Authors: Alison Lucy
Barely any time at all elapsed between Lucy thinking that she might be pregnant and Lucy knowing that she most definitely was. It took a certain kind of girl to keep a bundle of pregnancy tests in the bathroom drawer but she had found in the past that occasionally she needed one for reassurance. In the past the tests had all been negative.
Until today. As she stared at her positive pregnancy test, Lucy felt overcome with excitement. She was normally so careful with the rhythms of her body, finding other ways to pleasure if it was not a safe time, but that night in Mexico was different. The moonlight that bathed the island that night on the beach and the sound of waves that crashed against the shore made her wild. Danny’s touch still lingered on her skin, despite everything that had happened. Lucy was excited to have a keepsake of that night on the beach, a lovechild that would have his eyes and her thirst for adventure. But then she remembered the vow she had made. She knew what she had to do.
Tonight she would tell her parent that she was pregnant, over dinner in a crowded restaurant.
Mary and Patrick were divorced and the fact that she had asked to meet them both together spoke volumes. When she walked into the restaurant, she saw the flicker of disappointment that crossed her mother’s face when she saw that Lucy was alone. She knew her mother well and it was clear then that she had been expecting to meet a suitor, perhaps even a fiancé?
She waited until dessert. She saw no reason why her father couldn’t enjoy a good meal. It was about to get uncomfortable.
‘I have news,’ she said. ‘I’m pregnant.’
She watched, and waited, as her words settle on them, like a cloud of explosive dust. She waited until her mother’s mouth framed a response and then she added. ‘And don’t worry, I’ve worked it all out. I’ll be giving the baby up.’
Her father spoke first, a blustering request for clarification. ‘What do you mean, “giving the baby up.”?
‘For adoption, Patrick, don’t be an idiot,’ snapped her mother. ‘Of course she can’t possibly raise the child herself.’
‘Of course not,’ said Lucy faintly, letting another spoon of cheesecake act as a balm against the sharp words. She wanted a family one day. But not now, living halfway between Mexico City and London, no place to call her own, and she had made a solemn vow never to speak to Danny Featherbow ever again. ‘And Daddy I know how you feel about abortion.’
Her father had tried to raise her as a strict Catholic, in the manner that he was raised, but some of the best Catholic schools all over the world, had tried and failed to get Lucy to knuckle down to a life of good thoughts and deeds.
‘My whole life is a good deed,’ she used to say.
‘Paying for your friends to go on holiday with you is not a good deed,’ said her father.
‘To them it is.’
He was staring at her now across the table, fixing her with his penetrating stare while he formed a considered response. Her mother was asking predictable questions about dates and names, but as she rattled on it became clear to Lucy and her father that she was only thinking aloud, the very first things that came to mind, no actual answers were required.
‘This is why you brought us here to a restaurant,’ he said eventually. ‘So that we didn’t make a scene.’
‘Are you very upset?’
‘Why adoption, Lulu? You will be a good mother.’
Her eyes flooded with tears so quickly that she was crying before she even knew his words had touched her.
‘Not now,’ she said. ‘Not yet. I can barely look after myself.’
She couldn’t tell him the whole truth. She didn’t want to raise Danny Featherbow’s child and be reminded every day of what she had lost. She wasn’t strong enough.
‘My first grandchild,’ said her father.
‘I hope you’re proud of yourself,’ said her mother.
Lucy sat up straight in her chair. ‘Do you really think I would be telling you this if there was any way I could do all of it without you knowing? I’m not proud that I don’t really have anywhere to live, that I still depend on you both, but I’m proud to respect my father’s beliefs, I’m proud to be dealing with this like an adult and not sticking my head in the sand or going behind your back. And when someone who wants a baby gets mine, then maybe I will be proud of that too. I’ll be sure to let you know.’
‘Whose is it?’ asked her mother. ‘Do you even know?’
‘Of course I know,’ said Lucy. ‘But he’s irrelevant.’
‘I don’t mean it like that, it was just that he and I...’ How could she explain how things had been left between them, how some of the sweetest days of her life had soured overnight so badly that it had come to this?
‘Does he know?’ said her father.
She shook her head. ‘He told me that he never wanted to see me again. He told me to forget he existed.’
‘Who is this person? Nobody talks to you like that, I don’t care how you behave.’ His face flushed and he gripped the stem of his wineglass so tightly that his knuckles were white and shiny.
‘Patrick, calm down.’
‘Daddy, it wasn’t like you think. I broke his heart.’
‘You should tell him.’
How could she tell him when she didn’t have anything for him except a last known location? She couldn’t call him, or write him a letter. There were no postmen or telephones on the island. Cancun was thousands of miles from where they were now. There was only one way she could think of but she wasn’t prepared to go back. She never wanted to see the island again for as long as she lived.
‘He’s irrelevant,’ she said firmly. ‘I know what I want to do.’
Her mother looked strangely gleeful as if pleased that her wayward daughter had finally got herself into a mess, but her father looked very sad. She had prepared herself for his anger, but not for this hangdog expression that was as wistful as it was miserable.
He was twisting his hands around the spot where his wedding ring used to be. ‘I would help you,’ he said.
‘I would help you to raise the baby, the child.’ He spoke with purpose, this wasn’t a casual offer. Lucy didn’t know what to say. ‘He, or she, is a part of this family, our family, not some other family,’ he continued. ‘And as dysfunctional as our family might be, we have the money, plenty of money, and surely between us we can muddle though the know-how. I would help you, that’s all, if things changed.’
‘She’s made up her mind, Patrick.’
‘She has...how long do you have, Lucy? When is the baby due?’
‘In the summer. July’
Her mother sighed deeply, no doubt imagining the disruption this scandal would cause to her summer season.
‘She has seven months to think about it,’ he said. ‘We all do.’
‘I won’t change my mind,’ said Lucy.
‘We’ll see. Now, let’s order some champagne. We should be celebrating.’
‘I can’t drink!’ said Lucy, and she smiled, just a fraction. ‘The baby.’
‘You do care a little then?’ said her father. ‘You do care a bit?’
Esmeralda’s mother, Catalina, came to Cancun looking for love, but the train journey there alone almost killed her. In the cramped train carriage she clutched her little boy, Ray, close to her and prayed that by the time they reached the edge of the country they would both still be alive. What little air there was to breathe was damp with sweat and the stench of chicken shit was overpowering. One of the chickens had died in the wooden crate near her feet. The others had started to peck at it but there was little that either she or the old man who owned the chickens could do. It was two days now since Veracruz, a journey so beset with delays that she had prayed many times to San Cristobal for their safe passage.
Ray whimpered with thirst and she pressed a bottle to his lips, aware that they barely had any water left but afraid to try and leave the train. They had stood for three hours now, but Catalina felt she couldn’t move for fear of losing her place.
Agua! Agua! Vendor agua!’
The voice outside was a lifeline.
There was a scramble at the window and two of the stronger men wrenched the planks down from the open frame with a loud cracking and splintering of wood that made four year old Ray flinch. But they made a space that was wide enough for money and precious water to change hands. A shaft of sunlight reminded them all that it was morning again and illuminated the pale face of a young white woman a few feet away, clenching a backpack with the same ferocity that Catalina held onto her son.
said Catalina. ‘Water. You want water?’
The young woman smiled gratefully and passed across her money. After the transaction she pushed a few more pesos onto Catalina for her trouble and Catalina didn’t even bother trying to demur. They needed everything they could get, her and Ray, and she was grateful for the chance to try out her hesitant English. Her English would set her apart from the hoards that were descending on this new city,
. A place which the government had dragged from the swamp and made into paradise. She struggled to conceive of a beach resort springing into life where before there had only been sand dunes and mosquitoes. It sounded impossible and there was still a tiny part of her that was scared of arriving at the coast to find it was cruel hoax. She had seen pictures, they all had, of towering hotels with thousands of rooms, swimming pools and restaurants, standing on Mexico’s eastern face and turning a proud face towards each rising sun.
She stashed one bottle of water in her thin cotton satchel and then drank long and hard from the second before giving the rest of it to Ray. He smiled at her, so trusting still, despite the ordeal of this stinking, crammed train heading miles away from home on nothing more than the promise of a better life.
,’ her father had said when he pressed the train tickets on her. ‘
Take the boy and go.’
They were both crying when she left, her mother and her father, they knew that it was unlikely they would ever see her again. And she went because she respected her father and believed that he was always right. He had been right about the father of her child when he said he was no good. She looked down at Ray. She should have listened to her father then. It was the right thing to do, the only thing. There were no jobs left in the city where she’d grown up, instead there were more beggars on the street, and here and there human beings fought over scraps like dogs. The city she was born in became a frightening place to live and she stayed away from the waterfront at night as it fell into disrepair, reduced to a slum of gutted buildings, dark and dirty streets blocked by milling vendors, and ever more vacant lots. Finally the government announced to the world what they all knew in their hearts, that the country was penniless, the collapse of oil prices and the soaring interest rates had dragged their beloved Mexico to the brink of ruin and humiliation.
The train started to move and as they pulled out of Merida, the last stop before the land on which her dreams were pinned, she turned her tired face so that little Ray would not see her cry. There was a squawking as the old man thrust his hands into the cage of chickens and removed the carcass of the one that had died. Pushing it to Catalina he motioned at the window and spoke to her in a Mayan dialect she did not know. His meaning was clear. She pushed the poor dead chicken out of the window and wiped the feathers from her hands.