Holding the Pillow

by Russ

He’s talking with our guest now. His guest. His helper. I haven’t spoken. I’m not sure when I last did. They are also silent. Side by side in the double rocker my mother dropped off. They are looking at the same empty point in the air. Empty to us at least.

I agreed to one baby. I agreed because he was persistent. I agreed because I was tired. I agreed because it was clear he would do most of the work. I agreed because, well, because who goes through their entire twenties without even a scare? I agreed because I assumed that part of me was broken so it would never come to fruition. I agreed because I was a twit.

So that night, the night I agreed, we ordered a Chinese takeaway and he emptied himself into me.

Afterwards, it would be theorised the single heartbeat in the scans had always been two but in perfect synchronisation. That was their first trick.

The truth was betrayed by the face of the midwife and the mutterings in the corner of the room. A sheet was lifted between my eyes and my body like the hood of a car between a windscreen and engine. The doctor scrambled manically around my numbed insides like a pit lane mechanic. The frenzy abated, nobody breathed, and the world changed.

They placed one on the left of my chest, another on the right, and four unfocused eyes destroyed me without emotion. Then they emptied their lungs.

In the legend of the banshee, wailing signals the end of a life.

It’s his cousin today; we’ve been through all the closer relatives and friends.

I’m not to be left alone, you see.

That’s not accurate. I’m always left alone. I’m alone when we sit together, him between me and them. I’m alone when he leaves me with whoever has been brought in for the day shift. I’m alone when he sleeps in the nursery. I’m alone now. I’m just not to be left alone with them.

It hasn’t been said, but it’s because he found me holding the pillow that night.

I try not to look but they consume the room with their ongoing gestures and incantations. An eerie dance. Synchronised but unrehearsed. Preparing, cursing, summoning.

There are background noises of thanks and farewell and the front door clicks shut. I realise the room is empty aside from me - and them. My first reaction is to shrink but I see the knife he’s left on the crumbed plate where a cake had been. I lurch towards it and then to them. My wrist is arrested mid-flight. He twists it. The knife falls. He holds me. My arms fall. He holds me. My heart falls. He holds me.

Later, when it’s time to sleep, I will hear him lock the door of the nursery from the inside.