She pauses before going outside. Always she pauses. Wonders if this is good or right yet knowing it is necessary. She steps outside, shuts the door firmly behind her. Tiny jumpsuits on the line hang without a movement. No wind. No sound. She looks up, the sky is grey and dull. Almost as though the sun could break through, almost as though it could rain. The day hesitates, swings on a balance, sun or rain. Instead it becomes nothing.
She takes a step, one and then another, then crumples to the ground. The grass is damp and overlong. He was meant to mow on the weekend. Mow and tidy up the disheveled patch that once held vegetables but now was home to weeds more luxuriant than anything they had planted.
But people had come, had come to look and stare and hold and talk. And he was so proud.
‘Oh,’ they’d cooed, ‘she’s gorgeous.’ And they’d passed the baby gently as though they enjoyed handling her. Enjoyed the weight of her in their arms. Enjoyed the milky scent of her, new and strange and so frightening.
She turns, thinking she hears a noise. She frowns in concentration, her hands heavy on the damp grass, her nails digging into the soil. There, a noise. A faint mewling sound. She shakes her head as if to clear it. If she hears nothing then there is nothing. There, nothing. She lets her head hang.
It was meant to be easy. Women do it everyday. Women in countries she can’t pronounce or point to on an atlas. Women with not enough food, no money. Who don’t live in solid new homes with shiny new appliances sitting on expensive plantation wood floors. And all that talk about breastfed is best and nature versus nurture, that a happy mother meant a happy baby. That’s all there was, talk. Talk about mother’s love and talk about bonding, talk about maternal instincts, talk about nappy rashes and creams, colic and sleep. It was just talk.
At her. Not to her. She now no longer existed.
She had before. For months she was all they cared about. They thought her so clever, her parents so happy, making plans for a future that revolved around her. He became so caring, loving. Anything she wanted, anything she desired was never too much. He cooked for her, took over the heavier household chores, massaged her back when it ached, rubbed her feet when they swelled. She was the world.
She hears the noise again, louder, more insistent. Turns her head away but the sound continues. This is what she has become. Too afraid to enter her own home. Afraid of what she could do, might do.
The sound becomes louder. She gets up, walks to the door, looks back at the sky, still undecided and goes inside.