Read Dark Place to Hide Online
Authors: A J Waines
Copyright © 2015 AJ Waines.
The moral right of the author has been asserted. All characters and events in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All Rights Reserved.
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In memory of my father, Gordon Waines
You had a resolute zest for life and were a true inspiration - always
A handful of words – that’s all it takes. He lays them out for me, leaning forward man to man, his palms on his knees. His tone is pacifying as if he thinks I’ve guessed; as if by now I must have worked it out.
‘Your wife’s had a miscarriage,’ he says.
The doctor’s words force my spine into the back of the seat, crushing me. I am being shunted further and further back, watching the floating faces of the two nurses beside him trying to reach me, their expressions creased with sympathy. Those words in themselves are ripe with disarray. A baby. It’s a complete shock. I didn’t know.
But there’s more.
There’s a moment first, when I think of what this means to you. The child you’ve been waiting for, hoping for, longing for – we both have. You must be torn apart.
The doctor straightens up. He’s delivered the bad news and, for the medical team, it is cut and dry. Shock, distress, sadness – that will be my onward journey in their eyes; hard, but inevitable. But they are wrong.
What he has told me doesn’t make sense.
How can you be having a miscarriage?
You can’t possibly be pregnant.
I can’t remember the correct order of events after that. They said I could see you, Diane, but I must have stalled because the next minute I’m wandering off towards an open window by the stairwell with a plastic cup of water in my hand. One of the nurses must have handed it to me. She must have thought I needed time to prepare myself to face your grief, a period of quiet to find the right words of solace and comfort for you. But instead, a loud voice inside me is yelling,
How can this have happened?
Blood is pumping hard and fast into my temples, my neck, my chest and I hate myself for letting this question fog my brain when you’ve been rushed here in pain in panic. Of course, I was frantic when I got the call. I nearly sprained my ankle racing up the stairs to get to you, distraught and almost out of my mind. They said you had been found at the side of the road in a pool of blood; you were in intensive care and my mind was racing. I thought at first you’d been struck by a car or attacked in a secluded lane. I thought I’d lost you and I’d find a white sheet covering your face.
One emotional state, however, is now shaking down all the others and rising to the top. It is no longer panic or desperation, but confusion. It is starting to look like you have hidden a massive transgression from me; one that could shatter a marriage in the blink of an eye.
‘This way, Dr Penn,’ says the nurse. ‘Diane wants you to come through, now.’
She must have mistaken my sigh for a sign that I’m impatient to see you. In fact, I need more time. I let her guide me, like a marionette, through two sets of double doors towards your bed. I find myself hiding my shaking hands from her as if I’m afraid she’ll think I’m not man enough for you.
My eyes stumble on your face; worn and framed with sticky clumps of hair. You’ve been through a fight. My spirit dissolves at your vulnerability. I grab your hand.
‘I’m okay,’ you say, saving me from having to ask.
The nurse steps forward holding a clipboard. ‘Your wife collapsed. She was on the verge of a haemorrhage, Dr Penn – it was touch and go there, for a while.’
You shake your head a little as if it was nothing; it’s so like you to play down your own misfortunes.
‘I didn’t know,’ you whisper. I can see no trace of remorse or guilt and I reproach myself for looking for it; I should be resoundingly and solely grateful that you are alive, able to recognise me, form sentences. Still, I probe your dewy eyes for signs, but there aren’t any. You catch my frown. You think I’m perturbed because you hadn’t told me.
‘I’m so sorry, Harper,’ you whimper.
I sit beside you. It was only a few hours since we’d laughed at breakfast; you dropping your buttered toast and catching it between your knees. You’ve always been quick like that – coordinated and sporty, like your sister. Now you look gaunt and pale – a different person.
‘How are you feeling? Are you in pain?’
You rub your belly and wince. ‘I had to have a D&C – it’s fading now. I have to stay here for a couple of days, they said.’
‘What happened?’ I mean the bigger question, the series of events, sweeping all my accumulated uncertainties into one giant enquiry, but you hear only one strand of it.
‘We got pregnant,’ you say, ‘and I didn’t even know.’ Your face buckles at this moment of recognition.
I thumb the tears gently away from your eyes, trying to ease away the pain. Wishing I could bear it for you.
‘How many weeks?’
‘Only seven…’ You look down at my hand, holding on.
Seven weeks ago. My mind scatters as I try to pin the date into the calendar in my head. It would have been early June. We’d been in London the weekend of the 31
May and we’d made love – that much was true. I remember it, because I haven’t been able to function in that department as often as I’d have liked. Nevertheless…
‘I’m sorry,’ you say, again, your eyes struggling to focus.
For what, exactly? My male pride is bursting to ask, but now isn’t the time. You are my wife, hurting, suffering and in disbelief. I need to put a hold on my questions and be here for you. You need my support. There’s been a baby – the one thing we’ve been waiting for; the dream, the rapture that would have made everything complete. And you have lost it. Your body has rejected it.
‘It’s not your fault,’ I say, kissing your limp fingers. All your movements are in slow motion and you can barely string two words together. I know you’re playing it down; the physical pain, the distress – being brave for my benefit. I can’t confront you with the rest of it – not now.
‘I’m so glad you’re here,’ you whisper. ‘Just hold me.’ I scoop you into me and feel your feverish sweat roll against my cheek. We’ll have to talk about it later. The answers are all there, I just have to wait. Then the truth will be laid out, not only for me, but also for you. As it happens, I have my own secret to share. I have my own concealment to lay bare.
Because there is also something I haven’t told you.
The day after you came home I was back at my specialist’s clinic for one of the injections he prescribed. I told him what had happened and asked whether there was the slimmest sliver of a chance the baby could have been mine. He didn’t falter in his response. I hoped for a tiny shard of doubt, but there was none. On the basis of my recent results, it was impossible.
It’s a cliché, but I hoped you and I would tell each other everything – all the important stuff at least. This issue certainly falls into that category. Isn’t it
most important issue: our own family, our offspring, our entire future? I should have said something to you when I made the initial appointment. I should have spoken up the moment I had doubts. We’d never discussed infertility – well neither of us had used that word. You said something to me once – about six months ago. You were sitting on the carpet, sewing a button onto your coat, and you looked up at me. I was taking measurements of the fireplace, my hands covered in red dust from the broken bricks that keep falling down from our crumbling chimney. Your voice was matter of fact and undemonstrative as if we were continuing, out loud, the conversation you must have started in your head.
‘How would we know if one of us couldn’t have children?’
My reply came straight out. ‘We’d need to have tests, I suppose.’
‘When?’ you said, squinting up at me as I stood in a spear of sunlight.
‘I don’t know. At a stage when we felt we’d tried long enough and nothing had happened.’ You went quiet and I should have said more instead of leaving you with my clinical
reply. I should have checked how concerned you were, but I moved away to fetch the dustpan for the hearth. Whilst you didn’t pursue it when I returned, your words had sown their own dark seed in my consciousness. I’d started to look at dates, search on the Internet and to examine myself in the mirror. We’d got our timing right too often; the conditions had been set perfectly too many times – there had to be a problem.
The day of my first appointment came and went in May and I didn’t say a word to anyone. You were at school, as usual, no doubt keeping your seven year olds enthralled with spelling contests or stories about the rainforest. I should have taken you with me, we should have gone together, but I was afraid. On the one hand, I hoped I’d get away with it, hoped I’d be wrong and my fears would be misplaced. I didn’t want to lay doubts in your mind and worry you when the tests might show my sperm to be fit and strong, kicking hard to find their way home. But perhaps a bigger part of me already knew.
I got the results six weeks ago. Once I found out, I was even more of a coward. I couldn’t destroy your hopes, your brightest dream. How could I begin the sentence that would tell you it was never going to happen? That any child we might have could never come from me? I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I kept telling myself I would when the time was right. But when was there ever going to be a
to bulldoze over the rest of your life?
You spent most of yesterday asleep after I brought you home from the hospital. I made sure Alexa came to sit with you when I went to the specialist, but she said you didn’t stir. This afternoon, she was here again while I went to the supermarket. I couldn’t think straight, drifting blindly along the aisles and ended up with mainly dog food. Now I’ve returned, you’re lying on the sofa, your head propped up with extra pillows, supping camomile tea.
‘Has Alexa gone?’ I ask, half in hope.
‘Yes – literally two minutes ago.’
‘She must have heard my car coming back.’
You cringe because you know I’m probably right. I can’t seem to do much about the prickly relationship Alexa has with me. She’s so easily offended and seems perpetually put out by the very fact of my presence.
‘I wish she’d lighten up,’ you say, annoyed on my behalf.
‘You remember how horrified she was when you told her we were getting married?’
‘I’ll never forget it – she looked like someone had died.’ You bite your lip like it’s your fault.
‘I suppose, for her, something
gone for good – she’d had you all to herself for years and suddenly your priorities were elsewhere.’ I don’t need to remind you that she’s never got over it.
You’re distracted by Frank, who has brought a soggy tennis ball in from the garden and dropped it on your lap, waiting for you to throw it for him. ‘Not inside,’ I tell him, picking up the ball and walking with it to the open back door.
‘It’s okay,’ you insist, ‘as long as he doesn’t hurt himself.’ You’re more worried about his welfare than any upheaval he may cause to the furnishings.
‘You’re too attached to him,’ I say in mock rebuke as I throw the ball down the lawn. You were thrilled when Mark asked if we’d have his border collie ‘on loan’ while he went to Peru.