Naomi was ill. She’d blamed Nial for passing on his cold. He’d been in his room the last five days but she knew that infections would have spread over the house before he was confined. She was usually strong, free of serious illness. A flicker of doubt climbed up but she forced it away. She did not want to consider it. Yet a part of her already knew it was true.
On the seventh day Joll knocked on the door. He felt sick too. The promise of a formal proposal had been given in a moment of passion, of teenage love. He did love Naomi. Marriage wasn’t a terrible idea but he had actually expected her to wait longer. He was finishing university in two months and he had placements in mind. A brokerage firm in Aberdeen was looking for fresh talent, there was a London-based firm too with fantastic options. He had to take a place, he needed a job. He wanted London but he wasn’t sure she’d be ready to move so far.
The proposal was a surprise but, thankfully not a shock. Or at least Mr & Mrs Ferguson faked it well. They accepted, nodded, toasted. Joll watched Naomi, she was pale, shaking – he worried she would change her mind. She didn’t.
As she packed her things she felt flickering sensations. With a gasp she held her stomach. Surely it was too soon, too early for movement? She held her breath, trying to take notice. Grabbing her watch from the side-table she counted and timed – almost six minutes of movement, yet the ‘baby’ was only five weeks old. It wasn’t possible. It wasn’t normal.
Three months! It felt like three hundred years! Naomi left with Joll and moved to London. I miss her more than I expected. The house is colder.
My parents couldn’t let me return to school. The tutor came back but it’s worse than being at school, more is expected of me. Dad checks my progress every day and I see disappointment, every day.
I am ill most days, the pains are intense and alter my mind to somewhere between sludge and stone. I struggle through an hour of learning before I have to rest. Law school has been scrapped. Even Mother realises it is not possible. She is so ashamed that she barely looks at me.
I know she misses Naomi too yet the guilt is aimed my way. “I didn’t get her pregnant! “ I shout at them. I swear and they shudder at my insolence but there’s a slice of fear. My anger erupts and once released I crash through the house. I hear them locking their doors.
London: Naomi was happy. She was far enough away to convince herself the bad things never really happened, it had been childish nightmares. Now she had a baby to care for and a husband and a home of her own. Life felt complete as if this had always been meant for her.
When she played the piano (a second-hand spinet that Joll had found) she often thought of her brother. She wished she had been able to understand him and she missed showing him how to play. But she dreamed too, of a future when she would show her son how to play and maybe, maybe his uncle would re-join their family.
She hesitated in playing – the baby gurgled and kicked his legs. He was in the basket by her side. He looked like Nial with dark hair and light eyes. Perhaps more like Nial even than his own parents. He blinked rapidly, over and over and shudders ran down Naomi’s spine.
Quickly she scooped him up and hugged him close to her. She felt his warm body wiggling against her chest and fought to forget the way his eyes often moved too quickly, too wide, too alert.