Friday, May 23, 2008

Evie: Parts one, two and three

This Week’s Theme: Conspinkey. Don't look that word up, because it doesn't exist. But you're going to use it in your entry.

The apartment is quiet save for the gentle hum of the fridge in the kitchen, white noise in an otherwise noiseless space. I search for traces, the reminders that are uniquely his. I avoid the photographs, the happy smiles of man, woman and child on the walls and the build-at-home shelves. On a small pre-loved table by the front door is his gym card –casually tossed there last night. He’ll need to charm his way in for his lunch time laps today.

As I walk to the bedroom I see the Scrabble board and I look down to see what’s on it. Just two words today. The first is qwigybo - the word that always starts it off. Connecting through the ‘i’, running vertically, is conspinkey. It is so long since we’ve talked, that I wouldn’t even know what conspinkey might mean in his world. A conspiratorial ring of key cutters? I pick another seven letters and place them down in no particular order, utlising the ‘y’. It’s been so long since I played.

We once laughed like teenagers when we read the made up words in the New York Times and we both agreed that we’d need an ‘innoculatte’ each morning – the coffee you take intravenously when you’re running late for work. And we were always running late. So busy – always. Too busy to have a child, but Sarah-Jane came along to prove us wrong. Just the one, he’d said, then along came Daniel … and now Evie.

As I stand at the bedroom door, I convince myself that this is his fault. I’m not, and I won’t be to blame for my actions. If he’s above feeling guilt, so will I. He’s pushed and pushed me and now I’m shoving back. He forced me to build the walls, I built around myself.

I think of Newton for a moment – that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Well this is it.

I tip toe into the bedroom and see her lying asleep on the huge bed. I don’t think of the bed, of what went on here – I only think of her, of Evie, of the baby that finally completes my family.

Her tiny pink hands are squeezed into miniature fists on either side of her head, her delicate arms thrown backwards in a sleeping version of the moro reflex. The cupid bow lips, begin to suck and I know exactly what she is dreaming.

Gently I slide my hands under her tiny sleeping body, cradling her head and carefully place her against my chest. I fear the thundering of my heart will wake her and I need her to stay blissfully asleep.

At the front door I take the lime green baby sling from a hook and put it over my shoulder like a hand bag. She stirs ever so slightly.
“Oh Evie,” I croon, so only she and I can hear. “Oh darling little Evie.”

She sleeps on against my chest as I close the front door and take out the single brass key left temporarily abandoned in the lock.
“Sleep little Evie sleep,” I whisper in a sing song voice, as we go out through the front gate and out into the street.

And we walk, Evie and I, one block, then two and three, until we are far away. The hollow ache in my womb lessens; the feeling of flesh consuming flesh is retreating, the coldness, the barrenness receding like the ebb tide and being replaced with a subtle warm glow. I have Evie and everything will be OK now, my family is complete.

- - - - - - - - - -
The bedroom is cold, but it’s not the drop in temperature that brings me out of my dead sleep. I’ve had a let down and the constriction in my breasts, as the milk gushes down the ducts is painful, still. The milk begins to leak and soak, warm and sticky into my t-shirt. I pull my shirt up and reach out to draw her to me. She’s not there. I absently sweep my hand across the sheets searching for where she’s wiggled to but there is only cold cotton sheet beneath my outstretched palm.

There’s a jolt of dread and I sit up. I’m the only one on the bed.

Where is Evie – oh fuck what have I done?

She’s not on the bed and I have horrific images of her lying twisted and mangled on the floor beside the bed, but there’s just my slippers, kicked off earlier on when I relented and laid down for an afternoon sleep with her.

Where can she be?

I’m so sleep deprived I’m not certain of anything anymore. Did I put her to sleep somewhere else? Did I just think that I laid her on the bed to sleep?

I stumbled out into the lounge room, with fear rapidly twisting close my airways. Her quilt, made by Sarah-Jane is lying on the floor. Evie was happy to lie on her back there this morning, her arms haphazardly flapping about, as I tried to read a magazine for five minutes. And then she’d started to cry … again.

The crying seems to be never ending. Colic they say – whatever that means. She’s unsettled a lot of the time, but so am I. I thought I was ready for motherhood, but this isn’t what a bargained on. Everything has changed and I want it back like it used to be. Love doesn’t conquer all.

Could I have done something to Evie? Have I done something to my difficult and darling daughter?

Like a woman possessed I run from room to room, the bathroom, the laundry, the spare room with the bed piled high with nappies and baby clothes. She’s not anywhere … she’s just disappeared. I check the garbage bin, the fruit and vegetable crisper, the freezer … the oven.

I pinch myself so hard a bruise immediately rushes to the surface and I begin to cry.

Next thing, I’m still sitting, staring at the Scrabble board and Michael’s nonsense word. Conspinkey – what the hell does that mean? What does any of this mean? Everything is distorted, staring out through the tears.

My t-shirt is soaked and my breasts are throbbing – they are going to explode. I’m going to explode. I need Evie … Evie needs me. I’m crying tears of salt and breast milk. And I can’t think straight. I can’t breathe. My head is spinning and I’m hyperventilating.

I look at the Scrabble board again. There’s a third word on the board. I scramble for the phone and ring Michael. His call is routed through to his secretary and she tells me in her haughty voice that he’s unavailable. I yell hysterically at her to get him for me, it’s urgent .. it’s about Evie.

After a time he comes to the phone, and I can tell from the tone of his breathing he’s pissed at me.
“Evie is gone,” I wail. “Someone’s taken Evie.”

- - - - - - - - -

“Yo Sarah-Jane.”

I ignore him, I’m not interested. The bus is crowded and it’s easy for me to pretend that I don’t hear him.
“He’s cute,” Sally giggles into my ear, as we hang like chimps from the commuter bars, lurching backwards and forwards into each other as the bus driver kamikazes his way from the city out into the suburbs.
“Not my type.”
“Sure he is.”
“I’ve got enough happening at the moment with out boy stuff.”

My phone starts ringing. It’s in my bag and I have to let go of the bar, squeeze down between Sarah and some other girl, tug the zipper on open and it’s gone to message bank by the time I’ve got it in my hand.

“Just my Dad,” I comment up to Sally, looking at his number on the screen.
“You gonna ring him back.”

I stand up and shrug my shoulders.
“It’s complicated.”
“How’s your Mum taking it all?”
I shrug my shoulders again.
“Like I said it’s complicated. I’d prefer not to know.”
“You’ve got Her on Facebook.”
“Only because Mum doesn’t do Facebook.”
“Do you like Her.”
“I don’t hate Her.”
“Do you hate your Dad.”
“Not really. He says love conquers all. It’s just a cop out, sugar coating his own selfishness.”

The bus is nearing my stop.
“You want to come and hang out for a bit.”
Sally shakes her head.

She gives me a hug and then I clamber over the top of school bags and leather clad feet towards the back door, dragging my too heavy school bag behind me. Free of the bus and the smell of Impulse and boys sweat, I pull out my iPod and walk home with music blasting into my ears. It’s almost as if I believe that the music will chase out all the thoughts I don’t want to have.

Mum’s car is in the driveway when I get home. It’s been years since she had Friday’s off, since we were little and at primary school. I turn off the iPod as I open the door and immediately hear the screaming of a baby. The sound is coming from the guest room, the room that is now Mum’s. It’s like she’s martyred herself, a guest in her own home just because Dad doesn’t live here any more.

I see Mum sitting on the bed and immediately recognise the pink pig, jumpsuit feet as Evie’s. Mum’s bawling too and there’s something both desperate and primal in their collective wailing.

“Mum,” I say as I sit down on the bed next to her, putting my hand on her arm. “Mum.”

After a while she realises that I’m there and looks at me with swollen, bloodshot eyes. Evie continues to wail, her face blood red and tightly bunched.

“I wanted another one and your father said no,” she sobbed, holding Evie closer to her. “I wanted another baby …. he said no …. I froze him out … I was so angry and hurt …. I did it for so long he left …. And now there’s Evie … one two three … one two three … one….”

She begins to cry again and her words become sobs.

I stroke her arm.
“Mum. How about you give me Evie,” I suggest. “I’ll go and change her nappy for you” even though there hasn’t been a nappy in our house for 12 years.
“Yes ... yes … Sarah-Jane. You’re such a big girl. Such a big help to Mummy.”

I’m standing out the front of our house, with Evie wrapped up in an old towel, my little finger in her soft pert mouth, when Dad and Her arrive.

“Leave Mum alone,” I say with venom that scares me, as I hand Evie over and my key to their apartment that Mum used to get in. “You’ve both put her through hell. I’d say you were even now.”

And I turn my back on them both before they can say anything.

If the police were involved they didn’t find us at home, nor come looking for us. I put the L Plates on the car and drove Mum, Daniel and I to the beach. Neither Daniel nor I could replace the baby Dad denied and then taunted Mum with, but we could be gentle with her and love her as best we could.

Postscript: there's a classic Australian rock song entitled 'Evie - parts one, two and three' it only occured to me as I was finishing writing it.

NEW MEME: I'm starting a new writing meme ... see post below for more information. Everyone welcome to join in Musical Musings.

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Daily Panic said...

This was very emotionally stirring. I liked the way the words on the scrabble board wove into the confusion.

Daily Panic said...

This was very emotionally stirring. I liked the way the words on the scrabble board wove into the confusion.

Paul said...

Even though you told me how the story basics go, you totally wrongfooted me with this one, as I expected the mother nad father characters to still be together and the other woman to have been the one who stole the child.

Very well paced, and like I said the last time - getting you into uncomfortable writing places brings out the best in you.

Ther said...

The details about the scrabble game brings me back to those times when I played it with family and friends and how we used to create words out of the air just to get the points and use the letters we have. Ha ha.

This is a great article. It's good to see different views of a story.

Vienne said...

Damn, that knocked me on the side of the head. Poor woman (she seems that real to me). Great piece.

Annie said...

I have tears in my eyes. The angst the pain. there just isn't black and white -there are no winners here - all grey areas - all losers... all for the want of love and understanding... masterfully captured characterization in such a small work.. one of your best Jodi

Rebecca said...

I was a bit disoriented at first but that's my fault--I was reading fast. I love the last section--the teenage dialogue is so real with the lack of question marks.

Jodi Cleghorn said...

HI everyone ... and thanks for all the encouraging comments. I think I'll ear mark this one for further polishing and see if I can do the rounds with it.

Rebecca - I'm glad that you think the teenage dialogue is real, I was concered that I'd missed the beat ... I didn't realise I hadn't used question marks .... an unintended boon.

Annie - I give you permission to keep on my back to send this off somewhere

Vienne - she was never intended to be portrayed this way ... but I am glad that this is the way it came out. It's been a chance to do little bit of healing by putting myself in the shoes of another (not that I ever stole a baby!)

Ther - my partner pointed out to me that I misspelt qwigybo (he thinks that there is a 'j' in in it) ... its from an episode of the Simpsons. We were far too serious players to make up words.

Paul - thank you for continuing to encourage me to go to places that I don't want to go with my writing. And I'm glad that I didn't ruin the story for you after sharing the bare bones with you over messenger.

Daily Panic - it moves me, to see that I moved others. When I finished writing it, and re read it, I actually had tears in my eyes!

Wild Iris said...

Brilliantly done, Jodi. This was a fantastic piece, full of angst and real passion.