Authors: Janelle Harris
No Kiss Goodbye
Edited by Jenny Sims @ editing4indies
Cover by Najla Quamber @ Najlaquamberdesigns.com
Copyright © 2015 Janelle Harris
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental. The author recognizes the trademarks and copyright of all registered products and works mentioned with this work.
Table of contents
Thank you for teaching me to be a bookworm.
Example is powerful xx
The nightmare fell so suddenly upon us that I don’t remember exactly when or how it began. I don’t remember seeing the lights change or pressing my foot on the accelerator. I don’t remember if the baby was awake and wriggling or if she had lulled herself back to sleep. I don’t remember the nursery rhyme Bobby hummed to himself as he munched on a mouthful of mushy Milky Bar. But I do remember the fear, the burning horror that stuck to my mind like superglue. It was, in reality, a split second, but for me, it played out in terrifying slow motion.
My own petrified screams drowned out the high-pitched squeals of my brakes, fighting to grind my car to a halt. The thud was so sudden that my mind struggled to catch up with the rapid images that flashed before my eyes. The pressure of my heart pulsating viciously against my chest was almost painful.
My car was spinning, that much I knew, but I had no idea in what direction. I was moving at a speed my car had never seen. The normal events of the busy street were interrupted as passers-by held their breaths in disbelief. Trees, street lamps, and traffic lights blended into an array of muddled colours as they rushed closer to the windscreen. It was like a scene from a Hollywood action movie, but the crash dummies were real people. They were just babies. And I couldn’t help them.
Painful pressure forced my eyes shut; the outside world was now blank. The flip of my car as the driver’s side wheel mounted the curb was, I’m sure, a breathtaking crescendo to the scattered spectators powerless to help. The seat belt banished the air from my lungs as it fought to save my life. My body, restrained in the driver’s seat, thrashed from side to side like a rag doll between an angry dog’s jaws. For a moment, I imagined myself outside the car. Just a casual shopper stumbling upon a horrific crash and hoping nobody would be hurt; all the while suspecting survival was impossible.
Suddenly, there was a ferocious bang on the passenger side of the car, and I couldn’t hear crying anymore. And then, just as quickly as it had begun, it was over. A few seconds had left a mark that would last forever. Nothing would ever be the same again. Everything was still and terrifyingly silent, as my mind lay trapped inside my limp body. Maybe people were rushing to help, or maybe no one came. I don’t know. All I do know is at that moment I stopped fighting for my life. At that moment, I stopped being me.
Well, Heaven really sucks…and stinks
. The smell is very unique; an unpleasant combination of overcooked mashed potatoes and an antibacterial cleaner of some sort. I always thought Heaven would be white and fluffy with harpists in oversized white robes dotted on every second cloud. I was expecting clichéd classical music and radiant, bright light, but this place is pitch black. Maybe there is an Earth-to-Heaven time zone difference, and I’ve arrived at the pearly gates in the middle of the night Central Heaven Time.
Maybe I’m in Hell, but again, I’m sure I’d see a little more action than just complete darkness. A bit of chanting around a fire-filled crater or some searing, red flames would help convince me. Maybe the devil has misplaced his trident and everyone is busy looking for it. And once they find it, the hellish antics will begin.
A few minutes later, when I’m still on the edge of existence with just my thoughts for company, I’m decidedly confused. I can’t believe I wasted all those childhood years afraid of ghosts, and now that I finally need a floating apparition, I can’t find one.
I decide if I’m not in Heaven or Hell, then maybe I’m playing a waiting game in limbo. Perhaps God and the devil are in a massive boardroom thrashing out a huge superior-being argument over who gets my soul for all eternity. They will probably call me in at any minute now, and it will be the ultimate interview. I really should have paid more attention the last time the head of human resources gave my department that life-coaching pep talk.
Just as I’m completely losing my patience, it hits me.
Oh crap, crap, and crap.
What if I’m in the morgue? I’ve heard of that kind of thing; you see it on those weird reality shows on the telly, don’t you? Where they think you’re dead, but you’re not, and you wake up all freaked out with a load of dead people beside you. So far, I am definitely freaking out. I just have to figure out the waking up part. I’d roll my eyes if I could. I’ve just jumped from the bliss of Heaven to the isolation of the morgue all in the same thought process. Maybe I’m losing my mind.
And that was it…my best explanation so far. I’m obviously in a psychiatric hospital, and they’ve heavily sedated me to prevent self-harming. No wonder I can’t move; my straight jacket is on too tight.
Oh c’mon, Laura. Get a grip.
Great, just great. I’ve started talking to myself. Do they still say that’s one of the first signs of madness? And now I’m asking myself questions.
What the hell?
I’m slipping further into my own crazy, little bubble. I would slap myself if I could figure out how to move my arm. Okay, I really have to stop thinking like this. Because if I’m not already in an institution, then it’s definitely where I’ll end up.
The strengthening smell of detergent interrupts me from the very profound analysis of my current location. It’s such a familiar smell, but I just can’t put my finger on it. I become irritatingly aware of the presence of people all around me. People who are pushing and pulling my body in all directions, but they are rudely ignoring me. I’m so angry with myself. I just want to stay conscious long enough to decipher what the fuck is happening. Finally, I recognise the smell. If I’m in the hospital, then at least I’m still alive. And then the most awful reality shakes me.
The kids? What about the kids?
The accident flashes in my memory as the smell of burning rubber still stings my nose. Where are the babies? My heart is aching with fear. The last thing I remember is the numbing silence where the children’s screams should have been. I can’t stand it. I have to get out of here.
I know almost everyone says they don’t like hospitals. After all, they smell distinctively clinical, they are full of terrifying torture-like instruments, and they are a forceful reminder of our own mortality. But I don’t know anyone who hates them quite as much as I do. I can barely breathe; my own thoughts are torturing me. I. Have. To. Get. Out.
My legs and arms still refuse to move. Every part of me is completely limp. I can feel the self-pity engulf me, and the hysteria that follows is so overwhelming it actually hurts. And I scream. I just let it all out. I can’t live like this, as just a mind trapped inside this lifeless body. I’ll go mad; I already am. I need to be normal. I have to look after my kids. I
I have kids to look after because I’m not prepared to think about the alternative – not for a second.
I have to calm down. If I keep screaming like a banshee tangled in a hairdryer, then I’m going to scare the other patients. But if I’m screaming so loudly, then why can’t I hear anything? I’m either deaf or no sound is coming out. I lie very still for a few moments. The room is now eerily silent except for the occasional beeping of a monitor of some sort.
Where did everyone go? Who cares
. At least I know I can still hear. Now I just have to face the realisations that not only can I not move, but I also can't speak. I’m a cabbage.
A fucking cabbage.
This is not fair.
I must have drifted back to sleep because it felt like hours had passed before I finally hear voices again. This time I recognise the voice. It’s deep and almost a whisper. It’s Mark. His sentences are broken, and I can’t make out what he’s saying, but it’s wonderful just to hear his voice. I know he’s crying, and I wish so hard that I could reach out to him and tell him it will all be okay. But I’d probably just be lying to both of us. The longer I go without moving, the worse the prognosis. My obsession with Saturday morning reruns of
has taught me that much.
I soon realise Mark isn’t talking to me. He’s discussing my condition with a doctor. They seem to edge a little closer to me, and I strain to gather jumbled bits and pieces from their conversation. Mark’s voice is becoming very jumpy and agitated, and it’s not like him.
Maybe he found out something awful about my condition.
‘I’m very sorry, Mark, but your wife has lost the baby.’
My heart literally stops.
I scream again without sound or movement
. Not Katie. Please not my beautiful little girl?
I plead with God to exchange my life for hers.
‘Oh Christ no,’ Mark says. ‘Is there something you can do? Anything? Please?’
‘I’m so very sorry, Mr. Kavanagh. Was the baby planned?’
‘No. Not really. It’s complicated.’ Mark sighs heavily.
‘Unfortunately, the pregnancy did cause complications, and despite our best efforts, we struggled to control the bleeding.’
‘And…’ Mark’s voice is a little above a soft whisper now.
The doctor doesn’t reply, and there is a moment of silence. Maybe he shakes his head or makes some sort of other gesture, I don’t know. But if it’s possible to hear anguish, then that’s definitely what I hear.
‘Laura will be so devastated,’ Mark says, suddenly shattering the silence. ‘She won’t be able to cope with this on top of everything else.’
I feel such a poignant sense of loss for something I never really had in the first place. I can sense the pain in Mark’s voice. I’m so damn selfish for putting him through this.
And then the tightness in my chest loosens, and I am aware of my chest rising and falling as I breathe. They are talking about an early pregnancy; they are not talking about baby Katie. Of course, the news hurts, but there’s also the guilt. Guilt that I’m so relieved. Relieved it’s not Katie.
It’s not my little girl.
‘It is possible your wife is suffering from depression. It’s not uncommon. Is there anything in her home life that may be causing her stress?’
I resent the doctor’s condescending tone. He has no right to make assumptions about me or about my life. He doesn’t know me. Or Mark. I concentrate, but I don’t hear Mark respond.
‘We have liaised with the Gardaí at the scene, and it is being suggested that your wife took off at a high speed while the traffic lights were still red,’ the doctor says, before clearing his throat with a dry, uncomfortable cough.
I shudder with the shock of his accusation.
He wasn’t suggesting I crashed intentionally, was he?
I wonder if the monitor will show my blood pressure soar.
‘Was Laura very concerned about the pregnancy or birth?’
What is this guy’s problem?
Mark, don’t let him poke holes in our relationship.
Stand up to him
, I plead internally. I beg my hands to move. I want so desperately to touch my husband. To give him a sign that I’m here. I’m still here; my stupid body has trapped me inside and it refuses to cooperate. But Mark remains silent. He’s close enough for me to sense the heat from his body, but he’s still so far. Too far. I can feel the empty distance between us.
This must be killing him.
The distance grows. And grows. Mark is gone, and I have no way to ask him to come back. My heart is breaking, and I have no way to make it stop.
Days pass, maybe even weeks. I’m finding it hard to keep track of time. It’s difficult to differentiate between day and night. Deep sleep washes over me in fitful waves, never allowing me to fully wake. I suspect night time is when Mark leaves the vigil he keeps by my bedside and goes home to hopefully get some sleep and check on things back at our house. I’m alone with nothing but my overtired thoughts for another twelve hours. I look forward to his return; when he will whisper happy memories and hopes for the future to me all day again, just waiting for me to respond.
‘Bye, princess. I have a surprise for you tomorrow,’ Mark whispers, while leaning over to kiss me.
For a second, I think I can feel his lips on my forehead, but the giddy bubbles of excitement in my tummy make it hard to concentrate.
Maybe he is going to bring the kids to see me.
God, I miss them so much.
Jesus, Mark, a moment like this and you have to fart.
You were eating in the canteen again, weren’t you? Only hospital food can do that to a system. Where are you going? Don’t you dare walk off and leave me with that smell.