“It’s near enough half nine now Dan.”
A shuffle from the other end of the sofa, as her husband stirred.
“wuh...” was the muffled response, the strobing TV on mute, picking highlights out of the gloom.
The coffee table glass turned, a glorious Cadillac red. For just a moment, no longer than the brass of the hearth despite the rust shone as green as your lawn could be green with miracle grow.
Daniels Eyes were still dark. Sleep was heavy on him and still felt a pang of guilt for waking him, despite her own discomfort.
“I said it’s near enough half nine now, it’s your turn to check up on him”
“Oh- ur, yeah… but its early isn’t it… I mean I’ll stay awake.”
She could see him clearer now in the doom, his bruised eyes a horizontal smudge on the pallor of unshaven face above a swaddling mass of grey blanket.
His gazed was fixed on hers, but curiously eyeless in the dark. She had to prop herself on the arm of the sofa to see him clear enough to address him. And the grinding ache of the fractured bones of her arm. Even against the worn plush, was grating on her, souring her sentiment towards him.
As two gleaming points of light shimmered in those voids she lost her nerve. And snapped
“For fucks sake Dan, He’s your child as much as mine, we agreed, to take it in turns each night”
“I know, baby I know… it’s just…”
“’it’s just’ nothing Dan! You think this isn’t hard on me to… you think it doesn’t hurt me..
“What did you say?”
“You… said ‘it’”
“I meant ‘he’”
“But you said ‘it’”
Dan was indignant in the silence, his waning moon of a face quivering with rage, or was it fear? She really couldn’t tell. She sank back into the sofa. Her head was still throbbing and her ribs were bound too tightly for her to breathe any harder than a gentle whisper.
“I really, truly meant to say ‘he’” she lied, “He’s still our son, still our baby boy.”
At this he seemed to relax. Sink back into the sofa and begin to slowly extricate the blankets from his fatigued body.
She felt the guilt return. Suddenly she wanted to hide her face. Sixteen years of marriage to the man she loved. And she wanted to hide her face.
She watched silently as he slid his bandaged arm; cautiously back into its sling. The tea towel was looking grubby but it seemed to do the job. As he moved to stand, his legs shaking barely able to bear his weight, he looked pitiful in the gloom of the sitting room, and she deeply regretted making him do what she simply hadn’t the strength to do herself.
“I’m sorry; I’m on my way up. It’s just… it shook me up so much, night before last. I feel so ashamed that I can’t look at him. And he always wants a story. Always the same story over and over… and you know darling, even though I know he’s still… He is our baby boy, and I love him, I really do.
I’m starting to wonder… I mean. He doesn’t seem to sleep any more, and the scratching on the walls. and what we have to feed him… I can’t stomach it… what we have to put in those bottles… it’s just.”
“I know darling I know” she spoke softly, deliberately soothing to assuage the fears of her husband.
But He is still our baby; you know what we had to go through to have a child. He deserves to be loved unconditionally”
He was silent at this. Standing mute in the sparse living room. She could see in the year since their son was born, he had lost a lot of weight.
“I suppose you’re right” he murmurs. “ you never know… maybe I’ll finish the story tonight… ive always wondered what the hungry catapillar turns into.
He smiles, a wan, pained smile. But a smile nonetheless. And she returns the complement contorting her features into the semblance of pleasant amusement, pitched to cover the empty pit in her stomach. She watches as he shuffles out of the room. Hears the slow rhythmic thudding of his ascent up the stairs. Inside her head a voice pleads with him not to go, screams at him to leave the house, run away into the street lit cul-de sac and away into the mess of suburbia. But she stays silent.
Her broken heart and her broken body know that if it isn’t him tonight it would be her. God forbid If the boy wasn’t attended to…
Survival leaves little room for love.
She probes her wounds with tentative fingers, staring listlessly at Tv shopping. And as her fingers alight on the 3 tender marks on her thigh under the blanket… her heart stops.
How could she… how could she forget to tell him ‘It’ started teething.