I wasn’t very sad when our son died. I mean of course I was sad, but not heart-broken. Sounds horrible, I know, but I just wasn’t. Had the child been maybe five or something, I would have completely broken down, but it had been only a month old. How aware is a human being at that point? Besides, I had to take care of Emily. She just couldn’t handle it. But then she was the one who had carried the baby. I had suggested adoption, but she had insisted that she wanted her child to truly be hers. At least we didn’t use Mark as a donor as the original plan had been. The unknown father of our son would never know what had happened. “We’ll just try again”, I said after the funeral.
“Oh Katy”, Emily said with a smile. “Sometimes I really loathe you.”
Months went by, but Emily wasn’t able to get over the loss and fell deeper and deeper into depression. We saw a therapist together and did online research about losing a child, but nothing seemed to help her. Then on the anniversary of Timothy’s (named after Emily’s grandfather) death, something happened.
“Katy”, she whispered to me at the cemetery. “He’s here.”
“Well, this is his grave”, I, an insensitive idiot, replied.
“No. In here”, Emily whispered and held her hands to her stomach. She looked up at me and there was a shine in her eyes that hadn’t been there for a year.
We didn’t talk about what Emily had said at the cemetery. As weeks went by, she slowly became her old self again. She smiled and laughed a lot and arranged dinner parties for friends who had kept a respectful distance from us. We went for long walks together and fed ducks at the park. I would come home from work and she would be there with food on the table and a hug and a kiss ready for me. After one of the parties, Mark said that we looked happier than ever.
I enjoyed this until a couple of months had passed and something about Emily began to seem a little off. Is it wrong to say that someone you love is too happy? It was just that no matter what the situation, she always smiled. Always. And when I told her that the company would be interested in having her back at work she laughed and called me silly, saying that she possibly couldn’t now. I came home one day to find that she had painted the office-turned-into-nursery-turned-back-into-office pale blue. I started catching her stroking her stomach while gently whispering to it with a mysterious smile on her face.
I didn’t know what to do so I contacted the therapist we had seen before and asked if he could help.
“I think she really believes she is pregnant”, I said over the phone.
“And there is absolutely no way she is?” the therapist asked. I burst out laughing before realising that the man was serious.
“Of course not!” I quickly said. “Besides, this has been going on for months. If she was pregnant, it would be visible by now.” The therapist stayed quiet for a while and then asked for me to bring Emily over for a meeting.
Emily refused. She laughed softly and stroked my hair, calling me silly again. I got angry. I yelled. She got angry. We argued. And then Emily was suddenly smiling again.
“He can hear us, you know. We shouldn’t fight like this”, she said softly with a hand on her stomach.
“You need help”, I pleaded, by now with tears in my eyes. “Emily, please. You are not pregnant. We are not having another child. We will if you want to. We can start making plans right away. Please. Emily, please.”
“It’s okay, Katy,” Emily whispered and pulled me into a hug. “It’s okay.”
I wanted to leave. Just pack my things and go. Emily started openly talking about the baby she believed she was carrying and I no longer knew what to say. There were days when I’d work overtime to avoid going home and then days when I’d leave early just to go see Emily. I uninvited friends she invited over because I was so embarrassed by her. Emily’s attitude towards me turned patronising and reassuring, as if I was the one losing my mind.
“One more month, Katy. It’ll be alright. We’ll be so happy”, she told me one evening.
I woke up to the sound of someone crying. I turned to my side to see Emily’s face contorted with pain and tears running down her pale cheeks. Her hands were on her still very flat stomach, but this time she was scratching at it with her nails. I sat up in alarm and took a hold of her wrists.
“It’s not getting out!” Emily screamed and tried to pull her hands free. “It’s not getting out!”
“Emily, calm down!” I shouted back. She managed to break my hold and started trashing on the bed. She was scratching herself so violently I could see blood.
“Get it out! Get it out! Katy! Help!”
“Calm down”, I said, lowering my voice to a whisper. All of a sudden, Emily stopped screaming and curled up on her side. The only sound in the room was her sobbing.
“Thank you, Katy”, she said with a shaky voice. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It’s out. It’s gone. It’s over. Thank you, Katy. I love you. Thank you.” I lay down next to her and held her tightly against my chest. Her breathing calmed down and eventually she drifted off to sleep. I stayed up all night, praying that this whole thing was now over.
I called my boss the next morning and said I couldn’t make it to work. At breakfast, I kept up an inane conversation that turned out to be a monologue with Emily staring at a wall, only occasionally giving a nod or a quiet hum. She hardly touched the food and excused herself after I ran out of things to say.
“It’s over”, she said before leaving the kitchen. “You don’t have to worry anymore.”
Emily’s words made me afraid she was going to hurt herself or something and I took leave from work. We stayed at the house together and spent hours in silence. I couldn’t tell if Emily had gotten over whatever madness she had been under, but it seemed like she was calming down. At nights, she would sleep so peacefully I could hardly imagine what had been going on.
I, on the other hand, found myself agitated and restless. While Emily slept, I’d sit on the bed and watch her, listening to the silence of the house.
Only it wasn’t silent.
I didn’t want to alarm Emily so I didn’t tell her what I sometimes heard. A baby crying. The first time I heard it, I had assumed it was Emily, but it wasn’t. Then I told myself I was imagining things. Obviously some memories of our dead child (I never called it by its name) had been triggered by Emily’s instability and I only thought I could hear the crying.
I kept this to myself as long as I could and even when Emily started carefully taking up my insomnia, I made weak excuses. Before the death of the baby, we had never kept secrets from each other. Nothing big, at least. Now, however, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her about these hallucinations. I was embarrassed, this time by myself. A little frightened too. I tried to tell myself I was protecting Emily, but I wasn’t very convincing.
We bought sleeping pills for me, but I only pretended to take them. I couldn’t close my ears to the crying. Eventually I started whispering calming words into the dark room and even sing quiet lullabies. They worked. The cries would stop and I was able to fall asleep.
A whole year passed before I stopped hearing the crying. At first I would still stay up in case it’d come, but it didn’t. After this I didn’t need the medicine to fall asleep. Emily and I were both working again. We would see friends and family and go to the park to feed the ducks. We gave them all names and argued which one was which. Sometimes I could hear laughing behind us. A clear, high-pitched, beautiful, oh so beautiful laughter. I could tell Emily heard it too, but neither of us ever turned around.
Another year passed and Emily and I decided to get another child. We filled adoption papers and did interviews and eventually got ourselves a little girl of four years old. She was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. The pale blue office was turned back into a nursery and was filled with the laughter of the three of us. And whenever a fourth voice joined in, I felt something very warm in my heart.
On Mary’s (named after her late mother) tenth birthday, the house was full of guests. Mary had invited all of her classmates with the secret agenda of getting more presents that way. I was kind of proud of her for this and made the mistake of saying so to Emily who didn’t always approve of my ideas of good parenting. I got a light slap on the arm, but could see that she was also trying not to laugh.
While Mary busied herself with her presents, I slipped into the kitchen. I was finishing the icing of the cake when I felt someone tug at my dress. I didn’t turn around.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Tell Mum goodbye too, will you?”
I picked up the cake and left the kitchen. I joined the others in the living room where the guests were gathered around a large table. Mary let out an excited squeal at the sight of the cake and when she blew out the candles I locked my eyes with Emily and secretly made a wish of my own.