Jo watched as the cars passed, wondering who was inside them, what was their story. She’d always liked stories.
The group, Cathy, Jo, and Alice, stood on a normal, uninteresting road. Tower blocks on each side loomed over them. Jo looked up at her mother, Cathy’s kind and intelligent eyes focused on each car, assessing them, watching for a moment to cross to the other side. She was leaning, Alice was pulling her down with the tight grip of her hand on Cathy’s, her childish eyes wide with fear, looking out at the road. Alice hated crossing roads, they frightened her, as did most things. Cathy squeezed her hand; Alice was reassured.
Then Jo and Cathy stepped off the kerb and Alice jumped after them. “We’re going in 3, don’t run.” Cathy said with a stern tone, though she was smiling. “OK? 1…2…3…”
A Month after the Accident
“But I don’t want to go to the doctors.” Alice said to Jo, in a very whiny tone, tears streaming down her face.
“Look, we’re here, I’m getting out of the car, you don’t want me to leave you alone do you?”
“Come in.” The doctor calls. Jo gets up and looks down at Alice. She is still sitting, fidgeting with the zip of her coat. A sense of sickness fills Jo seeing Alice so upset. If mum were here, she’d know exactly what to do, how to comfort her she thought.
Jo hears a sigh from behind her. She turns around, Brendan is standing there. He has his arms crossed, acting as though the girls are nothing but a nuisance. This infuriates Jo, we didn’t ask to be given to you, she says in her head, she would never say it aloud, but you are our father, so do your job.
“Come on.” Brendan urges, with exasperation in his tone.
Jo takes Alice’s hand from her coat zip. Her eyes are still red from crying. Alice gets up. Jo smiles at her little sister and in return receives a small smile back. Warmth spreads through Jo at this smile, it relieves her for just a second.
This small room they enter resembles any old GP practice room, but Jo doesn’t like it. The walls surrounding them are covered in white, flaky wallpaper. The GP sits at a paper-covered wooden desk, typing at her computer, a printer and landline on either side. She looks up from her keyboard and they do introductions.
“So, why are you here?” She directs this at Jo but Jo looks down, Brendan speaks. He explains the ‘traumatic’ car accident. Their mother being ‘regretfully’ comatose but ‘thankfully’ the girls didn't have any serious injuries. The basic story. Jo tenses hearing this, but she won’t cry, not here, not today.
The GP begins typing, occasionally glancing at the computer screen.
Brendan adjusts his position in his seat and continues, “Their teachers contacted me saying that they felt the girls were less applied to their work, one suggested the girls should be checked for PTSD.”
“OK,” says the doctor, ending what seems like an age of questioning for Jo and Alice.
“I’m referring you both to CAMHS, the mental health service offered to young people in the UK. There’s a waiting list, you may not be seen for a few months but this is the best thing for you two right now.”
Two months after the accident
Jo sees her mum lying in the hospital bed, wired up to rivers of tubes, still, silent, as though she was sleeping. Jo wishes she was sleeping. She feels tears coming to her eyes, she pushes them away.
“How is she?” Jo looks around at Bella, she looks drained, her eyes dark with exhaustion. But it is wonderful to see her.
“The same.” Bella says, Jo’s heart sinks. She wasn’t expecting good news but she’s longing for some, it’s consuming her.
“Grandma, when is mummy going to get better?” Alice asks Bella. Jo looks down at her little sister, the usual worry fills her, Am I looking after her enough? If she is scarred by this forever it’ll be my fault.
“We don’t know, but soon, pumpkin.” Bella bends over and tickles Alice’s tummy, Alice giggles.
Bella returns to Jo, “Where’s your father?” she asks, using a sweet voice to disguise her dislike for the man, the man who abandoned her daughter, abandoned her without support for their children.
“You mean Brendan?” Jo says, decidedly. A slight smirk crosses Bella’s mouth. Jo continues, “He went to the cafe downstairs.”
Under her breath Bella says something about ‘courtesy’, and ‘ lack of compassion’.
“Are you enjoying living with Brendan?” She asks, casually, trying to mask her eagerness for the answer.
Jo thinks for a moment and decides she’ll tell the truth. “It’s awful. I can barely remember him from before he left and Alice doesn’t even know him. I don’t understand why we were put with him after the accident.” Jo turns red but Bella smiles reassuringly, she continues “And he knows nothing about kids. We have to look after ourselves.” Jo feels good finally letting it out.
“Sweetie,” Bella starts, a smile inching across her face, “How would you like to move in with me?” Elation immediately streamed inside Jo, a large smile spreads across her face.
“Is that possible?” Jo feels worry slowly build inside her.
“I’ve spoken to your father, he said its’s fine. Your sister also loves the idea”
The delight returns, Finally, a glimpse of hope.
3 months after the accident
Jo looks up at the councillor, “OK, our time’s up, I have two more sessions with you and then we can see where you’re at.”
They both stand up, the councillor shows Jo out.
“Hi darling, mums still asleep, before you ask,” Bella is waiting right outside. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m feeling… I’m feeling better.” And for the first time in 3 months, Jo did feel just the smallest bit of optimism.