When Izzy unwrapped the toy elephant, her look of unconfined joy made her Mum’s eyes beam with smiles.
It was her sixth birthday and she’d got exactly what she wanted – the soft, grey and pink elephant, about the size of a football, from the shop with big stairs. She’d talked about it all the way home, and then every single time they went into town. And Mum had listened.
Elephant was sometimes known as Nellie, and for a while Oh Fanty, but first and last simply as Elephant.
He went everywhere with Izzy: parties, sleepovers, Nan’s, the playground, the beach, the corner shop to buy a pint of milk and fags for Uncle Robbo.
Elephant was her shadow, soulmate and protector. He was there for Izzy when she was locked out of the house, lost in the rain, dropped from the school hockey team, and there in the sports hall with her during exams.
He was there for her broken heart – soft, floppy ears soaking up her tears.
But something changed when Izzy left home to go to college. Elephant got homesick.
Izzy studied hard, partied hard too. She occasionally worried about the future but rarely thought about the past. She was finding herself.
For three years, Elephant sat by her bedside and faded – pink became grey, grey increasingly bleached by the sun of every new day. But at Graduation, there he sat in the seat Izzy had booked in her Mum’s name. And for a second she saw Elephant’s eyes beam with smiles.