The pale lights from their nightlight dance, gently, over the hand-decorated walls, a soft glow illuminating the room. The gentle sound of Lily snuffling in her sleep, her chest slowly rising and falling, keeps silence at bay. Her ash-brown hair is escaping her plaits, in wisps, and her eyelashes are long and dark against her milky skin. The faint track down her cheek gives away that she has been crying, and my breath catches in my throat. This never gets easier; it never will.
The empty bed, occupied only by his worn teddy, is the only symbol of my son’s life; her dear brother. Well, that and the framed photo, of a grinning child, unruly hair dark in contrast with his light skin. He has his arm around his twin sister, Lily mid-way through laughing, her hair spilling over her shoulder, like ringlets of melted chocolate. Their school photograph; their first day. It could be any set of twins, smartly dressed in polo shirts, the colour of sunshine. But it’s not. They are my kids; my everything.
A small football shirt pokes out from one of the drawers, and I gently lift it out. Barely four years old, he had loved this shirt. The fabric was soft beneath my fingers, cool and comforting. He had always been a small child, like Lily, and the football kit had swamped him, I remember. The shorts, if you could call them that, overlapped with the striped, scarlet socks. It would take him years to grow into it. But I couldn’t bear to tell him; the way his wide eyes had lit up, when he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, was too much. That’s how I remember him, you know: a huge smile lighting up his face, his charcoal eyes shining under his mop of chocolate-coloured curls. I hope Lily does too. But she was too young; they were both too young. I turn the shirt over, in my hand, my fingers tracing the smooth letters on the back, spelling out his name. Aemon. My little boy. Not even six years old, he lay, so brave, in that huge hospital bed, a little angel just waiting to be called back home.
I take a deep breathe, bringing myself out of the past. Lovingly, I fold the small shirt, and hang it over the end of his bed, the ache in my heart a constant reminder of the missing part of my life. Such a special little boy, filled with beauty so bright. I know he will shine on, because he was our ray of sunshine. He’s not gone; just out of reach for now, that’s all. I have to believe my baby boy, is safe up there, forever the five-year-old child who so many fell in love with.
I glance down at my watch, and count down, under my breath. Five…Four…Three…Two…One.
“Happy Christmas, Aemon.” I whisper, my voice breaking with emotion. A single, salty tear pays tribute to a beautiful son, and Lily’s loving brother. For a moment, just a moment, I feel his tiny fingers take my hand, his skin warm against mine. I look down, and through the blur of my emotion, I see my handsome child, his hair sticking out in all directions. His dark eyes are sad, but full of love, as he smiles up at me. He had always been generous with his hugs and smiles – always wanting to brighten up your day. I smiled, despite the salty tears, hardly even realising, and in the stillness of the night, I’m sure I hear a reply, his voice that of an angel, soft and warm.