- Food & Drink
- Creative Writing
- Say’s Who?
I was doing it again.
Walking the wrong way.
Well, perhaps not the wrong way per se –it’s just that there were quicker, shorter, more direct routes to get to work, but I insisted on taking the other route, yet again. The time consuming, longer, complicated route. I did it every time. Every time I had to get to the library or the studios, I’d take the other route. I was on my lunch break, but hunger had deserted me this afternoon. I should have been making my way back to work, but there was no hurry. At Greenfly Productions you can take up to three hours for lunch and it will go unnoticed.
Taking the other route meant I would have to walk by the canal, past the beautiful Georgian buildings, past the little artisan bakery that perfumed the street with the scent of cinnamon and vanilla, past where he lived. I had kept telling myself that it was my way of exorcising those memories – our memories from my mind. He, I and it.
It all seemed like such a long time ago. Sometimes it felt like it had all happened to somebody else. I guess that’s the price you pay for pushing your life away. It’s why you find yourself grasping at memories when the present only brings you pain. Walking by the place, which had once been home and sanctuary to me, was my way of remembering. Remembering the times when we had been happy together. I smiled, thinking of the time we’d hosted our first barbeque and burnt everything leaving only dessert to enjoy and how we shared intimacies and laughter – so much laughter. I rolled my eyes as I thought of the Victorian loo we had installed – the one with the copper ball and chain flush that had the tendency to fall off.
Falling. That was our marriage after it happened. Falling away like a soapy lather being chased away by the force of a power shower.
I was already three months pregnant by the time I began to make sense of the signs and had had them confirmed. I hadn’t been ready to start a family. I believed Ben felt the same way. It had taken a bottle of wine and a whole lot of willpower to break the news to him.
“Ben… Honey, that important thing I wanted to talk to you about, well…”
“In a minute, let me just finish this battle,” he said, waving his console controller.
I shut my eyes and swallowed the familiar rage that was battling to get out.
“Just pause it, you can play later”. It was like talking to a child.
He ignored me.
“What the fuck?!” he shouted as I pulled out the power lead.
I cleared my throat. “I’m p… I’m pregnant. Three months. I didn’t know. It’s too late for a termination. “
“Pregnant,” he said, as if the word was alien to him.
“I’m sorry” I spluttered, waiting for the realisation to strike.
“A baby,” he said, as if making sense of what my announcement in slow motion. “We’re having a baby…” His voice had reduced to a whisper now.
“I’m so we can fix this,” I pleaded.
“What do you mean?” he said, looking up abruptly. His eyes shone with an intensity I hadn’t seen in some time. Honey, this is incredible!” he said, pulling me down beside him and hugging me tight. “I’m so happy”.
But I wasn’t. I wasn’t happy. I was scared and upset and so angry. I felt like I had lost control of my body, of my life. I would just have to keep my feelings to myself, I thought. I couldn’t destroy his delirium.
He would know soon though. And when he realised, the arguments began.
“Sheesh! Is that a cigarette? Hattie, are you smoking?
I rolled my eyes and turned away.
Are you out your mind?” he demanded the amber specks lighting up in his beautiful chocolate eyes.
It was my birthday and we had invited some friends round for a celebratory supper. He had cancelled our trip to Florence. A holiday I had been so looking forward to. He had thought the strain of the journey might harm the baby. We hadn’t made love in over a month. Not since the bump began to show. “It might harm the baby. We need to be careful,” he’d say, stroking my bump and whispering secrets to it. He had gone as far as removing any chemicals or foods that might affect the baby, from the apartment. Basil, ginger, celery, nutmeg, liquorice, saffron. Eating became a chore with the absence of almost every herb and spice.
So after a long and arduous unseasoned celebratory birthday supper, and the tiresome company of the successful and unburdened, a cigarette seemed to make a lot of sense.
“Have you forgotten that you’re carrying our child?” he shouted, grabbing the cigarette from my fingers and crushing it under his shoe.
I laughed. “Have I forgotten? Forgotten that I’m pregnant? I can hardly do that now, can I? Not with my stomach growing like a balloon, my boobs facing in opposite directions and my feet feeling like a pair of bricks!”
“You’re being ridiculous! You’re behaving like a child. You’re…”
Suddenly I was laughing uncontrollably as tears smeared my cheeks. I had los control of my life and I was losing my husband. I heard the front door slam shut. I was alone.
I think that’s when he stopped loving me. And when the child had died after being born six weeks premature and with a heart murmur, he had had no need for me.
As I walked down the familiar street, I recalled the blog post I had read the night before. It had indicated that he was in Mexico and that he wouldn’t be returning for another week. I wondered if Ben new I read his blog, that I had kept all his published photographs, that I still wore his ring. I stopped and gazed up at the vast windows of the flat. My hand dug into my coat pocket; searching for the keys and swab. Should I? I asked myself. I dangled the keys in front of me, willing them to make my decision somehow. No, I shouldn’t, I thought; shaking my head and cursing myself for even considering it. I clasped my hand around the keys, relieved that I hadn’t done something I would regret.
“Excellent! I thought I was going to have to put all of this down again and search for my keys. My fault, I know – I should have taken my keys out first, but as you’re going in…”
I hadn’t heard him come up behind me. He must be living in one of the other apartments, I realised. I suppose I could have ignored him and walked off, but I wasn’t prepared to look stupid and he had seen the keys. I said nothing, but smiled and confidently swiped the key on the scanner.
“I only moved in last night,” he puffed, almost dropping the boxes to the ground. “So, which one are you in?”
“Pardon?” I asked in confusion.
“Which one, which apartment? What floor?”
“Oh, I… erm… number 23, 11th floor.” I spluttered
“Ah! That must be one of the penthouses… you must have quite a view from there! I’m Dan by the way. Flat 6, second floor.” He shook my hand enthusiastically. “Well, I’m sure I’ll see you around… now I had better get the rest of the boxes,” and out he went again.
The lift opened, inviting me in. I entered and pressed 11. “Oh Lord” I exclaimed. What was I doing? I felt the heat in my fingers evaporate and my nose begin to sweat. The last time I had travelled in this lift, Ben had been with me. He had even called the taxi. “Take care,” he had said. “I wish only that you’ll be happy now”, and after a swift peck on the cheek, he had left.
“Ping”. The lift halted. “Eleventh floor” purred the feminine voice as the doors slid open. My finger hesitated on the close button.
“You getting off here?”
A woman entered the lift, dragging behind her, a marvellous pink suitcase.
“Only, my boyfriend’s bringing the other suitcases and…”.
“Sure, I erm… I was just checking if this was the right floor. It is.” The woman had already turned away, not interested in my explanation and had resorted to check her painful blonde highlights in the mirrored walls.
As I hastened away from the lift, a man with a mouth full of gold teeth and way too much muscle on his short body sped towards me with two garish suitcases. He glared at me as though I was invading his space and barged past to join his girlfriend who was now glaring at him.
“Doors closing” and they did, finally.
I should head for the stairs I thought. I shouldn’t be here. But my legs seemed intent on walking the other way and I soon found myself standing in front of apartment 23. Of course, he must have had the locks changed, I thought. My hands still shaking held the key. I inserted it into the key hole. It fit. I whispered a prayer and turned the key, letting the door swing open. I let myself in as I had so many times before. The air smelled of two weeks worth of unopened windows and stale aftershave. Inside, everything appeared almost identical as to how I’d seen it last. The old oak coat rack tree stand, stood in the hall, naked without its usual array of outer garments and accessories to decorate it. The thread-bare rug looked more worn than ever but lay in its usual place in the lounge. The kitchen was spotless as usual. Ben always been so particular about tidiness. An unopened box of Oreos sat on the worktop beside the steel bread bin, and scented candles adorned the window sill – vanilla, probably. I’d always preferred cinnamon or apple.
I made my way into the bedroom. It looked different. The walls were no longer stark white, but a refreshing sage. The black brass and iron bed had been replaced by an Japanese style bed and there were blinds where there were once curtains. I sat down on the bed, looking around the room.
My gaze found the shelf on the other side and the picture in the pine frame. My nails dug into my palms. My feet shook. My lungs seemed to be squeezing all the oxygen out of my body. I slowly got to my feet and walked towards the shelf. The picture had been taken just after I had given birth. Being too small and weak to feed, the midwife had not placed him on my breast, but instead had placed a nasogastric tube through his tiny nostrils and which fed him a nutrition enriched pre-formula.
“Here, let me hold him,” Ben had urged the midwife.
“He’s beautiful,” he had whispered in awe, as the midwife placed the baby in the safety of his strong, compassionate arms.
“Isn’t he beautiful Hattie?” he exclaimed.
Too exhausted to speak, I closed my eyes and sank into oblivion.
“Beautiful,” I whispered to myself as I gently picked up the picture frame. I hadn’t thought so at the time and it had terrified me. So much so that I had tried to distance myself from him as much as possible. Making up any excuse to avoid holding him, attending to him or even talking to him.
I sank onto the bed again, as my legs began to shake. An aching within me rose from my chest into my throat, forming a silent sob. Holding the picture tightly against me, I got up and made my way to the room which had been the nursery. Bracing myself for what I might find inside, I pushed open the door.
The room had been redecorated to accommodate an office. In a corner, I spotted a child’s toy box. I walked over in a daze and opened the container. It had been divided into sections, holding clothes, pictures and an id tag that read his name. Baby Oscar Reece. Another sob escaped my trembling mouth. My eyes clouded over with the thousands of tears that had been begging to be released. Picking up one of the baby-grows, I brought it up to my face and inhaled. The clasp on my emotions tore, causing hot plump tears to erupt from my eyes. They rushed down my face, soaking my dress.
“My baby. My Oscar. My baby boy. I’m so sorry” I cried.
I don’t know how long I had sat for, but it was dark when I heard the door push open. The room was suddenly illuminated and I blinked as my eyes tried adjusting to the light.
He looked tired and dishevelled. He wasn’t supposed to be here.
“I’m sorry, I… I shouldn’t have…”
“How long have you been sitting here?” He asked. He sounded concerned. He pulled out a folded tissue and offered it to me. I hadn’t realised I was still crying. Grabbing the tissue I quickly dried my faced, forcing my eyes to swallow my grief.
“I’m sorry,” I said again. “I should go… I really…”
“Shhhh” he interrupted, suddenly embracing me. I tried to pull away. I had to tell him. He held me tighter and the tears spilled out over my cheeks once again.
“I was scared,” I pleaded. “I… I… was just so scared Ben.”
“I know,” he said. “It’s going to be ok”.
And I believed that it would.
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