 2011, six days before we left to start our new lives in England. We begged for more time with Jess but my Mum refused, saying that the sooner it would be better so we wouldn’t have to deal with that pain straight away while leaving our home. She was probably right.

I remember the last night before Jess left us, I went through to the kitchen to get some water to see that my mum had set up camp with the blow up bed just outside the kitchen, Jess dutifully lying at her side. If I could go back in time, I would have stayed there too.  In the end though, I went and hugged Jess for almost the last time. I think I went to bed and cried that night, my dreams filled with the numbing reality of what my life was going to become.

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