Catch Me If You Can by Christina Collins

“Come on Ava, get your shoes on or we’ll be late,” mum called up the stairs. Ava grabbed her shoes and trotted down the stairs and sat on the bottom step. She yanked on her shoes. Mum helped with the buckles. 

Ava was all ready for school. She loved the walk to the small primary school in the village. Most of her friends went in their cars, they all had to queue up to get into the car park and back out again. Or block the roads that made people angry when they couldn’t reverse out of their drives. Mum said that walking would make her legs strong and she’d be able to run faster in football. So, as long as it wasn’t raining, they walked. 

“The cold never did anyone any harm, as long as you’re all wrapped up,” mum said. Ava tugged on her woolly bobble hat with the huge pom pom on top. Her Nan had made it for her. Mum tucked in the loose hair at the sides. 

“I miss Nan,” she suddenly blurted out. 

Mum stopped for a second and took a deep breath, “So do I, Ava. But nan is always watching and looking out for you.” 

“Okay,” Ava replied matter-of-factly as she headed out of the door and skipped effortlessly up the steep drive. 

Just before she got to the curb, mum shouted, “Hand Ava.” 

“I know, Mum.” Ava couldn’t understand why mum always said the same thing near every road when she knew she had to stop. 

“Morning, Jill, Ava,” called Mr Arnold, who was already busy in his front garden. “Morning Mr Arnold,” Ava shouted over the din coming from his strimmer. She raised her hand and gave him a friendly wave. 

“Loving your hat,” he called back. 

“My nan made it for me, but she’s gone away now so she can’t make me anymore.” Mr Arnold looked flustered as he caught Mum’s eye and mouthed “Sorry.” Mum smiled and waved her hand. 

“What’s Mr Arnold sorry for, Mum?” Ava asked, having caught the silent word from his mouth. “Nothing, come on let’s go.” 

“Hello Mrs Davies,” Ava called to the next neighbour they saw on their way. She was walking briskly around to the driver’s side of her car, frantically clicking the small black box on her keys. “Hello, Ava. Must dash, or I’ll be late. Have a good day at school.” “Why is Mrs Davies always late?” Ava asked mum as they ambled along. “I expect it’s ‘cos she doesn’t get up early enough.” 

“Why?” 

“I’m not sure why. Maybe because it’s so cold. Come on, let’s walk a bit quicker to warm ourselves up.” 

Ava suggested skipping but that was a step too far for mum, so they settled for, Left, right, left, right. She had a good job and she...Left. Serves her jolly well...Right! 

They chanted their song in unison as they marched along the pavement, giggling if they stepped out of line and had to start all over again. 

As they came near the school they needed to cross the big road. 

Molly, the lollipop lady was wrapped up, with her scarf tightly secured around her neck. She wore a woolly hat under her yellow peaked cap and thick gloves. 

As they approached the edge Ava instinctively held out her hand for her mums. “Morning, Ava” 

Ava thought Molly was so brave. She stood on the edge of the pavement and looked each way, holding her arm out and then walked right into the middle of the road without holding anyone's hand. She held up her lollipop stick and all the cars stopped to let them cross. Mum kissed Ava on the cheek before she scampered across the yard to meet her friends. At home time mum waited with the other mum’s before they made their journey back to their house. 

Molly saw them safely across the road and they walked quickly against the strong wind, “Good day at school?” asked Mr Roberts. 

“Yes, thank you Mr Roberts. I painted a big cat,” She waved back at him after they passed. “Why do we only see Mr Roberts on the way home from school?” 

“Because maybe he’s already left for work in the morning?” offered Mum. “And why do we only see Mr Arnold on the way to school?” 

“I don’t know Ava. Maybe he has a nap in the afternoon.” 

“Like Grampa?” 

“Yes, like Grampa. He’s coming for tea later.” Mum was used to all her questions. Satisfied with the answer, Ava marched on. Suddenly, she stopped and looked ahead as a white feather whirled in the air, before landing just in front of her feet. 

She crouched and stretched her hand out to pick it up, but the wind lifted it back into the air and it twirled once more. 

“Wait, Nan.” Ava giggled, as her tiny fingers grappled for it once more before it took off again. Mum stood in silence. Had she heard right? 

Ava rushed ahead. “Got you, Nan,” she said in glee as she held on tightly to the feather. Mum seemed too shocked to speak as she watched Ava unfold the flap on her backpack and carefully placed the feather between the pages of her workbook. 

Ava carried on chatting happily until they reached home. 

“You pop upstairs and get changed and I’ll phone grampa, see what time he’s coming over.” “Okay,” Ava replied as she darted up the stairs, dragging her bag behind her. “Dad? I just want to warn you before you come over. Ava may show you a white feather she found on the way home from school.” 

“Right...Why do you need to warn me about a feather?” 

“Well, it was all very strange, Dad. She called the feather nan.” 

There was a pause before grampa spoke. “Maybe, you misheard?” 

“Maybe. We’ll see you about five.” 

Ava burst into the living room, the door slamming behind her, “Can I watch telly?” “Okay, but only ‘til Grampa gets here. You know he’ll want to hear all about your day.” Grampa arrived and Ava snuggled next to him on the sofa. 

She loved his lemony smell and the feel of his soft grey hair, and how he always listened to everything she said. 

Sometimes mum didn’t always listen or she would know that she knew she had to stop at the curb. 

Ava nattered away about her day. 

“I read two pages of my reading book and Mrs Benson gave me a smiley face,” she said proudly, as she pointed to the sticker on her jumper. 

“That’s marvellous. Well done, you.” 

“And me and nan had a game of catch.” 

Mum stared at grampa in a funny way, and Grampa stared back. 

“Did you? Where did you play that then?” 

Mum stopped peeling the potatoes and wiped her hands on the tea towel. She came over and sat next to Ava and her grampa on the sofa. 

“On the way back from school. I won ‘cos I caught her in the end.” 

Grandpa went very quiet. 

“Grampa, you don’t mind me playing catch with nan, do you?” 

“Course not. But…” he stopped, not knowing quite what to say. 

Before he could think of anything Ava jumped down from the sofa and charged up the stairs. Ava thought mum and grampa were acting quite strange, maybe she shouldn’t have told grampa about the game. 

She came back into the living room holding a small cardboard box, covered with stickers, and lots of smiley face ones. 

She sat back down between mum and grampa and carefully opened the box. Inside lay three white feathers. 

Ava picked one up. “This is Tigger. We played under the pink tree in the garden.” She placed it back in the box and picked up a second one. “This is aunty Brenda. She was stuck in the climbing frame at school, but I helped her down. She was too old really for the climbing frame, and that’s why she got stuck.” 

“And this is nan,” she announced as she held the pristine white feather up in the air, twirling it around between her small fingers. 

“Nan could still run fast ‘cos she wasn’t that old, but I caught her. She said I was so fast ‘cos of my strong legs.” 

Mum and grampa started crying. She’d never seen her grampa cry before and she thought he was sad, but he hugged her tightly and told her he was so happy she had played with nan. “I’m sure you made nan as happy as could be.” The tears ran down his face but he had the biggest smile. Ava held out the feather, “You can keep this one gramps, and maybe Nan will play catch with you too.” 

Published in Issue #20

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