I sat up as the curtain separating me and another new mother was drawn back. Chris came in, his hands clutching the newest Jodi Picoult novel and a box of my favourite biscuits. He dropped these off on the bedside table and leant down to kiss me hello. The touch of his lips widened my eyes. He hadn’t kissed me like this since after the revelation. In fact, he hadn’t kissed me at all since I told him I was with child. It was only a fleeting kiss, a peck on the lips, a butterfly landing on my mouth. It was nothing like some of the incredible kisses that we’ve shared, the ones burning with passion and need. Yet it was that kiss that I would remember for years to come.
“How are you Bonnie?” he asked, taking off his jacket and dropping in on a nearby chair.
“Great,” I told him, my eyes following his body as he moved around the room.
His red hair was windswept that day, their loose curls tousled randomly on his head. He was wearing an ACDC T-shirt, the one that I had borrowed to wear every time I came over to his apartment. His black Converse made small slapping noises on the floor as he walked, their undone laces flicking from side to side in a mad dance. His hands were constantly fidgeting, their nails still bitten badly, just as when I first met him. He reminded me just then of how much I loved him, how much I need him and how much of a mistake I’ve made.
“Want a biscuit?” he asked, offering me the now-opened packet of shortbread.
I shook my head, motioning for him to put down the packet of biscuit and sit down beside me. We sat in silence, him perching precariously on the edge of the bed and somehow still managing to envelop me in his arms. I tried not to notice the burning trail of his fingers as he stroked my arm, the scorching touch of his body against mine for the first time in months. It was strange. I’d been waiting for months for him to forgive me, for him to take me back in his arms without leaving an unspoken accusation between us. And now that the accusation was gone, now that my stomach no longer swelled up like a watermelon, I wished that I could have Delia back again. But I couldn’t possibly tell Chris that. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that Delia had staked a great claim on my heart, a claim just as big as his.
“You’re so cold Bonnie,” Chris said, breaking the silence, “Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Never been better,” I replied, adding another lie to my chain of deceit, “They said I could go tomorrow.”
“But you said you were bleeding lots,” he said, his ears turning the slightest shade of red. I found it funny how he was embarrassed to talk about this, yet he knew himself every curve and every centimetre of my body. My lips curled up.
“Don’t laugh at me Bonnie Conry!” he told me, his face taking on the same shade as his hair.
“Ah Chris, how you never fail to amuse me,” I said, smiling in earnest for the first time in a while, “No really, I’m good. The bleeding stopped, but I guess you don’t really want me to go into too much detail about that.”
“Are you sure you’ll be ok at home though?” he asked, “Nurse Lloyd told me that you half collapsed down near SCBU this morning.”
I didn’t answer him. His unspoken question hung in the air between us. What were you doing there? You promised me this would go back to the way it was...
“I can’t help it,” I said at long last, unable to keep this in any longer, “I never realised after being her whole world for nine months I would lose a part of myself to her.”
“Bonnie,” he said, my name sounding like broken shards on his tongue.
“I’m sorry Chris,” I said, “More than I can ever tell you.”
A family came into my shared room, their excited chatter filling the air. Through the flimsy curtain I saw silhouettes of children clambering up to sit on their mother’s bed, of a proud father holding in his arms the newest addition to the family. I turned away from them, away from Chris, away from all the reminders of the stupid decision I’ve made. A wad of Kleenex dabbed at my cheek, and I realised that my face was damp with tears. Chris’ hand gently wiped them away, his fingertips shaking just a tiny bit.
“We can start again love,” he said, his voice not much louder than a whisper.
I stared straight ahead, doing anything to avoid his gaze and having to answer. There would be no starting again. I was too deep in this tangled mess of love and confusion to do anything but try and unravel it all again.
On the morning of the 8thof November I realised for the first time that I couldn’t do it. I could remember distinctly that I was studying for my literature exam the following week, my back aching from the awkward position I had been sitting in. I had thought that I could just forget about the baby, that as long as I steered clear of that corner in my head where my body was screaming “You’re having a baby!” over and over again then the baby bump beneath my shirt would just evaporate into nothing. But children, even the smallest foetus, had this special ability to remind you that they’re there. This child inside me reminded me of her presence through the smallest things. I found that I had to adjust my sitting position to accommodate my growing belly, that I could no longer bend down easily to pick my clothes off the floor. I had groaned and turned over to sit sideways, balancing the book precariously on my stomach. And then, as if to protest, the baby had given me a swift kick from inside, her first kick ever. I laid my hands over my stomach, feeling first the foot then the hand of the child as she went on an all-out exercising session inside my womb. I didn’t realise it then, but my heart had adjusted its rhythm to match the baby’s kicking. It was as though my heart had decided without me that the child was mine.