Peter and Jacqueline
by Anton Wills-Eve
Peter and Jacqueline loved every minute of their Christmas and New Year when their parents took them to see Auntie Jill and uncle William and their new baby. He was born on Christmas Eve and his parents called him Nicholas after Father Christmas. It was a wonderful nine day holiday and they especially enjoyed helping their aunt settle in at home with their new cousin. Mummy and daddy were also thrilled and the whole family festivities were among the best they had known in their eight and a half years. Being twins they somehow always enjoyed the same things which made times like Christmas even more special.
By February the next year they were already looking forward to another Christmas but of course they had a birthday in June and they also wondered what to ask for for birthday presents. Whatever they wanted, however, they were disappointed because what they got was tragedy. They had little memory of the accident when the car was struck side on by a lorry on the motorway in April. Peter was concussed and sustained two fractured legs, a broken collar bone and worst of all was paralysed down his right side from the shoulder to the knee. Why the paralysis stopped there the doctors never knew but at least it meant that once they had mended and strengthened his legs he would be able to walk.
Poor Jacqueline was a much worse case. She had no serious physical injuries but the blow to the side of her head had left her in a coma and she still had not regained consciousness a couple of months later. As their birthday approached. Mummy asked Peter,
“Darling what would you like as a birthday present? I know it won’t be much fun this year with Jacquie so ill but you mustn’t be forgotten.” The little boy just stared at his mother in disbelief;
“You mean you think I want a present with Jacquie so bad? Of course I don’t. Don’t let anybody give me anything. Do you hear. Nothing from anyone. All I want is Jacquie able to speak and play and be happy again. That is the only thing I want. Understood?!” So vehement was his tone that his parents had a long chat and decided to cancel their twins’ ninth birthdays until Jacqueline was better. But that was the tragedy. The doctors had no idea when she was going to recover, or even if she was.
Her poor parents were distraught at the agony that had hit the family. They even felt guilty about the crash as they had escaped unhurt and only the back of their car was smashed in. But soon Peter’s legs started to mend and by the end of the summer holidays the doctors let him return to school as his paralysis had also eased almost totally and he could walk and write. But then came the real problem for the family. Peter had no interest in school any more. He could not play football or pay attention in class and, when asked by his teachers, was only able to say that he could not stop thinking about his sister. Half term passed and soon Christmas was looming with Jacquie still unable to move or communicate with anyone. She had a special ward to herself and was wired up with tubes and drips that were just about keeping her alive. Even a visit from Nicholas, now ten months old, registered nothing with the little girl. But Peter felt sorry for his little cousin and found himself at Jacquie’s bedside having a long talk with the baby and telling him all about how great life was going to be when the family were all restored to health. The grown ups and the doctors heard a lot of this and started to worry seriously about Peter’s mental state. How on earth would he cope with Christmas.
Again the little boy only asked for one present and refused anything else. At nine and a half years, though, he was able to realise how much some things mattered to his parents and aunt and uncle and decided not to spoil their Christmas. He helped decorate the house and the tree and told his mother that he had the oddest feeling that everything would be right. But he surprised her even more by asking for just one gift after all.
“Mummy, on Christmas Eve, in the afternoon could I have an hour to myself in Jacquie’s ward with her? Just the two of us and no adults or anyone interrupting us. You see I know it may be my last Christmas with her and I so want to tell her how much I’ll miss her if it is. But we’d have to be alone. I couldn’t do it if other people were in the room.”
His mother realised he wanted to say goodbye to his twin and she just managed to promise him he could have his wish before getting to her bedroom, shutting the door and crying her eyes out. She told the hospital and the family what Peter had asked and added that she would be dreadfully upset if her son was not allowed to say goodbye to his sister. Nobody even thought for a minute that he should be denied his wish and so it was all arranged as he asked.
At three o’clock on Christmas Eve afternoon they shut the ward door on Peter and Jacquie and a nurse sat outside the door in case she was needed. The others waited in the hospital coffee bar. Then at ten to four the ward door opened and a beaming Peter came out. He was glowing with happiness, joy such as nobody had ever seen in his face before. He walked slowly up to his parents and just almost whispered to them.
“You can go in now. She kept her word. As I asked her very slowly, in case she had difficulty understanding, if she would like to give me a present before she died she answered me. Yes she did, she answered me. She said, “Peter who said I was dying? I’ve been asleep, that’s all. You know you only had to ask to wake me up.” Parents, doctors, relatives and nurses rushed into the ward and were amazed to find Jacqueline half propped up on one elbow asking what all the tubes were for…..
Some said it was expected, some a miracle, some couldn’t make sense of it at all. But Peter just slowly walked in behind them wondering what all the fuss was about. As he told the family as they celebrated Christmas round Jacqueline’s bed the next day,
“We’re twins. I’d have known if she was going to die. Wouldn’t I?”