JANUARY 5th, 2014
‘Do you want me to take Tabitha to nursery today?’ Martin asked.
‘If you could, but I’ll pick her up when I finish work.’
A Pepper Pig lunch box opened in front of her, Laura layered the ham and cheese onto a wholemeal slice. A few lazy drops of snow drifted to the ground as she gazed out of the window. It had been forecast, but probably wouldn’t settle.
‘Mummy why are you putting cheese on my sandwiches?’ Tabitha gently pulled at the hem of Laura’s skirt. ‘I only have ham remember.’
‘It’ll be ready in a minute sweetheart.’
‘No Mummy, I don’t have cheese – Daddy does.’
Laura looked to the cheese, back to Tabitha and slowly peeled away the thin slice. She placed it in Martin’s white roll. The lid snapped shut. She stared at the juice still on the breakfast bar. As it opened again, the rest of the contents were put inside.
‘Have a good day at nursery sweetheart, and don’t forget I’ll expect a painting off you, the fridge door is looking empty.’
As she swathed Tabitha in gentle arms, Laura didn’t want to let go. In a few months she would start reception. Her childhood years would disappear in a puff of smoke. ‘I love you Tabitha, never forget that will you.’
She kissed her daughter on both cheeks and wiped a piece of jam away from her mouth.
‘See you later Laura and be kind to yourself today.’
They walked down the path together. Tabitha never got too old to be carried on her daddy’s shoulders. Had Thomas carried her? Probably not, but her mum had always said that he had loved her once.
Alone in the kitchen, Laura leant up to the blue box on the shelf. Carefully, it was taken down and put on the breakfast bar. When Laura was little, Martha wouldn’t let her open it. Sometimes, when her mum was polishing, it was entrusted in safe hands. But she always had to sit down.
A month after she fled to the women’s refuge, it had been left at reception with a label attached. A tiny piece of blue ribbon, which connected it to the box, had been passed down to her like some weird inheritance.
Slowly the wooden lid edged open, and Laura peeked inside. A hand knitted pair of blue booties, a white feather, and a hospital band, with the name Michael, dropped out. On top was a handwritten note from her mum. She held the precious items, and the day she left home hurtled into her kitchen.
December 28th, 2004
‘Thomas, let’s all go into the front room and talk about what we’re going to do next.’
‘I’m not sitting anywhere with that Slut!’ her father screamed. ‘Sleeping with a man when you are not married.’ His cheeks puffed out and Laura placed a protective hand against her stomach.
It had been four months since she found out about being pregnant. When she told Todd he had point blank refused to admit it was his. He said it could have been anyone’s baby. She had no rights over him. Julie suggested an abortion, but Laura couldn’t even make the call to the clinic. It was already too late for that. Tiny hands. A little heartbeat. Something that was all hers. She pictured a new life for herself, and she wanted it. Someone she could show the true meaning of love to. Julie would have laughed, but she sang to her baby every night. She talked to it like he was living already, which in her eyes he was. It was Martin she turned to next – he promised it wouldn’t make any difference to their relationship. Even offered to be a surrogate father.
Telling her mum was a whole lot easier with this in mind. Thomas was told not long after. If she and Martin were to be married, then he would know what to do.
‘Thomas, please calm down.’
Her mum crept forwards until she was between them both. ‘Please calm down.’