Habit may be classed as a sin, for it diverges from the truth; rather, it raises the hedges of the path of appearances so that no one can see that the truth has diverged.

Once again it is I who has diverged. I return to describing Shani.

I wonder if maybe her shallow appearance, her seeming love for ‘cuteness’ and excited little-girl’s voice was once staged to hide the insecurity within.

She won’t tell me the whole story without giggling and making unnecessary gestures, but I know her parents separated half her life ago, and for years beforehand she lived in a cracking family. The formal divorce did not come until she was ten, and the marriage was annulled even after that.

That was one of the things that hurt the most, I reckon – just suddenly she was labelled invalid, even by herself: ‘a bastard’, ‘illegitimate’. In this day and age we think nothing of separation and divorce and annulment and fatherless children; but the children are scarred when these things actually come about as are no others.

Shani only found out recently that she is actually what is commonly – and rather vulgarly, I think now – known as a ‘test-tube baby’. Her mum was told that she ‘couldn’t conceive’ by her doctor, and consequently Shani spent the nine months of her pre-natal life inside the belly of a woman paid to carry babies.

‘A surrogate mother is just a twisted way of saying prostitute’, Shani joked to me once; it is the darkest ‘joke’ I’ve ever heard from her. Is this strong bond between her and her mother, then, habit, doubly enforced because of those lost months of joyfully expectant pregnancy,

It was a bit of a shock when Clara found herself to be carrying a child. She wouldn’t tell anyone for weeks; the doctors had told her before Shani was born that she was unable to have children – was this suspicion she had just a mistake?

But when her girth began to noticeably expand she realised that she really was pregnant. She told Shani, who was overjoyed, and together they began to make plans for the new baby – a boy, they agreed unanimously.

It was never clear why Clara had that miscarriage. But she had one, and the dreams of them both were crushed to a pulp.

Children are less observant; they see the truth, but they do not delve into it. They are wise without having to think. Adults lose this wisdom as they grow up, and so when adults try to be childlike they only succeed in displaying feigned ignorance.

It’s when this ignorance becomes habitual that it is difficult to return to observance and conscious intellect. I suppose that’s Shani. She is the child without wisdom or memories. She is neither stupid nor mentally ill, but she is only comfortable when she can be the child that she was before her family actually split up.

Her apparent affection for animals and children is performed. I wonder how I can say all this about Shani, but the fact is I believe I am right. She’s so easy to please and eager to be influenced that I just cannot believe her quirks are genuine.

She cried for a few minutes when that girl, Alisha Carson, died. With a few sympathetic hugs from her soft-hearted friends and a quick trip to the toilets she was fine, normal, without the slightest trace of any weakness or the catch of a swollen throat. Her eyes were scarcely tinged red, and that only for effect, I believe.

Each and every one of us is a living lie. But each in a different way.

I don’t love Shani. I see more-or-less how she lives and works, but I don’t like her methods at all. They are not my own and I cannot feel compassionate sympathy for her when she employs them – only pity that restrains me from giving comfort. For that is what she wants: comfort, and I refuse to satisfy her when she uses deceptions such that irritate me.

Everyone knows: grown people putting on ‘baby voices’ to get what they want – it just doesn’t work at all. At all. It’s just untactful and unnecessary.

Her short-lived weeping at the time of that horrible horrible tragedy makes me wonder about the depth of her cares – her cares for her friends, her parents – and me. Does she value my presence as much as she makes out – or more, or less?

It’s all unknown to me. I don’t understand her.

The End

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