Mary's physical wounds took roughly four weeks to heal. She spent the majority of that time sitting silently perched on the end of the bed in the guest bedroom Isobel had provided for her. She wore the same clothes; a simple ensemble of a white blouse and black skirt, until Isobel come to take them away from her. Every morning Isobel came and pinned up Mary’s long chestnut locks in the hope it might coerce her into leaving the house, even for an hour. The room was small, and with Eli sleeping in the same bed there were many nights she was kicked in those broken ribs, but she took the pain without a word, embracing it more as a punishment than an accident.
She had fallen pregnant with the twins on their wedding night, which she had spent with George in a room not unlike the one she was lying awake in during those weeks spent at Isobel's. That room had had considerably more tasteful curtains however - Isobel was not known for her great skill of interior design. Yet again Mary couldn't help but feel as though everything had gone the way it was supposed to. She and George had come to know one another through their meddling mothers. They had courted for a short period, and when he had gotten down on one knee, presenting a gorgeous diamond three generations old, she had said yes without hesitation. She could remember how nervous he had been for their entire evening, and by the time he had actually gotten around to proposing, she had convinced herself that really she was going to say he didn’t want to see her anymore. When she thought a little more about it, perhaps there had been a single moment of hesitation, but because she was so shocked at the turn of events, not because of any indecision on her part. She had known he was the man for her as soon as her mother had told Mary about him.
He had been beside himself when she told him she was pregnant, lifting her in the air with his powerful arms and kissing her until she felt faint. Even now she could hear his embarrassed laugh as he settled her into an old red armchair, as though he were sitting beside her now, and if she would only turn her head she would see him, the arch of eyebrows, the straight edge to his nose, and the smattering of freckles beneath the slate of his eyes, always crinkled at the edges because of the constant smile.
"Mummy we're going to the park to visit the ducks and go on the swings!" Eli pulled her from her reverie. For a confusing moment she thought that it was in fact George who was charging across the room toward her, but then reality forced its way back to the fore and with it came the incessant knowledge that there was one running child when there should have been two. Pieces of her heart splintered and fell away. She blinked and willed away treacherous tears, pulling her face into something that resembled a smile.
“Wonderful, darling. Say hello to the ducks for me.” It was the same response she had given for the previous three weeks, but today Eli was not accepting it as an answer and resolutely pulled her to her feet. The sheer physical strength of a small child never ceased to amaze her.
“No mummy, Isobel says you’ve been inside for long enough and if you don’t get up you’ll be stuck to the bed forever and ever!” She threw Isobel a withering look over Eli’s head and received a nonchalant shrug in return, no hint of apology on her sister-in-law’s face. She feigned alarm for her son’s benefit, and leapt to her feet.
“Well we don’t want that now, do we? However would I get out of this room if I had to drag that dusty old bed with me?” They laughed together conspiratorially; the first laugh since the bombing, even if it was somewhat forced. She looked down at Eli’s ruddy features affectionately, remembering in that moment that she hadn’t lost both of her children that night. She plucked her coat from Isobel’s waiting hands as though it had always been her intention to head outdoors today, and headed downstairs without a second look.