The baby was crying. Again. She looked at her child, her daughter, the one she had carried for nine months. All that time, she had felt it grow inside of her, had nurtured and cared for her, felt emotions that gave her a new insight into her own life. But all that was in the past. Her daughter was crying. And all that she wanted to do was to blot out that noise, by any means possible.
It was all so different. He was around, still. And for a while, she was happy. Who was she kidding, it was the greatest time of her life. They cared for each other worked together to build a better future. They, loved each other. As her body grew bigger, with the new life inside of her, for the first time, there was something a lot more in this world than choosing Coke or Pepsi for lunch. Something which could not be bought or sold, more than the instant gratifications that she had been used to. This was slow, consuming, yet, a miracle. in itself. A slow revelation, that everything else in life did not matter. There was something far more important than that dress, this pop star or even her own hopes and desires.
The crying would not stop. Although her baby was in another room, the sound came through the walls. Piercing the air, dulled by the plasterboard between them, but still reverberating in her ears. Her daughter, distressed, wailing, weeping. And there was nothing she could do to stop it.
The birth had been difficult. But she had survived, and so had her daughter. Nothing else meant more to her than this small, tiny thing that looked up at her. At them. Her daughter depended on her for life, and she depended on him for more than life.
It was a good time, nay, a great time to be alive. She smiled at the memories, so many of them. When she first tried to feed her child some milk, when she first took her child back home. It was not much of a home. The wall paper was peeling off the wall, and there was a small patch of damp in the bathroom, but it was their place. Their home. And when her baby slept, she looked at her, wondering what she dreamt about. Her baby did not have to worry about money problems, health or even what she was doing with her life. Her baby had everything in front of her, and she wanted to give her child everything she did not have in her life. And he was there too, supporting her, supporting their child, loving them both. It was a time of great happiness.
She went back into the next room and took a look at her child. She checked the nappies, they were clean. She had just been fed. But still she was crying. Why? All that her child did was eat, sleep, shit and cry! Just do something different! Anything! Talk! Tell me what it is! What is the matter!
She picked up her baby, angrily and held her against her shoulder. She whispered to her daughter, telling her it was all right, mummy was here. Soon her child quietened down. The crying had stopped. Eventually her baby went to sleep, on her shoulder. Now what to do? She was sleeping, so there was no point in putting her in a different position, in case she woke up again. So she kept her there, on her shoulder. She looked round her home. The wall paper was really bad, a lot of it had come off. The damp had spread from the bathroom and now there was mould al across the ceiling always, the smell in her place was one of sickness. But she could not open the windows, she could not afford to. Winter was raging on outside. The gas bill, already high, had to be saved. It was cheaper for her to put on her coat, then set the boiler on. But this meant no air circulated in the home as she kept the draft out by keeping those windows firmly locked.
They met for the last time in an subway, under the dual carriageway. They stood apart. She was next to the pram which held her baby. Their baby. He looked down, not making eye contact. He said some things, she could not recall everything in detail. Something about another girl, he needed space, the pressure of life.
It was daytime, still summer. Their baby was still very young., young enough that she needed blankets to keep her warm, despite the summer sun. But in that subway beneath the main road, there was no warmth. Just more damp that trickled from the gutters. The clicketty-clack of cars and lorries on the road above their head, punctured the conversation. She was crying, while he remained sullen. For once, the baby was quiet, asleep, unaware that her father was leaving them for good. She cried, and felt stupid, like a love-sick teenager. In a way, she was justified. They weren't that much older than twenty.
Wow, twenty. When she passed that milestone a few weeks ago, she felt ready to take on the world. But here, in the fluorescent lit subway, with a draft coming in off the main road, she felt more child-like than before. He was leaving her, alone with a baby, their baby. In a city that although they had both grown up in, was unkind to the vulnerable, the weak and the dispossessed. Her tears came freely to her, partly through distress, but also through fear. The knowledge that she alone had responsibility for their child.
A cyclist came through the alleyway. He stopped as he saw them in the way. She moved her pram aside and the cyclist passed them, on his way to wherever it was. He would have no idea why she was crying or, what she felt at that moment. Pain, fear and betrayal. All mixed in with love. For despite everything that her baby's father had told her, she still loved him. And more than anything, wanted him to return to them.
She woke up on the bed, her child still resting beside her. She gazed down at her baby, now asleep and at peace with herself. She got up and went to the toilet. After she finished, she washed her hands and looked at herself in the mirror. Staring at her reflection, she looked into her own eyes.
At first, she did not recognise the person staring at her. She looked like an old woman. But that was her, now a very different person from those happy times when they first moved in to this home. She wanted to cry again, for the girl that had been lost in the past year. But she couldn't. That girl had gone, and the tears of that girl no longer came freely to her. Instead, she looked around her bathroom, he damp on the ceiling, now spread to the walls. Slowly eating away at the walls of her home, and of her own life...