Naturally, I told him it was fine, and sent him on his way with a final wink and a fake phone number. I’d done this before, I knew how to handle it, and it had been great and exactly what I needed and I was absolutely splendid… and yet somehow, as he walked away, only a little awkwardly, I wanted to cry.
I don’t even see why I would be thinking about Rilla, but I was. What a bizarre time to think about your child, yeah? For all that babies are the result of sex (usually, anyway, leaving modern technology out of it) you don’t really associate them with the act, do you? But there she was, in my head, her little round face staring up at me with her big blue-green eyes, and I could swear there was a look of accusation in them. I wanted to talk to her, to explain—to the imaginary baby in my head—that it was nothing to do with her, that Mummy had just needed some alone time, and so on and so forth, but as I was drunk and miserable and part of my attention was focused on looking for a taxi anyway, my thoughts were a bit scattered. Aside from a guilty sort of feeling with regards to my child, there was one other thought that kept rearing its mocking head.
I hadn’t used a condom. He hadn’t used a condom, if you prefer. Whatever. The point is, there was no condom used, and that was wreaking more havoc with my emotions than anything else that had happened all night.
It was just so out of character for me. As soon as I’d decided I was going to start having sex—easily a year before I’d actually lost my virginity—I’d taken to carrying a condom around with me. If I had a handbag, even a little handheld clutch bag, there was a condom (or 2 or 3) slotted neatly inside. If I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, there was a condom tucked in my back pocket. If I had on a dress, no bag, and no pockets, there was a condom hidden in the (in those days) generous padding on the push-up bra I was undoubtedly wearing (I did, eventually, outgrow the need for padded bras; I just want that known). My point is, though, I was the Queen of Condoms.
And now, barely a year after I’d been raped, and gotten pregnant from it, I’d run out and, for the first time I could remember, willingly had sex without a condom??
What was I doing? What was I thinking? What the fuck was wrong with me? As I paced up and down the relatively quiet street, looking for a cab, I was too furious with myself to cry, and too horrified to lose my temper. The taxi driver whose car I angrily jumped into, at some point during my internal flagellation, didn’t say a word about my damp, salty-smelling dress, and when I barked out the address of where I was going he just nodded. When we pulled up at the end of Richard’s parents’ long driveway, all he dared was, “You’ve overpaid by a fiver, miss.”
“Keep it,” I said tersely, letting myself out and stopping just short of slamming the door behind me. As I strode up the driveway, stomping as much as my ridiculous heels would let me—it was a manufacturing miracle that they hadn’t snapped—I tried to hold onto the anger that had propelled me home and kept me company on the long drive, but I could feel it eking away, bit by bit.
When I got to the end of the driveway and saw Richard sitting on the steps, waiting for me, the obvious thing to do was burst into tears. It’s what I did, at any rate. Immediately, he leapt off the step, and enfolded me in his attractively muscled, gay-man-about-town arms.
“Oh, Anais, shh, there, it’s alright my love, I’ve got you, let’s go inside and get you into a nice hot bath…” As he murmured, we walked into the house and up the stairs. On our way to one of the many Ashbrooke Family Bathrooms, I couldn’t help but look over his shoulder. I was hoping to avoid my da, for the minute; but I wanted my baby.
When we got to the bathroom, I turned to look at Richard. “Can you bring Rilla to me, please?”
“Of course. I’ll bring the Moses Basket, shall I, and that way she won’t wake up?”
“Shit. She’s asleep, of course she will be, it must be…?”
“It’s not even 1 a.m. yet. You’ve been gone about 4 hours, no more.”
A weight I hadn’t know was there, disappeared off my chest. 4 hours? That wasn’t so bad, was it? Lots of mothers worked part-time, they’d usually be gone from their babies a little longer than that, it wasn’t traumatic at all, probably. Not for the babies, at least. And the milk I’d left, about 6 ounces squeezed out over the previous 2 days, that had obviously been fine, Rilla’d taken it from the bottle because she was apparently tremendously gifted, she was happy to switch between the breast and the bottle, and that never happened, the midwives had told me not to give her bottles at all because it would ruin her chances of breastfeeding properly, but she was such a good baby, even I could tell that, so clever, and she did love to eat…
“Anais?” Richard’s voice snapped my head up. I’d been nearly dozing, sat on the toilet seat, shoes off and dress sticky against my skin. As I looked at Richard, he came over, and helped me out of my dress. “Stand up, there you are, just lift your arms and I’ll pull the dress over your head, good girl,” and even in my half-asleep state, the words ‘good girl’ got a snigger out of me, and then Richard helped me into the bath and waited for a minute, to see what I wanted him to do.
“Oh!” I exclaimed, looking at him holding my dress. “Put my dress down, you’ll get cum all over yourself.” When he smirked at me, I realized what I’d said, and we said in the same breath, “Not like that’s never happened before,” which struck me as absolutely hilarious, and somehow I was laughing and Richard was setting my dress down, and washing my hair for me (Richard’s very regal, “I’m not touching your mammaries, not for all the coin in the realm,” set me off giggling again) and after about 5 minutes, Richard was pulling me out the bath, towelling me off (while avoiding my ‘mammaries’) sticking me into a really posh, fluffy dressing gown (“Did your parents steal this from a hotel? It’s fabulous.”) and leading me to the bedroom Rilla and I were staying in.
Da was sitting in a chair, reading a book (it looked like a novel—my da reads novels?) outside the bedroom door. He just looked at me, and I could tell he wanted to have a go, but before he could say anything I said, “I’m sorry, Da,” and started to cry again. His response was a firm, if slightly brief hug, and a somewhat unconvinced, “It’s alright, love,” before telling me he was exhausted, and would have to get to bed, but he’d see me at breakfast. There was a touch of fatherly censure in the way he said it—he would see me at breakfast, I’d better not be hung-over and hiding in my room—but I was too worn-out to care. I just nodded, and stumbled into the room, looking for Rilla.