‘He loves me, I know he does. He has his own way of showing me how much…’
‘It was that waster boy from next door.’
She had heard his low voice from downstairs, between her husband’s. He would always cheerfully say hello when she was gardening in the front yard. Tall and bulky, you could not miss him swaying down the road and sometimes, when he stopped to talk, she smelt the alcohol in his breath and saw it in his eyes. An alcoholic, his mother had said, eyes welling as they stood over the fence with the sprawling jasmine plant.
‘How are you feeling?’ her husband said, standing by the bed.
‘If it was broken, it would hurt much more,’ he repeated once again. ‘It’d be unbearable – here, have some more.’
She wriggled to sit up on the bed and took the plate from him. He came closer and examined her face.
She was grateful for something to do and began to eat slowly. She felt light, as if she could never feel pain again. All was silence save the scraping on the plate. Her husband stayed with her.
‘The baby wasn’t hurt,’ she thought, feeling her stomach under the duvet. ‘Thank you, God. Thank you, God.’
Her husband sat in a chair nearby. He gritted his teeth but he too felt light. The baby was safe and he cared for his wife. Beneath the bottled rage, he was a good man. And, he was not afraid of her – he was sitting looking at her, head bowed, eating.
She held out the half-finished plate. As she wriggled back under the duvet, he had a notion. If he was not afraid, he could touch her. He stood over with his face held together.
‘Can you feel him?’ he asked.
It came out gruff.
‘Let me feel him.’
She lifted up the duvet and felt his hand on her abdomen. He was touching her and started to smile.
‘Is he kicking?’
She shook her head, closing her eyes to be alone with her joy.