It was mid-way through our holiday in Southwold and Juliette wasn’t well. Steph had taken Elodie, Pierre and Raphi to the harbour wall in Southwold for crabbing. As soon as they’d left, Juliette got up and wanted to play a game. We sat at the kitchen table and played cards, then did some drawing. Juliette drew around her hand, using her favourite pink, then wrote her name in purple. Above this, she drew the two of us.
‘Why have we got wings, darling?’ Juliette rolled her eyes at my stupidity.
‘Because we’re flying, Mummy!’
I concentrated on my own drawing, and can still hear the sound of her pen dropping onto the paper. She looked awful, suddenly. I didn’t need it, but I found the thermometer and took her temperature. It was high. Her last normal blood test had been two days earlier, so I knew her white cell count could have plummeted. I was still breastfeeding Raphi, so I packed an overnight bag for Steph and Juliette, collected the others from the harbour, and we all drove to hospital.
That week she had brimmed with life. Every morning she badgered us all to get ready so we could get down to the beach. She giggled, wiggled her naked bottom out of the window as Elodie collapsed with mortified, awe-struck laughter. She was the flag-bearer, fun captain, the sail and the rudder, demanding each day be different – “ittsiting” (exciting). We saw best friends and precious family, watched otters and chased dragonflies. Her cheeks had colour, her hair was glossy. She was irrepressible. We thought she’d be with us forever.
Taking her to hospital with a fever was a drill we’d done a hundred times, but at 2 o’clock the next afternoon the doctor asked for our permission to stop trying to resuscitate her.
That week and a bit was a gift. We had the best of her in those days – her energy and love, sunshine and happy times. I know I must be grateful and I am, but the pain that I’ll never know her older than 5 is always there. I think she would have made an incredible adult.