The young girl lay quietly on the crisp white sheets of her hospital bed, with her long hair spread out on the pillow above her head like a glistening chestnut fan. She looked so perfect, so beautiful and the absolute epitome of innocence.
Her small frame shuddered suddenly, yet there was no breeze to have cooled her. Janice’s eyelids flickered, then opened, returning to the dirty, cracked ceiling where they had rested for the last eighty-four days.
“Right young Janice,” Nurse Eve said loudly, bursting into the room. She stopped at the foot of the bed flicking through her notes, not once meeting the sad blue eyes that had fixed upon her. “No feeling sorry for yourself now, after all it is Christmas Eve.”
Janice smiled weakly, although her face really did not want to. The dull ache had returned in her lower body, and her head felt fuzzy as she slowly realized she was still part of her own life, still confused, still feeling hurt.
She pulled herself up against the pillows. “Will I see me mammy again today?” she asked the stocky nurse quietly.
“Ooo, Janice, not for a few days, she has so much to do what with Christmas tea to prepare. And now a trip to town for new sheets.”
The almost silent “oh” didn’t quite make it out of her lips, the voice just would not come. She sensed now, for sure, that some of the pain she felt was from her broken heart and not just her throbbing bad leg. Not wanting nurse Eve to see the tears, she pushed her big toe on her good side hard into the bedclothes, as if that would switch them off.
It did not work, each big fat tear seemed to mark each puddled thought that whirled around her head.
I stayed so still in Mammy’s bed, didn’t move once, she thought, looking back at another year with no Santa. She thought she had been good this year, although last year she hadn’t known why he didn’t come.
Janice did not realize that her mother had a large void within her body where her motherly instincts should have been, didn’t understand that her Mammy felt nothing but hatred when looking at Janice and her deformed leg. But how would an innocent child know? How would the child realize that its deformity was largely due to their drunken father having punched the mother so very hard it had sent her flying down the stairs from top to bottom, while her unborn child felt every bump and was changed forever?
During Christmas the year before, while her sisters squealed with delight, ripping paper from parcels, Janice had re-stocked the fire, poured Mammy’s drink, and managed to swerve Papa’s hands. She didn’t like his hands, they hurt her, as they had hurt her mother so many times also. Mammy had laughed with Janice’s sisters, she brushed their hair and sung songs with them, but Janice was never invited to join in. She had been treated so coldly since the day she was born; she was their live-in maid, and had never felt her mother’s warm arms around her or heard words of love. Yet Janice never stopped praying that one day this might change.
Janice had never been more hopeful than she was now, her deformed leg had never grown. She had worn calipers and a built-up shoe since she could walk, but she could still not run or be a daughter worthy of her mothers love. She was in hospital now being prepared for the amputation. Part of this process was the fusing of her knee, hence the two metal poles that went straight through. They had to stay there for four weeks until the operation.
Tears came heavier than before, as she felt guilt overwhelm her, guilt for not being able to walk right, guilt for being different, guilt for tearing Mammy’s sheets. Add to this the confusion as to why they did not seem to love her. If her mother had loved her now, would it have mattered that the poles had ripped her bed covers? Would a mother who loved her child have sent her back to hospital to spend Christmas eve alone?
Her bad leg throbbed so much now, distracting her from the scrunched toe and the ceiling focus point. Looking down her body, she could see the glistening metal poles. Tomorrow the bad leg would be gone, thrown away forever. Maybe then Mammy would love her.