Ally Phillips took her first steps, all by herself, late on a Saturday afternoon, when she was eighteen months old, and relished the squeals of joy and laughter that surrounded her.
“Oh my god!” her mother screamed as she ran towards her daughter.
“Wait! Don’t touch her!” her father called out, digging in his pockets for his mobile phone.
“I want to get this on video.”
He started fiddling with the buttons while her mother formed a perimeter around her precious baby with her arms, ready to grab her if she fell. Ally lifted her stubby left leg up and held it in the air for half a second. Sensing a wobble, her mother reached her arms out ready to grab the falling child.
“No! Let her!” came a cry from the door. Her Nan had shuffled through from her bedroom across the hall to see what all the noise was about.
Ally dropped her left leg in front of her and the room erupted with cheers. “Look at you, look at you! Clever girl!” said her mother, still keeping her arms out, while her father trained his mobile phone over his wife’s and his mother-in-law’s beaming faces. “She’s going again, she’s going again,” he said, as Ally lifted her right leg up, again holding it in the air for half a second, teasing her audience. But this time there was a wobble and her mother reached her arm out to grab Ally. “No!” came the cry again from the door as Ally landed on her bottom with a soft bump, laughing. “Everyone falls honey,” said her Nan as they fawned over the laughing child.
Ally took another crack at it later that night. She took the first step easily but fell again on the second. Everyone in the living room laughed and cheered but her father’s mobile phone stayed on the living room table, undisturbed. An hour later she tried again. Her mum and her Nan clapped while her father smiled, his hands stayed holding the remote on the TV. She tried one last time before going to bed. Her Nan looked up from her evening newspaper and smiled while her mother planted a kiss on her cheeks. Her father wasn’t in the room to witness it.
The next morning Ally crawled into the living room ready to give everyone a show again. Her mum hadn’t come downstairs yet but her Nan was sitting in her usual chair, remote in hand, her head resting on a cushion, the news running. Ally pulled herself up onto her legs, using no support again and lifted her left leg up, just like she had done yesterday, she held it in the air for half a second, building up the tension and then dropped it in front of her. Her Nan’s eyes stayed on the telly. She never saw her. Ally lifted her right leg up, there was the customary wobble just like there had been last night but this time she was able to keep her balance. She dropped her right leg in front of her and let out a little laugh, pleased with her progress. But the TV was too loud. Her Nan never heard her. Her mother came downstairs just as her father walked in through the main door.
“Did you remember to bring eggs?”
“Yup,” he answered.
Neither of them noticed Ally standing in the middle of the living room. Confused Ally dropped on all fours again and crawled over to where her Nan was sitting on her chair. Determined to claim attention she grabbed her grandmother’s free hand and pulled herself up onto her feet. The force caused her Nan‘s still chest to lurch forward and she fell face first onto the floor with a giant crash.
“Oh my God!” Ally’s mother screamed running towards them.
“Wait! Don’t touch her,” called her father digging into his pocket for his mobile phone.
Ally held onto her Nan’s cold hand and laughed.
Sadiq Jaffery is a monologist and short story writer living and performing in London. He explores themes that are relevant to society and its practices, specifically looking at what encourages people to conform and behave in certain ways. He is currently working on his first short story collection. He tweets @sadiqcanramble
(Next story: Remembering Robert Angus McDavid by Gershon Ben-Avraham)
(Previous story: Hardware by KT Sparks)
Feel like submitting? Check out our submission guidelines
Image by Dermot O’Halloran