“Wake up, Colin.”
I stretched at the sound of Mom’s voice. A teenager at last and the only thing I wanted for my birthday was a brand-name hoodie. I longed to be part of the in-crowd, but with my scrawny build, flame-red curls and glasses, that was never going to happen. The right clothes, however, would help me blend in, be more invisible.
The parcel was soft and squishy and just the right size. A large smile spread across my face as I wondered which designer label it carried. Was it emblazoned across the back or was there a discreet tag on the side? Savouring the moment, I picked off the tape, piece by piece before unfolding the crisp wrapping paper.
My heart shattered into a million pieces. It was the most hideous hand-knitted jersey I had ever seen. The body was lime green and it had a lime flecked hood. A row of bottle green spiders marched around the cuffs and chest.
“Do you like it, Colin?” Hope filled Mom’s eyes. “I couldn’t afford one of those fancy ones ... and the wool was on special ...and you always loved motif jerseys. ”
Yeah, when I was six.
I focused on the necklace round Mom’s neck; a pure gold locket that she wore day and night. “It’s great, Mom. Thank you.” I could tell she wasn’t fooled. Her maternal radar was on full alert and I’d failed to respond with genuine enthusiasm.
I put it on and because Mom could see the bus stop from the house, I kept it on. To tell the truth, it looked worse on than off. I glowed like a neon Christmas light and the jersey was baggy and saggy. Mom said she had made it that way so it would last a couple of years.
The ragging started as I climbed onto the bus. “Hey, Colin, did you inherit that from your great grandfather?”
“Nah, must have been a fifty cent special at the op shop.”
Shannon, who was the most beautiful girl in the school turned to look at me. “I’m like, so green with envy.” she purred as the whole bus roared with laughter.
The teasing continued throughout the morning and at lunch time, Shannon and her cronies surrounded me at the lockers. “I think you’ve got a loose thread, Colin.”
I heard a snip and Shannon displayed a fluorescent strand between her fingers. She walked off and the hood tugged as it started to unravel. I could feel stitch after stitch coming apart. It felt as though my life was falling apart with it.
By the time the last bell rang, I had a jumble of lime wool across my arm and the class clowns were trying out new names. Jeremiah Bullfrog, green alien, bean sprout ...
I ripped the jersey off and jammed it into my bag. I’d rather be cold than wear it for one more second. I didn’t even care what Mom would think. I was going to tell her how humiliated I’d been. How selfish she was.
She was in the kitchen when I got home and words burst out of me. “I felt like a loser ... they all laughed at me ... I’m not a kid anymore!”
She looked at me with sad eyes. “I’m sorry, Colin. I realised this morning I should have got you what you wanted.” She turned back to the birthday dinner she was preparing.
The hoodie was waiting on my bed; a fine black one with a green print on the back and the brand name plastered all over the front. It was magnificent. And I felt utterly sick. Why had I lashed out at her ... and how had she paid for it?
The sick feeling got worse. There was only one way she could have raised the funds. I grabbed the hoodie and ran back to the kitchen, my eyes searching her neck. “Oh, Mom, you didn’t!”
She smiled and tears washed from her eyes.
“Please, Mom, take it back to the store.”
“I don’t want to, Colin. I just want you to be happy.”
Suddenly the hideous green jersey had a whole new meaning. I imagined each stitch knitted in love, in the hope that it would make me happy.
Mom had never meant me any harm.
I folded myself into her arms, her love knitting my being back together. “Is there any way you can fix the jersey, then?” I whispered.
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