I would never have imagined that my first time would have lead
to this. Oh, it’s not what you are thinking. Not the first
time in that way. The first time I was bad. The first time I cheated
on my beloved boyfriend. God was punishing me good and proper.
Just desserts, wasn’t it?Too ridiculously a perfect punishment.
I was so drunk. Drunkety-drunk, drunk. I was turning 23, I had
been clubbing which I never did. And some gorgeous men had paid
me attention which never happened. It flattered my stupid vanity.
But I wasn’t interested in them. I didn’t go home
with a stranger. Not like my friend, Charlie. I didn’t do
that.I knew him, you see. Like that makes it better. We had met
each other years ago at work, I was a waitress and he was a pot
wash. The detestable head chef, Jase, was saying foul things about
his mother. It was the baptism of fire that all pot washes went
through. “Leroy, fetch the soup bowls NOW!” Poor sods.
I took pity on him. I told him to ignore them. These big blue
eyes looked up at me gratefully, in wonderment.
I relay all of this with perfect hindsight, of course. I know
it is not to be trusted, considering the ‘emotional’
state that I was in. I left for uni, he left for college. I wouldn’t
even have given him a second thought. Only he came back. And he
had grown, and was all manly and shaven headed and muscly. And
he had that gorgeous lisp, and a gap between his teeth. It was
either that or something in the water.
So we flirted. As you do. And we’d be the last to leave
after work. When everyone went out to a club, that fateful night,
we were separated from the herd. And what fun we had! We danced
and chatted and laughed. He taught me the meringue, and I felt
like a beautiful prima ballerina. So far from the truth, I can
tell you. As we both lived close, we got a taxi. What possessed
us to stop halfway between our two homes, in the dead of night,
in the middle of the countryside, I could never tell you. But
And I remember so little because of the smudgy alcohol, but I
do remember seeing the stars over his shoulder, ephemeral up in
the sky, and the chill on my one exposed leg. It felt so primal.
Blissful. I said I loved him, and he laughed. I stumbled home
in the pitch black, with twigs in my hair, when I received a text
message from my boyfriend saying “Happy Birthday Princess.”
Three weeks later, the enormous stupidity of what I had done came
glinting into view. The headlights of the truck. The tidal wave.
Five blue lines, one after the other. The doctor congratulated
me. I remember her glee with the ease in finding a vein in my
arm the year before. The village’s average age was 75. That
explains her joy. I dissolved into jibbering wreck. I can’t
because… I have no… I’m not ready. I haven’t
done all I envisaged before this was supposed to happen. She signed
her name. I booked my appointment.
I couldn’t go alone, I was told. I had to take someone because
of the state you are in afterwards. Who? Who could I possibly
subject to that? Did I tell him? He said he “didn’t
believe” in it. That he would support me. That he loved
me. This time I laughed. He couldn’t come, we hadn’t
even seen each other naked.
My best friend was my boyfriend. And then I would lose everything.
So that left Dad. He would lose all of his respect for me, but
what choice did I have? Pay a homeless person, a stranger on the
street? No, I needed him there, whatever the fall out.
I couldn’t bring myself to tell him. The words weren’t
there. I wasn’t there to find them. My nose started bleeding,
and he knew. The blood never came out of his shirt.
The clinic was grotty. The sun was shining that day but it didn’t
hit the building. All of the women who worked there had thinning
hair. I thought that was God punishing them. What then, did he
have planned for me? How many had been carried out there? Thousands?
Millions? Did they all leave feeling the way I did? The room had
five beds, and I watched in horror as the others filtered in.
Each of us had the migraine tablet inserted into us, and we were
left to give birth for the next five hours. The others succumbed
to nausea, but not me.
They all looked about my age. I had worn my face. I had never
left the house without full makeup. That was the last day.
Two had brought boyfriends, two their Mums. I wondered, but didn’t
care, if any of them thought Dad was my boyfriend. Not with our
nose. Too much of a coincidence.
Dad kept leaving the room to take phone calls for work. My neighbours
boyfriend kept looking at me. Probably too hard to watch her.
We were all twisting with agony, though the room was devoid of
noise. Apart from Dad’s phone.
We were lead to the toilet every so often. With cardboard potties
to catch the debris. It was beyond freezing, despite the sunshine,
on 10th December 2003. My baggy jamas were too tight, I held them
away from my stomach. I was told I was taking too long as the
other girls left one by one, job done for them. I was made to
pace up and down. I wanted to lie down and disappear. The pain
was indescribable. Richard and Judy played in the background.
I realised it was coming. I dashed to the toilets. There was a
queue. The next sorry batch of girls were being done. The girl
in front was not one of these and was huffing and puffing about
the queue. She must have had no idea. It was almost funny. Everything
went black, and I knew that was when it happened.
When I finally got to the cardboard, my insides were emptied into
it. A sorry end. I died inside. The nurse outside knocked with
urgency on the door, as I sobbed and shook. I had heard somewhere
that overcrowded rats absorb their foetuses. That is not what
happened with me. She asked if I wanted to see it. “Do I?”
I remember thinking.
Inside the white sparkling pot, the type that moisturiser comes
in, lay a perfectly formed child, with coal-black dots as eyes.
It was curled up, bean-like, with tiny arms and legs. “Is
that an eye?” I kept asking her. She kept giving the wrong
answer. The bleeding lasted weeks, leaving the dead shell of my
body. My soul never stopped.
My perfect life was all planned. This was supposed to happen with
a beloved husband who cherished my bones, after my career had
been cemented. I could not have a child with a man I did not know,
did not love.
I ripped the image from the scan from my file. The only evidence
that it ever existed. Of the horror that was beyond comparison.
If I had my life over, I would have kept it. If.