Knitting for Leo – A Short Story

We’d like to thank Alex Grey of the UK for her touching short story “Knitting for Leo”.

After a lifetime of writing technical non-fiction, Alex Grey is fulfilling her dream of writing poems and stories that engage the reader’s emotions. Her ingredients for contentment are narrowboating, greyhounds, singing and chocolate – it’s a sweet life. Her poems and short stories have been published by a number of ezines including Siren’s Call, Raconteur and Toasted Cheese. One of her comic poems is also available via a worldwide network of public fiction dispensers managed by publisher Short Edition. Alex is not a mum, but she works in healthcare and this story comes from her compassion for the women who have shared their lives with her over the years.

You can read Alex’s blog HERE

Note: this story mentions still birth and is a work of fiction and not based on any identifiable individual.

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you. 

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Knitting For Leo

My mother taught me to knit. 

Back then, knitting was a necessity, not some artisan craft like it is today. She would get patterns from Women’s magazines and cheap wool from the market. She knitted my clothes – sweaters, cardigans, even skirts. I was the eldest. As soon as I could hold a pair of needles, I was knitting booties for my baby brother and sister. 

I got married in 1969, when you could buy wool in every colour that you could imagine. I was eighteen, but I already knew how to keep a house. Calum worked long hours, keen to get on in his career and be a good provider. I had a part-time job in our local greengrocers. In the evenings, we’d sit by the fire in our terraced house. It was before we had a television, so we’d talk about the future, about the children that we’d have. I’d knit and he’d do the crossword in the newspaper. I knitted tank tops for him to wear to work – he had a different one for every day of the month.  Years later he admitted that he got teased by the other juniors. But my Calum was a hard worker, and the teasing stopped when he kept getting promoted. 

Calum was already a manager by the time I fell pregnant. Lucky that he had enough tank tops, because as soon as I started to show I stopped knitting for him. I bought some new wool, all soft pastel yellow and lilac, and started knitting for the baby. My friends said it was bad luck to knit for the baby too soon, but I wanted to be ready. 

I thought I must be carrying a boy, a footballer judging by the kicking. Calum was very modern, he liked to lie by my side with his hand on my bump, feeling every movement. The basket I kept in the new nursery soon filled with clothes – judging by the size of the bump he was going to be a whopper. I started getting nervous about giving birth, but the midwife said I was young and had nothing to worry about.

The kicking stopped when I was 37 weeks. 

I remember that night – I slept for 8 hours, my longest sleep since I fell pregnant. I woke up all rested and, for a minute, everything seemed fine, but my bump did not wake up with me. I begged for my baby to start kicking again, but he was still. The hospital induced the birth, I had to go through it, but they knew it was all for nothing. I caught a glimpse of him before they wrapped him in a towel and swept him away. He looked so perfect, like he was sleeping. I wanted to hold him, but they said it was better for me not to see him, to move on quickly, a strong young girl like me could try again soon enough, these things happened.

There was no death certificate because he had never lived. Yet in our hearts, he was always Leo, due in August, our fierce little lion who almost made it.

We carried our grief out of the hospital door and swaddled it with our hopes in the little basket of baby clothes I’d knitted. I burned them all.

Of course, we tried again and within the year we had a beautiful baby girl; two years later, our son was born. I stopped knitting. Honestly, who has time to knit with two young children and a husband working all hours? 

Late at night, though, I’d hear Calum sobbing quietly beside me and knew he’d never got over losing Leo, just as I’d never got over the feeling that my knitting had cursed our firstborn. There was no emery board that could remove the festering hangnail of our hidden grief. 

Calum lived long enough to walk his daughter down the aisle and to stand shoulder to shoulder with his son when he was wed. When our first grandchild was born, I realised that I had not seen Calum smile like that since the day that I first fell pregnant and our future had sparkled with undimmed hope.  

I brooded on it after Calum’s funeral, how his poor heart had flexed with grief and joy, like the metal fatigue in those planes that crashed, destroyed by a hidden stress.

It was then I decided to tell my children about Leo. They didn’t know, you see, because we didn’t talk about these things back then. They were…surprising. They cried, but with relief, they said they had always felt that there was something, someone, missing. We had Leo’s name carved onto Calum’s headstone and I started to knit again.

I live with my daughter now. I have a lovely apartment with plenty of space for my comfy recliner chair. I have everything I need, a TV, my knitting needles and a pile of wool given to me by kind donors. It’s all colours and textures, but that doesn’t matter. Once I picked up the needles again, my fingers remembered the old patterns, so I can sit here watching my favourite shows while I make babygro’s, bootees and cute berets to keep the babies’ heads warm. 

My daughter knocks on my door.

“Mum, the driver’s here.”

“That’s fine love, I’ve got a load ready for him.”

I hand her a neatly wrapped box, the label says “Knitting for Leo” along with a charity registration number. This batch is going to our local hospital, but I send parcels to maternity units all over the country. You see, Leo’s charity got quite big once my daughter mentioned it on the internet. We must have over a hundred volunteer knitters now, each with their own sad tale to tell. 

I knit tiny clothes that would fit a doll, or a baby born too soon and too still. I finish each little outfit with a ribbon and put it in the basket by my side. I imagine how parents will take these tiny clothes and dress their stillborn babies. They will hold their precious bodies, take photographs. In that moment, the quiet infants will become part of their families forever.

I raise a cup of tea to the dead who never lived.

You never lived, but you were loved. Rest easy my son.


Thanks for reading this blog. You can read more stories HERE and if you’d like to submit a story for consideration to be published, please visit our submissions page.

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With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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The Scent of Innocence: A Flash Fiction Story

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We’d like to thank Kim Hart for her flash fiction story ‘The Scent of Innocence’. A heart-wrenching tale about remembering a son after his passing.

Kim Hart is a writer who enjoys writing drabbles, micro-fiction, flash fiction, short stories, and screenplays. She loves reading mystery novels and hopes to write one someday. She is a mother of two adult daughters and a grandmother to a 3-year-old grandson, who lives too far away. She lives in the Snowy Mountains with her husband and German Shepard cross, Kody.

When Kim isn’t writing, she can be found walking to her local coffee shop for a much-needed chai latte, or in front of her T.V. watching crime dramas, renovation shows and baking competitions.

You can follow Kim on twitter at @kimh8765

Photo by Fabrice Nerfin on Unsplash

This page contains affiliate links that may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you!


Emma knew there were 11 children in the cemetery. She had counted. She needed to know she wasn’t alone in her suffering. Sometimes she wondered what their stories were, how their families were coping. She never saw anyone at their graves. Did nobody love them anymore? Were they lonely? Occasionally a toy would appear, leaning against a headstone, but she seemed to be the only parent who visited her child regularly. Would she ever stop coming?

Jacob’s headstone bore a crescent moon above his name. They had always ended each day with a chorus of ‘Love you to the moon and back’. Night-time had been their special time. After the chaos of the day, they’d settle on his bed and read; his pirate doona pulled up to his chin and Charlie bear tucked in safely beside him. Emma would breathe in the fresh scent of him as she read. Cuddles were given freely, no big boy embarrassment like at preschool drop-off. He had taken to shaking her hand the weeks before his passing. She had thought it was cute but longed to feel his little body pressed against hers. The warmth sustained her through her long days without him.

Now here she was missing everything; the warm cuddles, the soft handshakes, the whispered words before bedtime, the smell of his hair.

Emma took the store-bought flowers from her basket. A fresh bunch every week replaced the dry, drooping ones from the week before. A spider had made his home in last week’s bunch, weaving his intricate web between the leaves and petals. Dewdrops shimmered like magic diamonds between the strands. She’d take the spider home and put him in her garden. Jacob would like that. He had always loved animals, especially insects. It drove her to distraction finding bugs in boxes beneath his bed, and she was never allowed to kill anything that had made its way inside her home. She relocated everything.

“Hello there. Lovely day,” a groundskeeper said to her as he tended a nearby rose bush. Emma smiled and nodded, unable to return the pleasantry. She worried if she started talking, even to say hello, she would start crying—again. The well of tears never seemed to dry up. The only time she had been unable to cry was at his funeral service. She had been numb from head to toe, as if she was floating above the scene, watching another’s tragedy playing out like a tableau beneath her.

She took a bottle of water from her basket and filled the vase cemented to the little grave. She’d paid extra for that. She trimmed the stalks of the flowers she had brought— yellow roses and white carnations today—with scissors from her kitchen. Yellow was Jacob’s favourite colour. The ritual was almost complete. Emma said a silent prayer to a God she no longer believed in, gathered her things and began the long, lonely, silent trip home.




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Well it’s been a while since I’ve shared one of my own stories and I am hoping I’ve chosen the right one to publish. I wrote this short story last year for a competition with Odyssey house Victoria. The theme was ‘reflection’ and it had to mention alcohol or drugs in some way. Unfortunately I didn’t win, there were over 700 quality entries and this was only my 4 or 5th competition. I’ve edited it a little and feel it’s better now, but I’ll let you be the judge. Feel free to leave comments and helpful feedback in the comments below the post.

It’s a sad one, so have some tissues on the ready! Please be aware that there’s mention of the loss of a child so if this is a trigger for you, perhaps another story would be better 🙂

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Dancing Shadows

She stared fixedly at the beige jacquard wallpaper that clothed the far wall of her room. The subtlest of smile’s tugged at the faintly wrinkled corners of her mouth as she observed the sunlight dancing with the shadows of the tree branches in an exuberant waltz. She shut her eyes, listening to the sleepy rustling of leaves as the tall Eucalyptus trees swayed in the breeze just outside the French doors leading to the patio. If she relied on her senses of sight and hearing alone, she would imagine herself to be in a beautiful, magical place, but perception and reality danced in her mind to a more sombre tune than that of the light and shadows on her wall.

She thought about the relationship between the two contrasting elements. How completely different they were, opposite in fact. Neither could exist in the same space as the other, yet neither one could exist without the other. It occurred to her how similar this was to the overwhelming emotions that were happiness and sorrow. Did not the two consistently fail to co-exist in one’s heart and soul and was one not undefined without the other?

The drugs the nurses in their clinically white scrubs coerced her to consume every morning did little to change her perspective. The thoughts that haunted her mind before she arrived, were still alive and thriving, however the fierce emotions that kept company with them and screamed at her night and day, were now nothing more than a whisper and she often felt she was viewing her life from a distant point, as though outside of herself. She remembered happiness and sorrow like the loss of controlling relatives, with vague nostalgia but no real mournfulness to speak of.

Elaine, so adrift in her thoughts, hadn’t noticed the arrival of the young man sitting adjacent from her in the arm chair reserved for visitors. He sat patiently, his soft un-calloused hands with fingers intertwined, resting in his lap. He smiled widely at Elaine’s sudden perception of his presence, her blue eyes beaming with jubilation, furrowing at the corners as she returned the sentiment.

“Thomas” she declared, her heart warming at the sight of him “you snuck up on me again.” She giggled at his sneakiness, remembering what a playful child he’d been. His loving smile consumed his entire face, forcing his Emerald green eyes to close half-way. Elaine noticed he had matured since the last time he came. He had grown even more handsome and muscular. His broad shoulders sprung up and down as he chuckled at her bewilderment to see him and the apparent delight it gave her.

“Your always so far away, it’s not hard to come in unnoticed” he proclaimed leaning forward to impart an affectionate kiss on her wrinkled cheek. Falling back into the armchair, he swept aside the stray dark portion of hair that fell heavily in front of his eyes. He stared at her for a moment as though analysing her thoughts. He seemed reluctant to speak which Elaine found unnerving as he was generally the one person who spoke to her without reservation. “How are you?” He finally questioned her, concern forcing a wrinkle between his brows.

“The same as always Thomas, why do you ask?” her smile waned to an apprehensive frown and her heart quickened slightly. Why was he being so sober? It was unlike him. Their visits had always been full of laughter and lightness like a ray of sunshine on a gloomy day. No matter how much the drugs numbed her feelings, she could always find a glimmer of hope and joy in his company. Today seemed divergent though.

“Did you talk to the doctors this week?” he asked nervously, searching Elaine’s face for signs of surrender. He began rapidly tapping the arm of the chair with his right index finger. Elaine recognised the fear in his eyes and immediately desired to eliminate the burden from him, to encourage him that all was well.

“Yes, I did. It was time to at least answer some of their questions and let them know what was what” she answered steadfastly.

“They don’t want me to visit you anymore, do they?” He’d never been one to waste time with subtlety and today was no different. His directness was usually for Elaine’s benefit, to draw her out of her shell, but today it was evidence of his own apprehension.

“No, they don’t” she began sympathetically “but I told them they could keep their opinions to themselves as I have no intention of asking you to cease visitation. Your company is the only thing that keeps me going. I could not bear it if you went away.”

He relaxed, alleviation relighting the joy on his expressive face “I’m so glad you said that, I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t come anymore, I’d be lost” his tone turned sorrowful and concern returned to his young face as he looked at Elaine, pleading to her with his eyes “I’d be all alone. You would never leave me alone would you, not ever again?” a single tear dropped from his lower eyelid and rushed down his pale cheek, resting motionless at the precipice of his jawline.

Elaine felt anguish return to her broken soul and she desperately needed him to know that nothing and no one could ever convince her to abandon him. “No, never” she passionately declared. She noticed that the light in the room was fading, the dancing shadows disappeared as clouds began to gather outside, camouflaging the sun. Footsteps and muffled voices could be heard at the end of the hallway, growing in volume as they approached the door to her room. Thomas slipped out the French doors just as the knob began to turn on the bedroom door and the nurse on duty entered, closely followed by Elaine’s 42-year old daughter, Ashley.

Ashley thanked the nurse who smiled in acknowledgement and left the room, closing the door quietly behind her. Ashley kissed her mother on the cheek, squeezing her arm affectionately and pulling closer the armchair Thomas had been sitting in moments before. Elaine noticed Ashley’s whiff of perfume was missing the usual underlying hint of whiskey.

“Hello Mother” her tone reflected despair at her mother’s unchanged disposition. “How are you today?”

“Fine dear”

“Has it been a good day?”

“Yes, Thomas came to visit so it can’t be bad, can it love?” She smiled knowingly at her daughter.

“No, I guess not.” Ashley replied matter of factly, rubbing her temple with her forefinger. Did you see the Doctors this week?”

“Yes dear, I spoke to them just like you asked.” She smiled and patted Ashley’s hand just like she used to do when Ashley was little and needed encouragement.

“Good, I’m glad. Did they say anything about your progress?”

“Yes, they said they had expected me to be a lot better by now, but I’m sure you know that already dear, as I’m sure you know they told me I should ask Thomas to stop coming to see me.”

“Yes Mother, I believe they are right. You have to let him go…I have.”

“Oh, but Ashley what happened wasn’t YOUR fault, was it?”

“It wasn’t YOUR fault either Mother, I really wish you’d believe that.” Her tone sounded desperate.

“But it was, I left him alone in the car while I went into the store. I shouldn’t have done that, even if it was just for a minute. He was only two, just a baby.” Elaine’s voice became shaky and she turned away from Ashley to stare out the window at the clouds moving quickly in the afternoon sky.

“He was asleep Mother, you thought it best not to wake him. How could you know someone would take him in that short time? I really feel his visits are hindering you from getting well.”

Elaine snapped her head back to glare at Ashley, frowning in disbelief “How can you say that about your own son?”

“He’s dead Mother” her graceful face contorted with agony at the memory and tears filled her eyes “you have to forgive yourself and let him go in peace. You have other children who need you, other grandchildren.”

Elaine’s gaze softened with empathy and she touched her daughters shoulder softly “You have your father love, and there are other grandparents. Thomas only has me now, that’s why I can’t ask him to go, I can’t leave him alone again, I wont.”

Tears spilled from Ashley’s eyes and she wept as her heart broke again at the realisation her Mother was never coming back to her. The pain was second only to the day her heart first broke, the day they pulled her son’s tiny limp body from the lake just outside of town. She kissed her mother gently on the forehead and left the room quietly.

Elaine watched as the clouds parted and the sun came into view again. She turned her eyes toward the far wall and smiled once again as the shadows and light resumed their passionate waltz. Like the light, her moments of joy where made beautiful because of the shadows, the shadows that were forever a part of her.

~ Jo Caddy

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Thank you so much for reading my story, if it wasn’t for my readers, I would have no one to write for. You keep me motivated and pressing forward. Please follow my blog or sign up to the mailing list to get all the latest news, stories and promos (including writing competitions & giveaways), plus a FREE ebook, exclusive to our email subscribers.

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How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time eCOVER WHITE

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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To read more stories like this, click here or choose one of the titles below.

If you’d like to submit one of your stories for consideration for publishing on this blog, please see our submissions page for more information.



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