“I want so desperately to know him.”

These are the words a friend wrote a few days ago, and they are ringing in my ear.

Yes, that is exactly what I want, too: to know her. Who was she? Who would she have become?

I ask the question over and over as I lie on the bed with M and he smiles his big toothless dimpled grin and grabs at my face.

How would she have smiled?

I wonder as I watch E make new friends at kindergarten, as she holds hands with all the little girls and as she chases her first little crush around the playground after school. What would Anja have been like at the age of almost five?

When I was pregnant, I imagined her as sweet and shy but with a mischievous streak, but really, what do I know?

What do I know of her?

Who was she?

I have been reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, a book where the main character dies over and over again and then the story restarts and a different life unfolds and then she dies again and it all repeats and circles back and starts and ends so many different ways.

In the second chapter, this character is stillborn on a dark snowy night. Just like Anja. And then in the next chapter, she is saved, the doctor arrives in time, unloops the cord from around her neck and she breathes and she grows, into a girl and then a woman and lives so many different lives.

It’s the whole parallel universes business. The life we lead somewhere where she lived and grows and has blonde ringlets like her big sister used to have, the big sister whose hair she pulls and whom she dances with after supper and before toothbrushing.

I want to know her. I want to know her, that blonde ringletted girl whose story didn’t end on a rare-for-Vancouver snowy January night.

I want to turn the page and read the rest, read about how she started over, where she went, who she became.

I want it desperately.