It was October. Summer had gone and with it the last few rays of sun. The sky now dripped with rain and the bright colours outside the window were gone, replaced with grey and dripping water. Rivulets of rain ran down the windowpane and cast weaving shadows of grey light on the far wall.
The sound of the rain hitting the yard outside filled the room. The sky was overcast and depressing and Mark, imprisoned in his small room just as much as he was imprisoned in the flesh that had starved for so long, spent his long days sleeping fitfully, eating and dreaming of his life before. After the sheer exhaustion of being awake had faded it had begun to be an effort to sleep.
He wasn’t used to unconsciousness, having never needed sleep before. and he would wake in the night after a falling sensation, waking himself up in his fright. He spent most of the time dozing fitfully, night and day, the agonising long hours only briefly broken by Angela’s presence.
His irritability seemed to be growing despite his own distaste for its hurt. He couldn’t ever seem to get comfortable and sometimes the very presence of a person made him feel trapped and panicky. He would snap at Angela when she tried to get him to talk to her. She remained by his side though and he was grateful for that, though he couldn’t seem to show it. She still read to him and he had a television to watch. It had a VCR and she brought videos in for him from home.
So the long hours passed but when he was too tired or irritated to watch television or to concentrate on Angela’s words yet not exhausted enough to sleep, he would toss and turn, too hot under the covers, quickly too cold out of them, the movements of his body aching desperately as he tried to find a position of comfort and the least pain in his wasted muscles. The light dim, the rain falling, shadows shifting on the wall, his mind drifting between happy memories and despairing thoughts. Brief hope and a determination to get better, thinking the months would fly by, soon he would be well enough to go home, and to transcend again: then fear and worry, despair and hopelessness, it could not be done, he would never get better, transcension would never work again.
He would try, there was no doubt about that, but was it even possible, had it just been an accident, he didn’t know. There was so much he didn’t know about what he had discovered. And he pushed his mind into blacker and blacker thoughts as he struggled to sleep yet couldn’t stop thinking, until finally exhaustion took him and he slept shallowly for a time until his panicked dreams shocked him awake again.
And he lay there staring blankly at the darkened ceiling, counting the hours until morning, and the start of Angela’s shift, trying to cry at his own helplessness.
Angela sat in Mark’s dim-lighted room, watching it rain outside. It always seemed to be raining recently. She should be working she knew, there were other patients to check, to look after. A few more minutes couldn’t hurt though. She always seemed so tired recently. She knew why, the blue line couldn’t have been any clearer. She tried to think, to come to a decision but her thoughts seemed scattered, unclear. She had known since August, the missed periods had scared her but the tester kit had still shocked her with its stark reply to her silent question.
She had to tell Sean but she didn’t know how, they were so happy at the moment, she wanted this time with him to last forever, like the last summer of childhood, no cares, only joy, no worries, no fears. Stable and secure for one of the only times in her life she had grown used to the stability, each day the same, as good as the last, Sean waiting for her outside the hospital as she left off work, going back to his place or to hers, her father’s house, left to his only daughter.
A baby, it would change everything, she had seen the new mothers in the hospital, stressed, always worried and tired, children screaming and waking in the middle of the night. But it wasn’t just the practicality of it that terrified her, it was the responsibility, the sudden duty to a living, breathing human being, it would never end, the child would grow and eventually leave but she would always be responsible, once started it was for life, stretching on and on as far into the future as she could imagine.
She couldn’t consider that, always flitting from one thing to another, when bored of a thing she always liked the knowledge that she could leave it and change everything, running free to another place, another job. She had transferred to the ward on a whim. And she had been able to do so. Another life to be responsible for would change that, she would never be free again.
Yet such thoughts had slowly faded as she grew used to the idea. She felt guilty as she remembered considering the Clinic, she had always been so sure she would never even think of such a thing, if duty hit her she would do the right thing instinctively, her weakness made her feel bad. Abortion had always been anathema to her, feeling to her like the destruction of innocence. But despite her own feelings, fear had made her think of the quick way out, easy, so easy, no one needed to know. And her life would continue as before, never changing. She had felt drawn in her shock to such a decision and though she pulled back before even seriously considering it, knowing such a decision would affect her for life, she had, for a moment, thought of the phone book, and turning to the page she wanted.
Yet now she was slowly starting to accept the idea of a child, even look forward to it. It had been hard and slow, with no one to talk to, but now her hands ran softly over her belly, smiling to herself as she imagined the life growing quietly within her, so small, not even conscious yet, but soon it would be breathing, kicking, crying and laughing in her arms, and she felt a warm glow rise within her for the first time since knowing.
Yet the thought of Sean’s reaction still harried her thoughts daily. She hadn’t told him when she should have, as soon as she knew. She had waited for the best time, and the days had drifted into weeks and the weeks passed, and if she hadn’t told him by now she had to have a good reason, yet she didn’t.
And still she waited for a good time to tell. In her mind his reaction, even in her imaginings of him being pleased, were harsh. She had got used to the idea and even started to look forward to it. But would Sean? Did he want children, they had never discussed it.
Angela had always wanted her first child brought up in a secure family, her own broken childhood driving her to want better for her own children. She had imagined children always far in the future, decided on with a husband that she knew would stay with her forever. Yet now single motherhood, frightening and desperate was a possibility in her mind, something she had always been determined not to do.
She had tried so hard, they’d both used contraception, she had been responsible, safe. But now a mother’s duty was before her and she latched on to that to escape her fear, the unsettling feeling of her foundations shifting underfoot, revaluating everything, her hopes, her dreams, here imagined future. What if Sean demanded she kill it or he left her? What if he left her, to bring up a child on her own, without him? She didn’t think she could stand losing Sean.
It had been a month and her imagination had conjured up so many possible scenarios she didn’t know what future she was scared of happening more. And so she waited for the right time and the longer she waited the harder and more impossible the thought of telling him seemed.
At times she would lie next to him in the morning and the words would be on her tongue, fighting to get out, and she was scared that if she opened her mouth a fraction she would blurt the words out. At other times the thought of telling him seemed to belong to another world, the situation was so unreal it could never happen. And so she waited for longer. And the weeks went by
Another fitful sleep broke as Mark’s eyes opened to Angela’s entrance. He glanced at the clock on his bedside table. It was late in the morning. The rain was running loudly down the glass outside and the room was hot and stuffy. He shifted uncomfortably. “I was sleeping.” He told her irritably.
“Sorry.” She answered. “It’s just the police have arrived again. They’ve brought that psychologist with them that they mentioned last time.”
Mark sighed in annoyance. “Oh great. I told them I didn’t want to talk to her, why don’t they listen?”
“Why don’t you want to talk to her? Why don’t you want to remember? You must remember something.”
“I don’t.” He cried out, “I don’t remember anything, I’ve told you, I’ve told them, yet you don’t believe me. Why can’t you just leave me alone?”
“Okay. Okay, I believe you.” Angela placated him. She didn’t believe him but she didn’t need him shouting at her today. Sean was starting to notice her tension. She had to tell him soon.
“I’ll show them in then,” she continued, and left the room.
As the police entered Mark noticed that Detective Stanhope and Inspector Farrier were joined by a plain, middle-aged woman. She wore glasses and a bob of dark hair on top of her head. She had an air of experience about her and her eyes were a dull, tired green. Curt and brisk Mark instantly hated her. Farrier took his customary silent position against the wall as the woman, flanked by Stanhope, sat down.
“Good morning Mr Camden. I’m Miss Palmer, your counsellor.” The woman spoke clearly but with a touch of condescension that wasn’t missed by Mark and a bright, but fake smile lighting up her professional face. “I do hope we haven’t disturbed you.” It was a statement, not a question but Mark answered anyway with a derisive tone.
“I’m sorry,” the woman continued, obviously not. The annoyed response washed over her without reaction. She was used to irritable patients. “Would you rather talk with me alone?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Of course. We want you to be as comfortable as possible. This is a very brave thing you’re doing Mr Camden.”
“What exactly am I supposed to be doing then?”
“Why, I’ll be trying to help you remember who did this to you, of course.”
“What if I don’t want to remember?”
“Don’t be worried Mr Camden. It’s perfectly normal not to want to remember harrowing experiences. In fact that’s probably why your brain locked it away in the first place. Its called repression; a classic ego-defence mechanism.”
“Ever wonder why it’s called defence. It’s supposed to protect my mind from pain. And I’d rather not mess with that, I’m in far too much pain already Miss Palmer.”
“But you’ve got to remember…”
“Why? Perhaps I don’t want to remember. Did that ever occur to you?”
“Don’t you want to capture the person who did this? Don’t you want to know?”
“What makes you think I ever did know? Perhaps a man in a mask attacked me. Perhaps I woke a couple of times just to see a masked man abuse me while I was helpless. Remembering that and messing up my mind at the same time just for nothing is a risk I’m not willing to take.”
Miss Palmer sat speechless at this outburst. She’d never had her proffered therapy opposed so vehemently. And quite simply, this wasted, weakened man with his blazing angry eyes disconcerted her. She didn’t really want to know what this man had been through. She was leaving active police counselling for a comfortable office job in a few months and she didn’t want to take this man’s revelation with her, not after what she’d read in the papers.
She sat back in her chair and glanced over at Farrier for some direction. Farrier only slumped dejectedly against the wall, he hadn’t held out much hope that this would work. He could already feel despair creeping in as the weeks and months passed. Stanhope though was furious.
“Mr Camden, refusing to cooperate with the police is a serious offence!” he yelled at the bed-ridden man.
“You can’t force me to hurt myself because you’re too incompetent too find the man who did this.” Mark yelled back hoarsely. His angry voice descended into a wracking cough that tore at his throat. He tried to pick up the glass of water beside him but his outstretched hand knocked it and it fell to the floor with a crash.
He had tried to keep his temper at this, he had planned to argue back with cold reason and logic but his tiredness, his despair was too great. He wasn’t ready; he wasn’t strong enough for this.
He sank back into his pillows, his coughs hurting and bringing tears to his eyes. The coughing turned to chest-aching sobs and tears spilled from his hot eyes.
“Please…out…just leave.” He managed and, blushing, Miss Palmer rose at the broken figure that shook painfully at each rasping sob. Blushing furiously she apologised as she left. Even Farrier seemed embarrassed as Angela shepherded them angrily out of the room.
“Its allright. Its allright, they’re gone.” She told him softly as she held him in her arms and he wept brokenly against her.
“I…can’t cope…too much…so tired…of everything…no more…” he stopped trying to talk as his tears subsided. She held his hand as he drifted into tiredness and as sleep took him he realised he loved her. Like a sister she cared for him and he calmed as she stroked his hand. It was allright, he was safe.
“Angela, sit down,” Sean said softly. She was too weak to fight against the gentle pressure and sank gratefully into the chair, unable to meet his eyes.
“What’s up?” He asked her, a hint of desperation in his voice. He had been steeling himself for her brutal revelation all evening, his mind conjuring a thousand reasons for her state. She had tried to tell him all evening, she had prepared a meal with candles and wine. She had drunk too much to give her courage but still the words would not come. The tension had been building all night, the food and the small table were lighted with the dim flickering light of candles.
Despite her efforts the tension had been building all evening and both had felt it, their brief attempts at conversation dying into a thick silence broken by the sound of the cutlery on the plates.
All she could think of was his reaction, a thousand different reactions, all worse than the last until she didn’t know what might happen or what she wanted to happen. Angela caught his eyes and the fearful question evident in his look, the rising sense of coming to the brink caught her and she fled from it again.
She left the table and gathered the plates quickly, muttering something about desert, she wasn’t sure what she said, she couldn’t even remember if there was desert prepared in the kitchen. She carried the plates into the kitchen fighting against herself to tell him but knowing in her heart she wasn’t going to. The moment had passed and the familiar dread had overcome her.
Cursing herself for her weakness she picked up the last glass and walked over to the door when Sean grabbed her arm. He was too worked up to let the moment slip away and he asked her again, waving aside her protestations that it was nothing. Angela fought against her mind screaming to tell him. She didn’t want to reveal her pregnancy like this, not having it forced out of her.
She got up to leave, abandoning her glass, but he stood up with her and gripped her arms. She caught his eyes and saw his own fear, his desperation.
“What is it?” he almost yelled at her. And it burst from her like a dam breaking.
“I’m Pregnant.” she cried and fell back to the sofa, sitting in it heavily. The look of shock on his face made her want to laugh but she knew if she started she wouldn’t be able to stop.
“I’ve known since August.” She said quietly. “But I didn’t know how to tell you.” The fear was gone now replaced with a massive feeling of relief as though a dam had burst. As she took a breath the air washed through her, seeming to clean her mind of its fear. Now she just waited with apprehension, her eyes studying his face.
The words had been so simple, so petty. After weeks of building them up in her mind into some kind of apocalyptic message she had been astonished at how ordinary they had been. She looked up watching as he swallowed, turning away from her slightly; waiting for his reply. When it didn’t come she spoke again to fill the silence.
“Are you angry with me?” He turned back to her and with relief she saw that he wasn’t. He went to her and sat down beside her, holding her in his arms.
“Of course not. I love you Angela.” He put his face in her hair and kissed her head. “I love you so much.” Angela realised tears were rolling down her cheeks and she smiled as her heart grew light. Held tight in his arms she felt safe, for the first time in two months she felt safe, everything was going to be all right.
*** *** ***
Mark turned his head to the window and looked out through the sliver of glass he could see through from his position. All he could see was a wall; grey and darkening as the sun dropped slowly away from the world outside, unseen.
He loved the sun, the brilliance of it, the beauty of it. The way it blazed as it rose and burned as it fell. He hadn’t seen the sun for months. He struggled to raise himself off the bed with his wasted arms, desperate to see the sun once before the darkness of the long night flooded in. In his weakened state his mind thought that if he only saw the sun he would be safe, protected by that blazing source of life.
He struggled upright, his face screwed up by the pain in his arms and back but still all he saw was grey brick. He tried to get out of bed but his limbs collapsed and he crashed back into the tired, warm, ruffled sheets and his own aching pain swallowed him. His breathing laboured and a single tear ran down his drawn, pale cheek as he watched the room darken.
*** *** ***
“I’ll have to sell my house and move in with you.” Sean said, watching her face for a reaction. “I don’t have much in the bank and we’ll need some savings for the baby.” Angela nodded happily. Sean, after getting over the initial shock had taken charge, making plans for the baby’s future. It would be hard, adjusting their lives to work out this new responsibility of caring for another life.
Angela felt grateful he’d never once asked her if she wanted to keep it. She could see he was working automatically, the news having not yet been quite taken in. But the practical, calm voice was comforting. She didn’t have to worry alone.
She spoke out, “Shouldn’t we sell my house. Your’s is bigger and the baby will need more room.” Sean sank back into the sofa exhausted.
“There’s so much to think about.” He took her into his arms and kissed her hair. “I can’t believe I’m going to be a father.” He gazed unfocused at the table where they’d eaten, the evening seeming like a thousand years before this time.
“Are you excited?” he asked her.
“A bit,” she replied. A vague worry still nagged at the back of her mind. She tried to ignore it but it remained.
“We’ll have to get married.” Sean said distantly. Angela pulled away from his arms, staring at him.
“What?” she replied, shocked. She had been thinking about it too but its sudden voicing into words startled her. She was only twenty-one. She had never considered marriage.
“A child needs a family.” he replied embarrassed at the words he said, words bored into him by his father. He had always believed he would be married before having a child. He sat blushing, looking at his hands. Angela smiled, surprised that he had voiced the thought.
“We can’t get married just because…” she said.
“It won’t be,” he replied. He turned to face her and his eyes were deep as he gazed into hers. “I love you Angela. I’ve never loved anyone as much. I’ve never known anyone like you. I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather bring spend my life with than you.”
She smiled at him and he moved to her, his lips meeting hers. He kissed her and she met his kiss with a suddenly released passion that surprised herself. As they broke softly from each other she spoke breathlessly, without thinking. “Okay. We’ll get married.” She giggled and moved forward on top of her fiancée as they kissed again.