Maggi By Denise Whittaker - chapter 1
Can you imagine what it feels like to lose a child? Most of us can’t imagine that – a death too terrible to think about, impossible, unnatural.
Maggie is doing very well. Everyone says so. She’s being brave, sensible. She’ll be all right, just a little more time maybe…
The traffic lights changed to green. I sat up straight and looked in the mirror to check what was behind me. I was doing everything right – everything you’re supposed to do when you take your driving test. Check the mirror. Be sure of your stopping distance. Are there pedestrians? Yes, a woman and two children. The road ahead, a thin white line, the other side of the road, a footpath. Hands on the wheel in the ten-to-two position. Everything correct. Strong, sensible hands. A thin white line, third finger, left hand.
Jessica’s carrycot was on the back seat. Jessica wasn’t in it. Jessica was dead. Ben’s old A-to-Z street map was in the pocket of the passenger door. Ben didn’t need it. Ben knew where he was going; he’d found the road that he wanted.
Probably not healthy? Carrying your dead baby’s carrycot around. An empty carrycot isn’t very heavy. Just thirty-three photographs. Married couples often break up after the death of a child. I know that. I’m not stupid. I have a university education. Studied ethics – life and death problems.
There are fifteen of you in a cave far underground, and the only way out is a hole in the roof. A fat man gets stuck in this hole. It’s dark. There’s not much air left in the cave. You’ve tried everything to get the fat man through the hole. You have a stick of dynamite.
She’d be six now. Jessica.
Don’t shake your head at me, thinking I’m crazy, some kind of madwoman. Look inside your own head – the games and conversations that go on in there. Don’t even begin to judge me.
No, I didn’t pick up children’s dolls and cry over them. No, I didn’t want to steal other people’s children. I just grieved. For Jessica. I did well. Everyone said so. They were really proud of me.
They became even prouder of me when Ben left. They told me loudly and often how proud they were of me.
I used to play that game, you know? You see a married couple walking in front of you. You imagine the woman gone. You just put your hand in his and go on walking.
I went to the beach one Sunday. There was a dad and his kids. A great father. Our eyes met. I knew I would be a great mother. The children would soon learn to like me…
But he didn’t come back the next Sunday. Or any Sunday that summer.
I don’t hate Ben. But I hate the person that he has changed me into. These lines around my mouth? When your heart starts breaking, you close your teeth, keep your lips tightly shut, keep the screams inside. It shows.
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