Summer came and brought with it good weather, shocking for England, a feeling of hope and a letter. I picked it up gingerly and went to stand next to my father; he put his arm on my shoulder and kissed my head.
“You know whatever you get, I love you and I’m so proud of you,”
My fingers began to peel open the envelope slowly, my finger tips clenched around a thin sheet of paper and I pulled it out. I looked down at my exam results and let the feeling of disappointment sink slowly into the pit of my stomach. I felt sick.
“I haven’t made the grades.” I muttered showing Dad the results, “Crap.”
“They’re still good!” he told me, “I mean your biology and chemistry could have been better but your maths is fine,”
“I may have got an A in maths, but it doesn’t get me into uni.”
“Don’t loose faith honey, we’ll ring up clearing and see if your insurance will let you in,”
“Don’t bother; I’d make a crap doctor anyway,”
“Don’t say that…” he called as I stalked outside, I collapsed on the garden bench and cried. Ever since my mum had got cancer for the first time I had been intent on becoming a doctor. I had admired how they rushed around the hospital making people better. But back then I was young, I didn’t realise that people sometimes didn’t get better, I didn’t realise that they died. My hopeless naivety allowed me to forget that death was an everyday occurrence in hospitals.
The second round of cancer confirmed it for me. I knew what the difference was between a good a bad doctor, it wasn’t technique, expertise or experience it was human interactions. A doctor bringing bad news should be able to empathise or at least sympathise with families and patients. With my mother I knew I could and that would make me a great doctor. I felt I owed it to myself and to my mother, proving that she didn’t suffer and die in vain. But if the Gods and fate are against you, you may as well give up and that was what I was thinking of doing. I wiped my tears as my neighbour popped his head over the fence,
“I thought I heard someone! Are you off to Oxford to study medicine then?” he asked,
“No,” I sobbed, “I didn’t make the grades,”
“Well you’ve been through so much Ella, you shouldn’t worry!” Mr Parker had always been nice but at this moment in time I didn’t want to listen to his optimistic approach to life, I stood up and walked inside without replying. Back in the kitchen Dad smiled slowly and handed me a cup of tea with a thick sheet of paper, I turned it over slowly in my hands and realised it was another of my mother’s letters.
My Dear Cinderella,
A-levels are the hardest exams you’ll ever have to take, apart from anatomy in med school– I’ve heard that’s hard, and so whatever you got I’m so proud of you. When you got that offer from Oxford I felt so proud, I always knew you were clever, but whether you end up there or working in a fast-food joint, remember I will always love you. Forever and ever my sweet.
I looked up from the letter and slid it into my pocket; I swallowed a mouthful of tea and leant against the counter.
“Life’s not always plain sailing Elles,”
“You got that right,” I muttered,
“I’m still the most proud Father out there,” he smiled, “you are the strongest, cleverest, most beautiful and loveliest girl I know…”
“Dad I don’t need your pity compliments,”
“I’m just telling the truth,” he shrugged and handed me a cookie. “So what’s next?”
“I’ll go and clean toilets for the rest of my life,” I said,
“Take a gap year?” he offered, “I hear America is the place to go.”