In an upstairs flat on a box of junk in an empty room she sat. An empty room in an empty flat, Angela sat nursing her empty womb. Deserted, hollow, her bitter eyes were drained of tears. So she sat and watched the barren walls. For days she had wept, and Sean had wept with her, trying to comfort her but only able to hold her as they emptied her pain and loss against each other, her body shaking as she did.
Now, empty, drained of emotion, she remained, felling like a hollow husk as she watched the walls with bloodshot eyes staring dimly from blotchy cheeks. Her home had been stripped of its furniture, its life and in the yawning wasteland of its shell she sat. And in the stricken core of her being she nursed her gaping wound and could not weep.
Her child was lost, shaken free from her body. And the world around her was now bleak and devoid of light. Dim and pale, pointless and painful. And in an empty room she sat and wished she could cry.
*** *** ***
The image in the mirror moved with greater ease, its skin now less drawn, more padded, the foot came higher in the glass of the wall and was held by the seated figure for longer. Mark watched himself as his aching muscles tightened and relaxed, tightened and relaxed. And he smiled back at Jane as he finished his exercises for the day’s session.
“That was excellent.” Jane told him. “You seem to be improving dramatically.”
Mark grinned and sat back, breathing hard, in his chair. In the last few weeks, since the New Year he had himself noticed his improvement. It would be many weeks still before walking could even be attempted but his muscles were stronger, slowly regaining size and stamina as the days passed by. The sessions with Jane, despite the strenuous, sometimes depressingly slow activity, were the highlights of Mark’s days.
He drew courage and strength from the eyes of Jane. Her softness and gentleness was edged with a strict will and a determination that forced Mark on to new efforts with just a word. He would think of her as he lay in the dark, unable to sleep and her care and concern, her confidence in him filtered through. His despair, that had once beaten him and now hovered at the edge when a session had gone badly or he thought back on what he had once been compared to the endless indeterminate future of struggle before him. This feeling of hopelessness faded as he remembered Jane and the love in her eyes.
“What’s happened to Angela? Joan won’t tell me,” Mark asked as Jane came back from the intercom after calling for a porter to take Mark back to his room. She hesitated. She didn’t know if it was supposed to be a secret. In any case it seemed everyone who worked in the hospital knew. Angela had been well liked and the tragedy had struck them all deeply.
“I suppose it’s all right you knowing.” Jane replied, retaking her seat. “Angela lost her baby.” Mark stared at Jane in shock. He couldn’t believe it. She’d been so happy about the pregnancy. He remembered when she’d told him. She had just told Sean the previous day and had come running in, bursting with the news.
Her eyes had been so full of life and her face shone with her happiness. She’d told him it had made her life important; it had given her an anchor to the world. All her life she’d drifted, parentless, from town to town and from job to job. She’d never had a tie to a single place yet here with Sean and a child she’d been content, she’d found what she’d been looking for without knowing.
Mark knew that feeling. It had been so long ago and the physical memory was faint but he remembered the feeling when he had done it. He had found what he’d been looking for, what everyone was looking for. Peace, Happiness, Contentment. And now Angela had lost it, like Mark had and though he could not imagine the pain of losing a child, he thought he knew some part of it; she’d lost her happiness, and her future.
Jane’s eyes were downcast as she remembered that fateful Christmas day. Sean’s face as Angela collapsed beside him. Angela’s cries of pain and fear and loss as her life was stolen from her. She had visited her as she recovered in the hospital and Angela’s eyes seemed dead, the sparkle gone. The joy that had animated her now replaced with a grey stare from a hollow woman. Jane felt the sadness fill her and as she looked up she saw tears slowly come to Mark’s own eyes.
Later, Jane Killick tightened her coat, pulling her shoulders up to give some protection to her ears from the elements. The thoughts of Angela’s sadness mixed with her own as she turned her face inwards against the blowing rain. It was a foul night; the wind sending the stinging, icy rain almost horizontal.
She would walk the four miles home; the bus never ran this late. Sometimes she would take a taxi but the housekeeping money had all but gone for this month. Christmas had drained the bank account like it always had. It seemed ironic that the month that was coldest was the most expensive and forced her to walk home every night. George had the car and would still be coming home from his job in the next town. She would have to make his meal, despite coming home cold and wet and tired after a day of coaxing reluctant patients to walk while he came home dry and warm after a day in the office.
And she would have to beg for more money in order for them to eat this month. And George would be concerned, asking where the money had gone, could they make any more savings. Had she really needed that new coat last week, as though the old, ragged thing could have lasted another week. It hadn’t kept the rain out for a month and her arms had been soaked by the time she came home. She knew better than him the money problems they had, she’d known better than him how expensive the thick warmth had been yet she had forced herself to take the risk.
George had a low paid job for the council; the meagre pay barely covering their bills and her wages struggled to pay for essentials like food and clothes. And yet George still went out drinking with his few friends every Friday night. He wasn’t a drunkard; she counted herself lucky for that. He knew his limit and he kept to it diligently yet still the small vice cut into their joint wages.
She didn’t begrudge him his small comfort for she did the same with her own friends but that didn’t stop the damage such luxury caused to the back account. The car had broken down again last week, another expense that had drained the money. It hadn’t been expensive but it had been another thing on top of her ragged coat and Christmas.
Her family had fought yet again, her mother had bemoaned her for her failings, again. The car always seemed to need repairs yet George refused to buy a new one until every last scrap o use had been wrestled from the wreck of the last, nursing it through breakdowns and long hours by the side of the road, the expenses mounting until they outweighed what a replacement car would have cost.
And when eventually they had bought one a few years ago they had bought another cheap, bad deal that broke down with all the regularity of the previous one. Their holidays consisted of grotty farmhouses in tiny villages. Houses with leaky roofs or exploding ovens and yet at every turn, after every cheap, unreliable purchase George would always say, ‘It’s all we can afford’. And what was worse was that she knew, even more than him, how right he was.
George wasn’t a bad man; he didn’t treat her badly, or expect unreasonable things of her. But Jane was bored. She was young and pretty yet she was stuck in a dead-end marriage to a dead-end, unambitious man. He could have fought for promotion or negotiated a pay rise. He could have got a better job; he was intelligent enough, when he used his intelligence. Yet cautiously, boringly safe, he refused to take the risk. He was happy with what he had. He had a wife he loved, a house that was comfortable and a job that paid, and for him that was enough. For Jane though it wasn’t.
She stepped up out of the rain into the shelter of the porch and rang the bell. Nick opened it quickly, clearly waiting for her, drew her into his strong arms and she surrendered to his embrace. The grotty untidy flat didn’t seem to exist for her as he brought her inside and her heart quickened as he kissed her.
This was life, what she spent her days thinking about. Not the comfortable, two-floor, cosy suburban home where her husband and her duties and her life lay but this tiny, messy hole that stank of takeaways and beer. She felt here, with this tall, dark handsome man like she never felt with George, small, diligent, slightly overweight.
Her breathing was faster as she tasted his mouth and her heart quickened as his rough hand slid under her coat. The room seemed to spin as she abandoned her life for just a few minutes, as she softly left the boring world she had become trapped in and slid into the embrace of excitement. It was all that kept her going.
*** *** ***
Jane sat across the silent room from Angela and sipped her tea, bitter without the sugar Angela had lost the taste for and now didn’t buy. Jane had made the tea in silence and now they sat in silence, Jane unable to find anything to say. Angela’s red eyes stared dully as she sat. She had run out of tears for her lost child and now lay motionless as Jane searched for something to break the silence.
“You’re looking better.” Jane went on conversationally, wincing inside at the inanity of the comment. “You should be yourself again soon.” Her wince became a groan and an angry kick at her hindbrain.
Angela didn’t reply. Jane went silent again. Jane’s sister had had a miscarriage a few years ago and Jane had been with her throughout the tears and rage, the tea and the long walks. She knew she wanted to help but couldn’t think how. She hadn’t been through this, she couldn’t understand, however much she wanted to help she had no words, no experience. The vaunted language of civilised humanity became useless under the backbreaking weight of such painful emotion. Anna had been devastated, spending months in depression.
“Life goes on Angela.” Jane tried to help. “I know it feels terrible now but…”
“It’s not the end of the world?” Angela interrupted bitterly. “I’ve heard all the platitudes. Sean doesn’t know how to help either. All he can do is hold me and let me cry.” Jane finished the tea and placed it beside Angela’s untouched mug.
“You know,” Jane pressed on, “I know a support group for women who’ve had miscarriages. I could give you their number.”
“No thanks.” Angela replied emotionlessly. Angela felt as though she had been gutted. As though all her insides, her emotions and feelings had been scooped out. People kept calling it a miscarriage. But it had been a baby. Her daughter. She hadn’t wanted to name her at the time. She hadn’t had a funeral. Now she regretted it constantly, feeling like she’d let her child down. She didn’t want pity, or support, or help. She just wanted to sink lower into depression until the world and her pain went away. Nothing mattered anymore; the world was too painful, too hurtful for her now. All she wanted was oblivion, to become nothing and sink into herself.
*** *** ***
“Angela’s not doing well.” Jane told Mark. “The doctors have diagnosed her with severe depression. They’re going to put her on a course of drugs but it won’t take away her pain.”
“Can I help?”
“No. She won’t let anyone in. I’ve tried to help her but… I don’t know what to say. Sean is beside himself; he feels he’s lost his fiancée as well as his child. He tries to help her but nothing can get through to her.
*** *** ***
It was February. Still the wind blew hard outside the hospital walls and the rain lashed the windows. Mark was progressing quickly now. After the first six months when it looked like it would take a miracle just to keep him alive he was now wheeling his own chair and now even trying to stand.
The police still tried to question him but the newspaper was letting off nowadays, only occasionally dragging the story back up and consequently the police could afford to take their time. Inspector Farrier still visited occasionally to keep him on his toes but even he was starting to believe there was nothing Mark could remember. The counsellor the police had appointed had long since left and her replacement had visited once and decided there was nothing she could do if he didn’t want to remember.
Jane had tried a last ditch attempt to help her friend. Jane’s sister had visited Angela one day and whatever she had said had worked. Anna’s comfort and friendship had brought Angela back from her depression. The doctors credited the drug therapy for the slight recovery but Anna now visited Angela every few days and sometimes brought members of her support group with her. Angela was talking about getting back to work in a few weeks Jane said she would probably be leaving her job in the hospital, the cold, white wards having too many memories for her.
Sean walked in as Anna left and Angela met him with a pale smile. It was the first time she had done so since Christmas and his face lit up as she sat up to meet him. He held her and she held him back, not just sinking onto his shoulder to cry in his arms as she had done but she held him like she used to and he knew, in that embrace that there was hope, there was a future. She loved him.
They kissed and then settled back against the cushions of the chair. They talked about the future. The marriage was off but not for ever. Sean still loved her; her pregnancy had been an excuse to propose yet without it he still wanted to marry her.
Though Angela still hurt and her heart was still wounded they would survive. They would have a future, whatever happened.