The familiar pang shot a fear stronger than the pain through her, from the top of her blond head to the tip of her toes.
“Oh, no,” she moaned, clutching at her stomach, rounded to a perfect orb, now clenching and re-clenching with the contractions. “No, God, no, please,” she begged, clenching her legs together as though it would stop.
“Alice? You okay in there?” Amanda’s voice was muffled from behind the door and through the pounding blood that rushed in her ears.
“Amanda! I need help…” she stopped, gasping, as another pain shot through her, gripping her lower back and pelvis. She cried out as the excruciating pain held, and held, for an eternity… until, finally, it went away. She collapsed on the linoleum floor, pulling her knees towards her heart, which was pounding triple time.
“Alice?” She heard Amanda fumbling with the slide lock, trying to undo it, trying to open the door, knocking and calling frantically to her sister-in-law. Slowly the sound of her voice faded, the room swirled around Alice’s contorting body and she closed her eyes, welcoming the blackness.
“Alice?” Amanda’s voice was gentle. “Alice, are you okay?”
“Amanda, the baby,” Alice said, her voice breaking.
“Ssh,” Amanda crooned, taking her brother’s wife into her arms and cradling her like a lost kitten.
“I lost it, didn’t I?” Alice asked. She felt Amanda move, clear her throat. Nod.
“No! No, please! No-oo.” Alice broke down, sobbing brokenly, grieving for yet another tiny life taken from her body. Her sobs were raw, heart wrenching. Amanda, holding her gently, fought tears as she shared in the anguish that was ripping her friend and sister in half.
Alice sat like a ghost, curled up in a huge, brightly coloured afghan on the deep, wide, soft couch that she loved so much. Amanda brought her all sorts of comforting delicacies from the kitchen: cheese and kabana, water crackers, Savoy biscuits, fruit kebabs and a huge mug of Milo that Alice clutched with trembling fingers. The young woman’s eyes were huge and empty, shadowed by dark circles that emphasized the pallor of her skin.
Amanda had encouraged her to have a shower and while Alice had washed over her lower body slowly and let her head hang underneath the steaming water, Amanda had searched through some of her drawers to find some comfy old “bum-around-in” clothes that she usually wore on stay-at-home weekends and could loan to Alice for a while.
“Is there anything I can do?” Amanda asked softly, sitting on an embroidered ottoman at Alice’s feet and taking one cold hand in her own. No response. The room was silent.
Eventually Amanda stood up and walked over to the open fire, which had died down to a softly popping pile of red embers. Watching Alice cautiously, she quickly stoked the fire and returned to her low seat by the other woman.
The day slowly waned, as did the fire, and still Alice hadn’t spoken. The grandfather clock on the opposite side of the cottage’s sitting room – an inheritance from her father, who died years back – bonged dully as the hour hand reached five o’clock.
“Do you want something to eat?” Amanda asked, eyeing the hardly touched finger-food on the little table by Alice’s left arm. Alice looked up, her eyes shimmering with tears. “Do you have any spaghetti?”
Amanda watched Alice eat, her heart constricting with pain. It seemed that in just a short few hours Alice had turned into just a shell of the beautiful, friendly woman she had been yesterday. Now her hair was snarled, still damp from her mid-morning shower, hanging about her shoulders in long, auburn tangles. Her face was pinched.
“You’ll get through this, Alice.” Amanda couldn’t help feeling as though her words were cliché, meaningless.
Alice stirred the freshly cooked noodles around on the plate, watching the tomato sauce ooze onto the white china, tiny globules of grease glistening in the warm light of the kitchen. “It’s the fifth time, Amanda.”
Amanda watched the woman for a while; considering; weighing her next words. “You could adopt, Alice.”
Alice looked up. Her green eyes, previously so bright and cheerful, were dull and hopeless. She said nothing, but managed a slight nod of her head.
The knocking on the door broke through the silence in the room. Reluctant to leave Alice, Amanda glanced towards the lounge, then back at the lethargic woman sitting at the table. Alice looked up. “Someone’s at the door.”
“You gonna get it?”
Amanda peeped out the spy hole in her wooden door and her throat constricted when she saw Steve standing on the doorstep.
“Hi,” she said softly, opening the door and ushering him in.
Once inside, he turned and gave her a look. “You okay?”
Amanda shook her head, put her hand to her mouth and felt her eyes well with tears. It was the first time she had let herself succumb to tears since 10:00 this morning when she’d heard Alice’s cries from the bathroom.
“Oh, Steve,” she whispered. He stepped forward and she crumpled in his arms.
“What’s up?” His voice was tense.
“Oh, God, no,” he whispered, taking in a short, ragged breath.
She stepped out of her brother’s embrace and put a comforting hand on his forearm. “I’m so sorry, Steve.”
Steve moaned, putting his forehead in one big hand, bowing his shoulders like a man suddenly old. Another miscarriage. Another child he’d never see grow up.
Amanda heard a little sob, and turned to see Alice standing in the doorway. Tears were pouring down the would-be mother’s cheeks, her shoulders quivering, her pale fingers pressed to her lips. She padded on bare feet along the floorboards towards her husband, and he welcomed her into his arms silently. “I’m so sorry, Steve,” she sobbed against his chest, “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” Amanda said softly. Steve was silent, trying to handle his grief. Why was this happening to them? That was five times, now. Five beautiful children he would never know.
Amanda sat the couple at the table, scooped a huge pile of spaghetti bolognaise onto another plate and, sticking a fork into the meal, she pushed the plate over the table towards Steve. Her brother pushed it away and stood up, his face contorted. Alice cowered and Amanda watched silently as he strode over the kitchen floor. “WHY?” he roared. “WHY WOULD THIS HAPPEN TO ME? TO US?”
“Steve, please calm down,” Amanda said softly, eyeing his weeping wife with concern.
He rounded on her. “What? You think I can’t yell? You think I don’t have a right? You think I’m over-reacting? Wait until you get married, then lose baby after baby! You see how you’d react! What right do you have to tell me to be quiet? What right?” He was looming over her now, his neck muscles bulging, his face red. Knowing how he reacted to grief, she wept, but wasn’t frightened. It would go away. He was a gentle man. He’d never willingly hurt her, nor Alice.
Steve stormed from the room and she heard the bathroom door slam. He’d be there for a while; the only way he could cool down was to be alone. She knew his habits after being his sister for twenty-six years, and knew that when he came out he would be relatively composed. Amanda turned to the wife, sitting with her head in her hands, tears pouring silently down her arms and into the spaghetti. Amanda quietly removed both meals onto the bench, then sat down on the seat beside Alice that her brother had just vacated. Putting her arms around the woman, Amanda sat without speaking, letting her presence do the comforting that she knew words couldn’t.
Steve walked back into the kitchen sometime just past seven o’clock; almost a full hour since he’d stormed out. “I’m sorry,” he said softly, his eyes red-rimmed.
Alice lifted her now dry eyes to meet her husband’s. “Steve, I’m ever so sorry I’ve done this again to you,” she whispered.
His face crumpled and he went to kneel by her side, taking her in his strong embrace, telling her without words he didn’t blame her; still loved her.
PLEASE NOTE: this is not the end of the story. I had to take the end away, since the post was too long. PM me if you want to read the rest!
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