Thursday, August 21, 2008

Evie: Part 2

This follows on from yesterday's post. Part two is much longer than yesterday installment - hang in there! I want to keep the alternating voices together as best I can without posting all 3600+ words in one post. Again, any constructive feedback welcomed.

The bedroom is cold, but it’s not the drop in temperature that brings her out of a dead sleep. She’s had a let down and the constriction in her breasts, as the milk gushes down the ducts and swells her breasts is painful - still. The milk begins to leak warm and sticky, soaking into a soiled, over sized t-shirt. She pulls the t-shirt up with the automation that comes with mindless repetition, even when barely conscious and reaches out to draw the baby to her. The baby is not there. She sweeps a hand across the sheets searching for where the baby wiggled to, but there is only the cold cotton beneath her outstretched palm.

There’s a jolt of dread and she sits up. She is the only one in the bed.

Where is Evie – oh fuck what have I done?

A thorough search, on frantic hands and knees reveals that Evie is definitely not on the bed and horrific images surge in, riding the wave of adrenalin induced dread - Evie lying twisted at the wrong angle on the floor beside the bed. But there are just the slippers she kicked off earlier on when exhaustion finally triumphed and she laid down for an afternoon sleep with Evie.

Where can Evie be?

She’s so sleep deprived that she’s not certain of anything anymore and can’t remember the last time she had any mental clarity. It is like walking through water, the slow weightless movements; the fluid resistance that is every where. She feels disconnected from both time and space, uncertain that she exists any more because she can no longer feel where she starts or ends. Or if she even has the capacity to feel anymore. She is a shell, a zombie in her own skin - numb.

Did I put Evie to sleep somewhere else? Did I just think that I laid her on the bed to sleep?

She stumbles out into the lounge room, with fear curling itself around her airway. Constricting. Sarah-Jane’s quilt is lying on the floor and she remembers. Evie was happy to lie on her back there this morning, yes it was this morning, her arms moving erratically like a baby bird trying to gain control over its flimsy wings. She had tried to rest, breathe, focus and read a magazine for five minutes. But then Evie started to cry … again.

The crying seems to be never ending. Colic they say – whatever that means. Evie’s unsettled a lot of the time and so is her Mum. She thought she was ready for motherhood, a baby that would validate their love. This isn’t what she bargained on. Everything has changed … she’s changed, they’ve changed, and she wants it back like it used to be. She’s stopped believing that love will conquer all. All the love in the world will not put Evie to sleep, stop the crying and make Michael smile and touch at her like he did before Evie.

Have I done something to Evie?

Like a woman possessed she runs from room to room - the bathroom, the laundry, the spare room with the bed piled high with nappies and baby clothes, the tiny bathroom. Evie isn’t anywhere … just disappeared? She checks the garbage bin, the fruit and vegetable crisper, the freezer … the oven.

She pinches herself so brutally a purple bruise immediately rushes to the surface and she begins to cry. She’s in a waking nightmare. The couch reaches out to embrace her, it seems to be the only thing in the world willing to accept and cradle her. She sits rocking, hugging her knees to herself underneath the t-shirt. The agony in her breasts is like the pain of labour, coming from deep within but only felt on the surface, but there is no hot towel or soothing words for the ugly wound inside her.

Through the hot tears she tries to focus on the Scrabble board and Michael’s nonsense word. It brings her back into the present momentarily, reminds her that Michael is all a part of this too. The appearance of a new word on the board seems to be the only way of her marking time, or the fact that Michael too lives here.

Conspnki – what the hell does that mean? Michael? What does any of this mean?

Everything is even more unbearable as the truth dawns on her. Raw sobs break out of her, quietly at first, then in a crushing crescendo that requires more energy that she thought she had in reserve. Her t-shirt is drenched in sweet smelling milk and her breasts are throbbing again – they are going to explode. She is going to explode. She needed Evie … Evie needed her. Evie is just a tiny little baby.

Oh God what have I done?

She’s crying tears of salt and breast milk. She can’t think straight … can’t breath. She can’t believe that she would. Her head is spinning. Hyperventilating. She’s drowning in the truth, wanting to go down, die.

Then she looks angrily at the Scrabble board again and hates Michael with every sinew in her body. He did this to her. And it’s only then that she sees the third word on the board. Her chest is heaving, in a violent hiccupping and she’s shaking as she wipes her eyes to see clearly. There is a third word.

She scrambles for the phone, for Michael, taking deep breathes to try and calm the shrillness that threatens to erupt when she opens her mouth to talk. His call is routed through to his secretary who tells her in a haughty voice that Michael’s unavailable. She yells hysterically at the secretary to get him, it’s urgent .. it’s about Evie.

After a time Michael comes to the phone, and she can tell from the tone of his breathing he’s pissed at her.
“Evie is gone,” she wails. “Someone’s kidnapped Evie.”

“Yo … Sarah-Jane!” It’s Julian’s voice rising above the milling crowd on the platform at Central Station

I ignore him, I’m not interested. My world’s been turned upside down. The English exam was a mess. The one exam I was certain that I’d breeze through was the hardest, and now I don’t know what’s going to happen come January when the scores are released.

What if I don’t get into uni in Melbourne? What if I’m stuck here in Brisbane … with Mum, Dad, Daniel, Liv and Evie.

“You gave him your phone number Sarah-Jane. Why are you ignoring him now?” Sally was giggling. Julian was jumping up and down waving in our direction, trying to get my attention.

Sally doesn’t get it. She doesn’t care that she bombed out in her English exam. She threatened that she wasn’t even going to turn up. She’s never liked school, never excelled and now there’s a hairdressing apprenticeship waiting for her on the other side of the Summer holiday. Her new bosses are not going to care if she fails English. It’s a done deal for Sally.

“I don’t feel like talking to him now.”

When the train arrives I make certain that we’re in a different carriage to Julian, pushing through the kaleidoscope of uniforms, glad that I’m no longer one of them. Even if the future is uncertain, I’m glad that I wont be going back to high school next year.

“He’s cute.”
“He’s probably drunk. He said they were going to the V?”
“The exam only ended an hour ago – how much do you think he can put away in that time?”

I ignore her question and cling to the bar at the train door, and weather the bags and stinky boys that push past me. I don’t feel like a seat. My phone starts ringing as the train lurches into the first set of tunnels, bound for Roma Street Station. When I make no effort to get the phone, Sally goes for it instead, as I try and wrangle my backpack out of her reach without falling flat on my arse on the dirty metal floor. It’s stopped ringing when she finally has it in hand.

“Just your Dad.”
I take the phone and look at the screen. As I do it beeps to let me know there is a message.

“You gonna get your message.”
“I’ll wait until I get home.”

After several attempts to strike up a conversation about Julian, Sally gives up and we ride out the rest of the trip surrounded by the juvenile chattering, giggling, shouting and swearing of the teenagers excited about the weekend.

“Can’t you get out of going to your Dad’s place tonight?” Sally asks as we pull into the Graceville.
“It’s complicated.”
“But schools over. You’re meant to be getting drunk tonight.”
“I’m going over to celebrate with them.”
“Sure that’ll be sweet. Didn’t think that you liked Liv.”
“I don’t.”
“But you’ve got her on Facebook.”
“Only because Mum doesn’t do Facebook and I’m making an effort for Dad’s sake. I tolerate her and I don’t have to like it.”
“Do hate Her – for like stealing your Dad.”
“I don’t hate Her and I think Dad’s big enough to make his own decisions. I don’t think that she stole Dad.”
“Do you hate your Dad.”
“Not really. Well not today. He says love conquers all. It’s just a cop out, sugar coating his own selfishness.”

The train leaves the station and trundles towards Graceville, swinging and creaking as it goes around a corner.

“Why don’t you come and hang out a bit at my place before you go.” I don’t feel like being home alone with my thoughts on the final day of highschool but I don’t feel like being with anyone else either, especially Sally.

“I think I’ll just go home. I’ll call you later.”

Sally gives me a hug that threatens to topple us both back over the school bags as the train jolts to a stop at my station. Free of the bus and the smell of Impulse and rotting sports clothes, I pull out my iPod and walk home with music blasting into my ears. I don’t want to call Dad. For a while I want to pretend that there is nothing else in the world but me and Julian, that I’m spending tonight with him and not playing happy families with Dad and Liv. It’s almost as if I believe that if I play my music loud enough it will chase away all the thoughts I don’t want to have.
I see Mum’s car is in the driveway as I turn into our street. “Nights of Sardonia” is playing. It’s the music I tell myself, that makes the little red hatchback seem to ominous, but it’s definitely not normal, even on a Friday? It’s been years since Mum had Friday’s off, since we were little and at primary school. I turn off my iPod as I open the door, reluctantly abiding by the new ‘no music when you come in the door rule’ and immediately hear the screaming of a baby. I follow the shocking sound to the guest room, the room Mum sleeps in now. It’s like she’s martyred herself, a guest in her own home just because Dad doesn’t live here any more.

As I push open the door, I see Mum sitting on the bed, her back to me. There are two pink piggie feet kicking out and I immediately recognise the outfit as one I bought for Evie. Mum’s bawling and there’s something both desperate and primal in their collective wailing.

“Mum,” I say sitting down on the bed next to her, putting my hand on her arm. She’s sitting crossed legged on the bed with my half sister in her lap. “Mum.”

After a while she realises that I’m there and tries to stop crying. She looks at me with swollen, bloodshot eyes. Evie continues to wail, her face claret and angrily bunched.

“I wanted another one and your father said no,” Mum sobs, picking Evie up and holding her close. “I wanted another baby …. he said no.” It’s a long time before she calms down enough to start talking again. “I froze him out … I was so angry and hurt …. I did it for so long he left.” And she starts sobbing again. “And now there’s Evie … one two three … one two three … one….”

I stroke her arm because it’s what she does to me when I’m too upset to talk. When she worried about me, before Evie came along. “Mum. How about you give me Evie,” I say, holding my arms out to take Evie fromher. “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, in lieu of a nappy, when Dad and Liv arrive. She is sucking furiously on my little finger. Her soft pert mouth feels like razor blades as she breaks the skin around my finger nail with the intensity of her sucking. She’s starving, but distracted now that I’ve got her out of her wet nappy and clothes

Both Dad and Liv are ashen, as they hurry up the drive way. Liv is in an old t-shirt of Dad’s that looks like it’s been dragged out of the garbage bin. I don’t remember her ever looking so bad. Dad’s got his tie pulled down and the top button of his shirt undone. I can see his anger brewing just under the surface
“Leave Mum alone,” I say with such venom that scares me and I thrust Evie into Liv’s trembling hands. Her perfectly manicured nails are now all bitten down to the flesh. “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. I’m fed up hearing what they have to say. They’re lucky, they got Evie back. They’ve got everything that they wanted, and I hope that they get everything they deserve.

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, to our caravan, as the sun was setting and the motorway was jammed. It was like we were escaping. Neither Daniel nor I could make up for the baby Dad denied and then taunted Mum with, but we could be gentle with her, love her as best we could.

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