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Change of Heart

Life goes on…

By Caroline CravenPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 12 min read
Top Story - March 2023
33
Change of Heart
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Even though I’m not supposed to, I snatch the key from the window ledge and swing the back door open. I stand on the doorstep and look across the garden. It must be early as I’m up before the sun, and the trees look like huge shadowy monsters in the dark.

As I walk across the lawn, the grass is wet, and I can feel my tennis shoes getting soggy. I wish I’d put socks on now or maybe I should’ve worn my welly boots, but it’s hard to climb the ladder in those.

I grab hold of the rope ladder that’s swinging back and forth and start to pull myself up to the tree house. It’s not very easy as I’ve got a packet of Frosties under my right arm, and I’ve put a cereal bowl and spoon into the top of the box. I decided I couldn’t manage the milk. Not without spilling it anyway.

Made it! I love my tree house. Daddy built it for me last summer for my seventh birthday, but mummy and I painted it. I wanted it to look like the gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel which is my favorite story, apart from when they push the witch into the oven. I cover my ears when mummy gets to that part.

Anyway, I think I’ve been in my tree house every single day and sometimes Jessica comes up here as well. She’s my best friend from school and we do everything together. Well not everything. She doesn’t like football, but I do and one day when I’m much older I’m going to play for the England ladies’ team.

Oh, shhh! We need to be quiet! So, this is why I’m up here. I love birds and I thought if I shared my Frosties with them, they’d come a little closer. Can you see those little birds? They’re sparrows and the bigger one is a blackbird. What I really want to see though is a woodpecker.

“Caitlyn? Caitlyn Marie Jennings! What are you doing out there at this time of the morning?”

Oh no. That’s Mummy shouting for me from the back door, and I can tell she’s angry. I better get down and go inside or she might not let me play football in the park later.

I’ve got the Frosties box under my arm again, but just as I start to climb down, the woodpecker lands on the platform and nibbles at the pieces of cereal. I turn and yell at mummy that my favorite bird is here, but then my foot slips and I feel myself falling.

+++

I’m expecting to be in a lot of trouble, but mummy isn’t shouting or even calling me by my full name. I can always tell when she’s extra cross because she puts her hands on her hips and shakes her head and says ‘Caitlyn Marie Jennings’.

Anyway, she’s kneeling next to me and strokes my forehead which feels nice, and she keeps whispering that it’s going to be okay. I know that! I’ve already told her that I’m fine.

When I open my eyes again, I see daddy running into the garden with two people dressed in green outfits and they’re pushing a bed on wheels. I wish my bed had wheels then I could roll from the lounge into my bedroom when I got tired.

Apparently the two men in green are a pair of medics. Well, that’s what Daddy shouted when he got a bit closer. He said: “Thank God, the pair of medics are here. Everything will be okay now,” or something like that. I wasn’t really listening as the man with the beard was putting this weird thing round my neck and strapping me to a long plastic board.

Then the pair of medics lift me onto the bed and wheel me through the garden to the ambulance parked in our driveway. The flashing blue lights are so bright I almost want to close my eyes.

Mummy sits next to me in the back and she’s very pale. I can tell she’s trying not to cry. She gets the same look when she’s talking to Granny on the phone about how Grandad’s doing. Anyway, she doesn’t even look up when daddy leans round the doors and says that he’s going to follow in his car.

“Sophie. Did you hear me? I’ll be right behind you, okay?” he said and eventually mummy nodded.

Oh, I’ve just realized that mummy isn’t dressed. Well, she’s put a tracksuit on over her pajamas. I can see the top sticking out though. I hope she doesn’t bump into anyone she knows!

The ambulance went so fast, it felt like we were flying! I don’t think I’ve ever gone so quick before. Not even when we all overslept and were running late for school. Mummy drove so fast that morning and even went through a red light! She made me promise not to tell daddy though.

It only feels like a couple of minutes and then we’re at the hospital. The pair of medics are called Jerry and Pete (I heard them tell mummy) and they push my bed into this huge white room with lots of curtains.

Some of the doctors and nurses rush up to my bed. One of the nurses leans down and keeps asking if I can hear her. I’ve already told her several times that I can. I’ve also told her that I’m nearly eight and ask if she can see my wrinkles? She doesn’t laugh or even smile at my joke. Mummy and daddy don’t either. In fact, they all look quite serious.

A tall doctor with a bald head comes and stands next to her. He looks really old, and I think he must be about 30. Anyway, he tells mummy and daddy they must stay in the waiting room. Apparently, they’re going to take me to the theatre! I’m so excited. We haven’t been to the theatre since we saw Aladdin at Christmas. I wonder what I’m going to see.

Mummy takes my hand and kisses my cheek. She whispers in my ear that she loves me. It’s strange she’s being so nice and not cross with me. I wish she’d just tell me that I am in ‘Big Trouble’ and am going to spend the afternoon in my bedroom thinking about my behavior.

Daddy doesn’t say anything at all. He doesn’t even smile or wave at me. Maybe he’s the one that’s mad and not mummy.

Hopefully they’ll both be in better moods when I get back from the theatre and have lots to tell them.

+++

I open my left eye as they wheel me back into the room. I feel quite sick and tired. And disappointed too actually. It turns out that going to the theatre wasn’t a lot of fun. I don’t remember much. Just a lot of beeping and machines and people shining lights into my eyes. Nobody was singing or dancing. And there was no magic carpet. Boring.

Mummy and daddy both jump up when they see me and turn to look at the doctor who just shakes his head and looks miserable.

I don’t think I want to be a grown-up. They seem to be so cross and grumpy all the time. When I see Jessica at school on Monday, we’re going to make a pact that we are never, ever going to get like that.

Oh, mummy’s crying harder now and pushes her face into daddy’s chest. He still isn’t saying anything. He just strokes her hair and looks through me. I stick my tongue out at him and go cross-eyed. Normally he laughs or tells me that I’ll stay like that if the wind changes, but today he doesn’t say anything at all.

I don’t understand what’s going on with everybody.

There’s a gentle tap at the door and a lady with bright blue hair walks into the room. Wow that’s so cool! And she has an earring in her nose! Perhaps I wouldn’t mind being a grown-up if I could do stuff like that. I wonder if mummy will let me get my ears pierced when I get out of here?

I perk up a little as I’m interested in hearing what the lady with the blue hair has to say.

“Hi there, I’m Zoey,” she said. “I’m sorry to intrude and I realize that this is a terrible time, but I wondered if anyone had talked to you about organ donation?”

She talks about some other stuff that I don’t really understand, something about me being the 'perfect match', but I zoned out after that. I can’t decide if I’m tired or hungry. It feels like days since I ate those Frosties. And without milk too.

My eyes snap open when I hear daddy shouting. His fists are bunched by his side, and he yells: “Nobody is touching her, do you understand. Nobody!”

Mummy stands up and pulls him into a hug. She nods towards the door and tells the lady they can talk outside in the corridor, but not in front of me. That’s not fair! I want to hear what they’re saying if it’s about me.

I’m distracted for a moment as the pretty nurse with the bright green eyes comes back in and checks the packet of liquid hanging next to my bed. I can’t believe I didn’t notice that I’ve got a long tube sticking out of my arm.

The nurse smiles at me but doesn’t say anything. I tell her one of my funniest jokes about what you get when your cross a snowman with a vampire. When I call out frostbite and giggle, she doesn’t even smile.

+++

The nurse and the tall doctor are back in my room with mummy and daddy. Mummy’s face is blotchy from crying and her eyes are red and swollen.

She glances over at him and asks: “Is there any hope at all? Even if it’s just the smallest glimmer of hope?”

The doctor looks down at his feet and shakes his head: “No. I’m so sorry, but there isn’t.”

Now daddy starts to sob and that makes me feel even worse. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him cry before. Not even when Arsenal lost a big football match, or I accidentally ate the last bit of his Easter egg.

The nurse pats my mummy’s arm as her and the doctor leave my room. I wish I knew what was going on.

Mummy and daddy sit on either side of my bed and each hold one of my hands. Mummy keeps on telling me that she’s sorry. I’m not sure what she’s sorry for. Daddy hasn’t said a word since he came back in from the corridor.

He looks up when mummy says: “Do you remember the first day we brought her home? She was so little. It was hard to believe that she was ever going to get any bigger.”

It’s the first time, I’ve seen him smile today, but he also looks sad. He laughs and recounts the time that I played hide and seek and hid in one of the drawers underneath their bed.

“I can’t believe we were this close to calling the police because we couldn’t find her!” he said, shaking his head and wiping away tears.

Mummy chuckles: “And if she’d had her own way, she’d have brought that penguin home with her from the zoo. She’s always loved animals.”

Honestly, I don’t know why they are bringing that up. Of course, I knew that I couldn’t have a real penguin at home although I wouldn’t have minded sharing my bath with him.

It’s like they’re talking about all the bad things I’ve done. I hope this doesn’t mean that I’m not going to get an ice cream at the beach tomorrow. Mummy promised that we’d go to Felixstowe and if I was good then I could have two scoops and a chocolate flake. I don’t think I’ve been particularly good, but mummy seems upset, and I reckon I can swing it!

Mummy leans over me and is crying again. I can feel her tears making my bedsheets wet. I wish I could cheer her up. Suddenly she stands up and tells me that she loves me and I’m the bravest girl she knows. As she rushes from the room, she turns back and says she’s so proud of me for helping others.

Daddy holds my hand and leans down to kiss my forehead. He tells me he loves me too. But now the nurse and doctor are back in the room and daddy holds up his hand and waves me goodbye. I wonder where I’m going now. I hope it’s not back to the theatre.

+++

The room is bathed in sunlight when I come round. There’s a lady with dark curly hair by the side of my bed. I don’t recognize her, but she looks as sad and worried as mummy did before.

Another woman with glasses comes into the room and sits by her. She rests her head on the dark curly haired lady’s shoulder and strokes her hand.

“Do you think his body’s going to accept the new heart? I don’t know what I’d do if we lose him,” she said. “It tears me apart to think another child had to die so that Nathanial can live.”

“The doctors say it’s a perfect match,” she said, taking off her glasses and rubbing her eyes. “He’s going to be ok. I just know it.”

“Her family must have been so brave. I’m not sure I could have made that same decision.”

I’m confused. She keeps calling me Nathaniel and I can feel her hands stroking my head and pushing the hair out of my eyes. It feels nice. Mummy does the same to me when I cuddle up next to her on the sofa while we’re watching television.

When I look down, I get quite a shock. That’s not me. What’s going on?

As I feel Nathaniel’s eye lids start to flutter open, I know it’s time for me to go. I need to go and find my mummy and daddy.

Short Story
33

About the Creator

Caroline Craven

Scribbler. Dreamer. World class procrastinator.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  4. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  5. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

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Comments (10)

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  • L.C. Schäfer2 months ago

    My own heart was going ten to the dozen to the beat of please no please no please no please no... but I still held on to the ride until the end ❤

  • Donna Fox (HKB)10 months ago

    Caroline I like the narrative voce you chose for this one! She feels very much a like a believable 8 year old, especially in the part where she thinks they a pair of medics not paramedics. I find your portrayal so interesting because she seems to known more than her mother thinks but also doesn’t know a lot either! This is really well done! This was such a beautiful and yet so heartbreaking story! Not gunna lie, I'm a little mad you made me fall in love with her character and then you take her away. Like yes she is "reborn" in Nathanial after the heart transplant but still. That was hard good bye scene to read!

  • Nikki Clam12 months ago

    Wow, this story really made me feel for the characters. Great job!

  • Mia Clarkabout a year ago

    Love

  • Naomi Goldabout a year ago

    This was so well written, I really felt like I was seeing it through the child’s eyes!

  • 💜🙏🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • Cathy holmesabout a year ago

    Oh my goodness. That was a beautiful, heart-wrenching story. Congrats on the TS

  • Vinil Nairabout a year ago

    Nice

  • Donna Reneeabout a year ago

    Oh my gosh, Caroline, 😭😭😭. This was so beautiful and so so sad.

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