Her name would have been Stefka

My daughter’s name would have been Stefka. Stephanie or Stefania – we couldn’t agree – Francesca. Stefka. The k seemed pleasingly central European, when that was different and exotic. She would have been thirty today. Her name would have been Stefka.

Thirty. Me perhaps a grandad or maybe not – I would have been sure to say it did not matter either way, so long as she was happy. Now, knowing what I know now, I do not know what would have been best.

The sun was shining low on the horizon, just like a storybook sun. A twinge (is that the word?), then another. Quick! We need to go now! We piled into the car, the bag we had packed on the back seat, only twenty minutes to the hospital, I had measured it, we drove grinning and groaning and twinging. The sun shone low. Fifteen minutes later I drove across the junction.

Another two weeks later I woke up and Stefka and her mum were gone. As I learnt to walk again I leaned on the walker as I would lean on a pram and cried.

Thirty years and of course I still miss them, the one I had loved since I met her and the one I had loved since before she existed. Of course I do. People in this sort of story always do. But this is not a story. This is real life.

And that’s the thing about real life. There is no point to some stories. No point to the love, the creation, to the happiness and destruction.

So why am I telling you this? Why, today of all days? Because I can and I have to, even though there is no point. No point to the anger, the grief and denial.No point to it at all. But I can and I must, so I do.

 

A dog ran out

A dog ran out into the traffic. Santos, the good-hearted wise guy, twisted the steering wheel and the getaway car ploughed into the side of the security van. Sirens sounded and in the bank a bell began to ring. The three men in clown masks shook their heads. “Come on Santos” Pete shouted, “let’s get out of here.” The car was dead; steam or smoke billowed from under the hood. They climbed out of the car as the traffic behind them smashed to a halt. The security guard dropped the case he was holding and pulled out his pistol. Pete saw him and raised his semi-automatic. The guard shot first and Pete fell backwards, spraying bullets left and right, through the car and his companions. A block further down the street Levene wondered why they were a minute late. The dog disappeared behind the bins up the alley.