The doctors had told Kate and David that Ellie was never going to be a well child. Born premature and with complications, she never got the chance to open her eyes to the world, for Ellie was blind. But everyone used to remark how lovely a smile she had. Between the treatments and quarantines, the medicine and the monitoring, little Ellie never forgot how to gurgle and grin.
Of course, like any child, she had her tantrums. She would scream and cry, wear her parents down and tire them to the point of collapse from the night feeds and nappy changes. But, on hearing her mother sing or her father laugh, Ellie would giggle and wiggle with the unashamed joy that a child possesses. After a few tense months and a near-fatal case of pneumonia,
Kate and David were finally allowed to take their baby home. Like any new parents they were nervous to leave Ellie alone for any length of time, and any cough or sneeze sent them into spasms of worry. The house was permanently spotless and visitors were kept to a minimum. The couple became not only parents, but doctors, keeping an endless vigil over their tiny daughter, insulating
her from the world. The only toy she had was a black kitten made of velvet with a red ribbon tied around its neck. Kate's mother had carefully sewn a little bell to the collar when she found out her granddaughter would be blind. As Ellie grew, her health improved. She sat up later than most children, learned to talk later, but her parents never minded. All that they cared was
that their child was happy and, for the most part, healthy. Over the years the kitten was first for teething, then stroking, then for shaking vigorously. Apart from its occasional wash (which caused a terrible meltdown from Ellie), the girl and her cat were never separate. It came as no surprise that Ellie's first word was cat, and how she screamed in delight
when she gabbled it to her toy's little velvet face. She knew that she had done something brilliant. Kate and David were presented with a whole new set of challenges when Ellie started to walk. Everything had to be child-proofed and locked, and Ellie herself was never let outside of her parents' sight. Her blindness made things more difficult - while she never
seemed to show any worry about the blackness that consumed her life, Ellie did compensate by having to touch and taste everything. Wires had to be lifted off the floor and the garden was strictly off-limits. The stairs also provided complications. A child gate was not enough, as she would constantly attempt to climb over its rickety bars. At one point, David had raised the idea of moving the family to a
bungalow, but Kate argued that they could not keep Ellie from stairs forever, and besides, there weren't any bungalows for sale. Instead, they moved Ellie's bedroom and all her medication downstairs. By the time Ellie could form full sentences, the girl knew she was different. At first her parents tried to pretend to her that she wasn't, but children have a funny way of just
knowing things, perhaps because adults forget that their offspring are just as autonomous as they. At any rate, Ellie knew that she was blind. She knew that she did not have something that everyone else took for granted, and she knew she was pitied. She never told her parents this, but she told her kitten. Late at night, she'd whisper to him, holding the toy so close that it's plastic whiskers brushed her lips as
she spoke. She told the kitten her feelings, how her day went, her joys and her sadness. In a way, the kitten became not only her companion but her diary, collecting her life and never revealing it to anyone else. The toy's eyes saw the world as Ellie did, and it's stuffing was filled with her soul.