Kate set out to walk to the park and was no sooner there when she regretted her decision. She had forgotten it was Sunday; the one day she usually avoided going to the park. It was a lovely day, and there seemed to be young couples everywhere, all holding hands or gazing into each other’s eyes. Not exactly what she needed; more reminders she had no one special in her life. She tried to shut her mind down, trying desperately not to think of Michael.
After all these years, why was he still capable of affecting her? She had thought him so perfect and they had been happy. He had probably regretted it, he was always making rash decisions only to backtrack later when he realised what he had done.
What was gone was lost forever. It was too sad for words, but why did it still hurt so much?
Kate clearly remembered the day he had walked out of her life all those years ago, leaving her scared and pregnant. She hadn’t known what she was supposed to do. The morning sickness was bad and she had no idea if it was normal or not. How was she supposed to cope?
But cope she did, and if what happened after he left hadn’t damaged her image of him, she supposed nothing ever would.
It was her fairy tale, but they never come true, do they?
She was still in the habit of visiting Michael’s dad, doing his ironing and keeping him company for a while. She should have hated him for poisoning his son against her, but she just couldn’t. He probably didn’t have to try too hard; she had always known Michael was a little too good to be true. Besides, John was a lonely old man and had been on his own for a long time after his wife died of cancer.
Despite being pleased Michael was having nothing to do with her, he didn’t object to having his housework and ironing done and Kate had nothing better to do, did she?
Little did Kate know John had an ulterior motive right from the beginning. He had fallen for her hook line and sinker and wanted her to fill his lonely world. (And continue to do his ironing, of course). She was happy to oblige, for it gave her something to do to take her mind away from her problems. The thought she might be able to move in was more than appealing, for her present landlord was making pointed remarks about her increasing waistline. Awkward questions were being asked at work too and Kate was fed up with all of it. She felt so sick all of the time, surely this was not normal?
When John made his declaration of love, Kate gritted her teeth and reminded him about the baby, fully expecting it to be the end of the matter. After all, what was he thinking?
You could have knocked her down with a feather when he said he already knew.
‘I suppose Michael told you?’
‘Of course he did. He doesn’t think it’s his, is it?’
She nodded. ‘And you still want me?’ Hoping he would say no, as she didn’t want to live in the same house with the one person who had ruined the only good thing in her life, and it was beginning to look as if she had no other choice. It was as though the fates were making the decision for her.
Kate had moved into the spare room and became John’s unpaid housekeeper. She cooked (after a fashion) scrubbed everything clean and tried to make herself useful, the voice telling her all the time it was wrong. And for once she didn’t need to be told.
John’s house was shabby and a bit run down but it could have been worse. After all, he had been on his own for a long time and had brought Michael up single-handed. Kate was literally the first female to have lived there for nearly twenty years. She moved out of her bedsit and quit her job. Her boss was sorry to lose her and said she understood, her round-eyed expression and pointed glances at Kate’s bump speaking reams. She made Kate promise to keep in touch, Kate thought it was a sweet thing to say even if she didn’t mean it.
Despite feeling uncomfortable with the situation, Kate found herself having a certain amount of fun keeping house for the first time in her life. She started to adventure into the world of DIY and painted the small box room a pretty shade of blue.
She cleaned some of the carpets and removed the one in the box room, replacing it with a cheerful yellow lino, creating what she thought was a suitable nursery.
Spurred on by her efforts, she decided to lay turquoise lino tiles in the kitchen and was surprised at how messy the adhesive was, but she persevered and the result was worth it.
Her cooking didn’t improve much, but it didn’t matter, as John smothered everything she put in front of him in masses of brown sauce.
John was the milk supervisor at the local dairy and the fact he had all their food delivered with the milk didn’t surprise Kate, after all, what did she know? She didn’t realise that he was effectively trying to stop her going out. He obviously didn’t want her finding anything or anybody better.
The voice in her head warned her about it repeatedly; but what else did it think she should do? She needed help and no one else had offered. It did seem like the only game in town.
As she grew bigger and the arrival of the baby was imminent, she was grateful just to be somewhere safe and warm, as the winter had turned bad with freezing fog and ice and snow. Despite all John’s precautions and conniving’s to keep her indoors, Kate went for a walk most days, needing to be out in the open air. She was still desperately trying to make some sort of sense of her life, still hoping for a miracle to save her from the boredom of living with John. It wasn’t ideal, but then her life had never been, so there was no reason to suppose it would change now.
On a bitterly cold February day, the baby decided to make his way into the world. Kate was awake and uncomfortable most of the night, and it never dawned on her it might be something else.
When the penny did drop, there was no one to help her. John was at work and they had no telephone, so she put what she thought she needed into a carrier bag and walked up to the High Street, trying hard not to panic and barely succeeding.
It was still early and the only shop open was the newsagents. She managed to convince the owner to call an ambulance, and eventually found herself in the local hospital in an ugly grey painted room, alone, with the pain in her stomach beginning escalate into a real problem.
As the time slipped away and the pain increased to an unbelievable level, she desperately wanted to change her mind and would have done anything to make it all go away. Why couldn’t she do that?
Realising it was not an option, Kate felt more alone than she had ever done before. A cheerfully large bustling nurse seemed to choose the precise moment she wanted to scream the place down in her frustration to check up on her.
The hours dragged by, or so it seemed. She had never thought much about childbirth, and now she regretted not having the basic information on the subject. Was it supposed to last this long? Or be so painful?
She had no idea if anything could be wrong. The nurse she had seen seemed to think it would all happen without her assistance. As if she could tell just by looking at Kate that all was well, or she didn’t care one way or the other. Why had she allowed this to happen, didn’t she have more sense?
It was the last thing she wanted. Her life was a bad enough mess without throwing a baby into the mix. She had tried hard to lose it, taken enough Quinine to kill a horse, some foul black liquid and the sure-fire pills everyone swore by, but nothing had worked. A bottle of gin and a hot bath hadn’t worked either. It was obvious she was doomed, but Kate had never understood why. Had she done something so bad it warranted this much punishment?
As the pain rolled on and on, Kate just wanted to die. She knew no one was going to rescue her, they never had before and it was a little late to start believing they would now. For some reason, she knew it was her lot in life to suffer, to be alone and be miserable, no matter how hard she tried to make her life any different. Surely, it was time for the curse on her life to stop? The voice in her head said otherwise, apparently, there was much worse to come. What could be worse than this, she thought.
Once the pain started to make her want to push, it all became a little more bearable. At least she felt more in control of the situation, not just lying there helplessly, being tortured.
The baby, a boy, was born that evening and nobody could have been more pleased it was over than Kate herself.
Throughout the ordeal, the voice had kept up a running commentary about her life being ruined. How she had wasted every opportunity and how sorry it was. The last bit surprised her, for she had always thought it disliked her. It had never said anything with any hint of kindness in it before. If it was simply trying to depress her more than she was already, it had succeeded.
Kate remembered looking at the baby, her baby, amazed at how ugly it was. Where was the cute little bundle she knew other people had? This scrawny screwed up thing was not what she had been expecting at all. It looked half dead. She had hoped to feel a surge of affection, and she felt nothing at all. Not even relief it was all over because she knew it wasn’t.
All her troubles had just doubled and she could see no way out of the mess she had made of her life. No one was going to rescue her, that was for sure. Realising real life was nothing like the movies was harsh, and timely.
Despair flooded in as Kate realised something else. She would no longer be able to keep herself invisible. With a screaming baby in tow, the whole world could see her and know what she was doing.
Why hadn’t she been more careful?
As Kate sat in the park, misery beginning to seep from every pore, she knew she would have to pull herself together and get a grip. Other people had a lifetime of sadness to get through and her life could have been so much worse. Brooding never helped anyone, she thought. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could put all your sad memories in a box and never open it again?
She sniffed. Avoiding the park at the weekends would be a step in the right direction though.