I sat on the kerb outside the maternity wing with my head in my hands and the sun scorching the back of my neck. Exhaustion, the heat and my anxiety pressed in on me until I could barely breathe. The moment I closed my eyes, I began to drift.
I returned to the events of the previous night and the unexpected, chaotic dash to the hospital. Caroline’s screams of agony tore through me once again and I winced at the memory. Hour after hour I held her hand, sponged her face and stroked the damp curls from her forehead, uttering feeble words of encouragement as she swore and cried out.
A note of urgency entered the midwives’ steady voices and I watched in terror while my wife’s strength ebbed away. Suddenly the activity became more frenzied. I was pushed aside as the foetal monitor showed the baby in distress.
“Caroline!” I shouted, although no one was listening to me.
The image of an infant, limp and blue, flashed across my vision and I snatched at it, holding it fiercely to me. It was Caroline or the child. That was the choice I had to make and it was shockingly easy. Let the child die – it didn’t matter. I didn’t want it, had never wanted it. I tasted bitterness as hatred rose up inside me; hatred for this stranger who would rob me of my wife and be there in her place, forever.
“Please, save my wife.” The words were almost out when a reedy wail rose into the air and a sigh of relief swept the room. The violence of my disappointment left me gasping.
It seems a lifetime ago. Daniel and I were so much in love and a family was the obvious next step. All our friends had started having children and we wanted our kids to grow up with theirs. But a year went by, then two, without so much as a false alarm. Hope gave way to disappointment as regularly as the moon waxed and waned. We began to quarrel, over small, silly things at first. The months passed and the friction increased until one or two of my girlfriends began to ask if everything was all right. We’re fine, I said, just have a lot on our plates at the moment – you know how it is…
The complete story is published in Triclops. To order a copy, please go to the link below. Family Man is also published by Ether Books on the Ether App.