As she stared out of the kitchen window, Janet was oblivious to everything but her pain. It was deep and it ached with a throbbing intensity like it did every year on this day. It was all she could do not to cradle herself, physically hold herself together and howl. Her misery was complete and isolating. David had tried for a while, tried to keep her close and warm with his love. But she could not – would not be moved. Her grief had been bitter and all-consuming. How could he possibly understand? He could never understand. She knew now that this was wholly untrue. But her coldness had been too much for him, and so now they grieved separately – alone. She was all alone. Her eyes hardened at the grim irony and at the same time she pursed her lips tighter, grit her teeth against the tears that threatened to drown her.
That was her name. They’d both loved it at first. So delicate, traditional, timeless. They’d cooed at her swollen belly, repeating the word like an incantation, tasting it, trying it out, making her real. The anticipation was what did it. So much that she was ready for, expecting. There were things that were supposed to happen, things that would go to plan with all the trials and tribulations that they would laugh about later, in the future. She was ready. So when she felt the tell-tale dampness around her thighs she thought: my water’s broken. No biggie. And when the labour pains began to strike she wasn’t worried. Contractions. Of course. And when she felt her child slide out between her legs, piercingly silent she thought: Dear God no. Because this wasn’t part of the plan, this wasn’t in any of the books she’d read, this wasn’t supposed to happen. But it did happen, slowly, before her very eyes. She glimpsed a look at the limp, pale limbs of her baby before she was whisked away, by the white-coated men and told to, “Relax”, “Get some rest”, “Don’t fret, pet.”
For the next few days her and her husband observed their daughter in her little glass box, like a baby princess in her own fairytale, or a rare exotic plant alone in a hothouse, small, vividly red. And they had hope. Each morning they would wake, fearing the worst, hearts heavy with dread – and there she would be, her tiny chest rising and falling with a precarious conviction that she would be alright, she would live another day. And then, the worst happened. The box was empty, the princess had been rescued, their Rose had wilted away in the dead of night. David had been devastated but she had felt numb, strangely detached. Her swollen belly felt redundant, the pain all over her body, pointless and she remembered the moment where she had totally given up. Exhausted. Defeated. She had stared for hours at that glass box wondering how a life could be whisked away so fast, and leave no trace.
She wiped away phantom tears as she stood by the window, oblivious to everything but her loneliness. She turned away from the dying light of the sun, closing the blinds despite the amber rays bathing the room in light. In the darkness she breathed out slowly, resting her head against the cold fridge door. It would be her birthday soon.
She left the kitchen, passing the hallway with its empty photo frames and blank walls, reaching for the phone. The evening sun was waning, and so was her resolve. With nervous fingers, she dialled the number. She would call David.