BABY. | By: Terry Collett | | Category: Short Story - Despair Bookmark and Share


Baby. Beth kept the baby in a brown box by her bed. She covered it in two old dollís blankets and her school cardigan. She named the baby Lou; short for Louisa. She had breast fed Lou, laid her down in the box and the baby had gone to sleep. Thank Christ. Donít want Sabrina poking her nose into things. Beth gazed at Lou snuggled down beneath the cardigan and blankets. Bethís father was away on business; her mother was a barrister in the City, seldom home, and when she was, it was brief and critical. Beth listened out for sounds of her motherís arrival. None. Good, Beth sighed. She couldnít believe she had managed to get Lou into the house without Sabina seeing her, or hearing the babyís muffled cries. In fact, the whole day seemed surreal. The rush from the classroom to toilets; giving birth to Lou there seemed so unreal that she had to pinch herself to make her believe that it had actually happened. God what a mess. Far off she could hear the sounds of the girls, the voices of teachers. Lou was in her hands covered in blood, the umbilical cord damp, warm against her stomach, reaching from baby and out of sight beneath her. If Celia hadnít come when she did, and helped her with the cord, cutting with scissors from her bag, a PE top to wrap Lou in and clearing up the mess with many handfuls of toilet paper and water from the cistern, she didnít know what she would have done. Good old Celia. The look on Celiaís face; the shock of it all. But as a daughter of a doctor, Celia knew the basics. Beth closed her eyes. Celia had been a lifesaver. A friend in a million. How they had managed to get from school to Celiaís house without being spotted by anyone at the school seemed a miracle. At Celiaís house, all was quiet; no one around; no nosey neighbours, no one in fact. Just Beth, Celia and Lou. She had soaked in the bath Celia had run for her, while Celia had washed Lou, dressed her in a babyís nightgown that Celiaís mother had kept from Celiaís baby years. It fitted well. Warm. Clean. Even the cotton nappy was from Celiaís motherís collection. Beth opened her eyes. She could hear a voice calling her. It was Sabina. Ņquiere usted la comida? Sabina asked. Beth sat up, the Spanish words being translated in her head as she did so. No, meal, nothing to eat, she replied in Spanish. Sabina went away. Good, Beth sighed, laying back on the pillow, taking a quick glimpse at Lou asleep in the box. Still. Too still. She slid from the bed, crouched beside the box. She removed the cardigan, picked Lou up into her arms. Breathe. Damn it, breathe, she muttered into Louís tiny ear. Lou obliged. Gave a snuffled cry. Beth, tears in her eyes, sighed. Thought you had died, she whispered, kissing Louís head, the nose, the cheek, the miracle baby.† She clutched Lou to her breast, let her feed again. Outside it was raining, far off a dog barked at the new moon.

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