The sun glared harshly through the passenger window of the old, musty Sedan. Lisa glared at the speckles of dust, floating as if in slow motion through the stream of light. It shouldn’t be sunny. Not today. Not when her heart needed the world to be dark and grey. When she needed to feel like something made a modicum of sense.
Blue skies were wrong. The happy, laughing faces of the teenagers they’d passed on the drive here were wrong. She’d wanted Niall to swerve the car – to mow them down, wipe those stupid, toothy grins from their fresh, youthful faces. Only for a second. A flash of wicked fury that had passed as soon as it arrived. But she’d wanted it.
Lisa’s eyes flicked to the cold stone building to her right, noticing with an audible grunt the crowd that had begun to grow. Niall was out there somewhere. Talking. Mingling. Opening up to people who couldn’t possibly understand. He had told her to come, to wait outside with the rest of them, but she’d growled something menacing and he’d closed the car door with a quiet click.
She wouldn’t have it. She wouldn’t have him playing the victim. Accepting sympathy from people who had no right to offer it. She watched now as his dark suit came into view, breaking away from the group and walking towards the car.
Panicked, she glanced at the little clock on the dashboard. It had a crack through the centre of the glass and she knew it was set five minutes fast – A habit she had begun more than a decade ago to combat her serial lateness. It hadn’t helped. The dial read 1pm.
Five minutes to go.
Lisa felt her mouth go dry. She wrapped her arms tightly around the inert bundle on her chest. It was too soon. She wasn’t ready. How could she ever be ready for this? Her heart began to beat harder, her breath catching in her throat. She didn’t look round as the driver side door opened and her husband slipped silently into the seat beside her.
A minute passed in silence, save for the sound of her pulse hammering in her ears and Niall’s uneven, shallow breath. She wished he would shut up. She could see the faces glance over from the crowd, trying to catch her eye, to smile that warm, sad, pitying smile she had been forced to endure so often in the past six days.
Niall cleared his throat and turned slightly to look at her. She didn’t move. “Lisa. It’s time to go.”
He gave a sigh. “Lisa, they’re bringing her round now.”
At that, the hammering in her chest grew faster still. For a brief second, she thought that she was going to pass out, but she didn’t. She bit down hard on her lower lip as hot, unwelcome tears sprung to her eyes. She squeezed the bundle harder.
Niall reached across, taking her hand softly in his own. His was cold and clammy. She pulled back, not caring that his face crumpled at her reaction, his eyes creased with pain and anguish. She couldn’t feel sorry for him. She couldn’t find a scrap of sympathy.
“Please Lis’. Give me the doll. You can’t take it in.”
Slowly, she turned to face him with venom in her eyes. “Why not?” she spat.
“Lisa, come on. Give it to me. It’s just a bit of plastic. It’s not real.” He slumped against the threadbare seat, rubbing his fingers into the sockets of his eyes, kneading at them almost viciously. She watched him with mild disgust. Finally he raised his head. “It won’t make things better.”
Lisa stared at him, unsmiling. Slowly, she lowered her face, her eyes finding the empty, glass irises of the baby doll. She wasn’t crazy. She knew – of course she knew – that it was only a toy. Just a lump of plastic, moulded and shaped to look like a sweet baby girl. It was supposed to have been a birthday gift for her daughter. Their daughter. But of course, that would never happen now. Her daughter would never hold and love and play with it.
Lisa knew the damn thing wasn’t her baby. She knew what it must look like to the people around her. But every time she tried to put it down, the ache in her arms, her heart, became a white hot pain she couldn’t bear. She couldn’t think, couldn’t function, so aware of the thing that was missing, the body that should be there, head tucked warmly beneath her chin, ear to her heart, knowing it beat just for her. Her baby. Her sweet Lilly.
“This is your fault,” she whispered, her eyes still on the baby doll. She felt the impact of her words immediately. Words she hadn’t yet dared to voice, but had played on repeat in her mind for the past six days. She knew what they would do to him. The confirmation that she laid the blame at his feet. That she hated him for what he hadn’t been able to do. She knew she should take them back. That she should tell him it was okay, she forgave him. Everything was going to be alright. That they would get through this together. But none of that was true. Their marriage had been over the moment their daughter’s heart had stopped beating.
It was funny, she thought now, how something so small could break something once so strong. A little red button dropped from the sewing box onto the carpet, just the perfect size to wedge itself in an eleven month old’s throat. A husband distracted for just a few minutes while he took a call in the other room. Tiny, almost imperceptible actions that in the space of a few minutes, destroyed her whole world. He should have been more careful as he riffled through the box, looking for the scissors. He should have been watching her. Niall choked back a sob and stared straight ahead, unable to put words to the injustice of his situation. Lisa watched as the funeral director approached the car, gave a short nod and stepped back to wait for them.
She wasn’t ready to say goodbye. She wasn’t ready to accept the emptiness in her arms. She squeezed the doll again, soaking up the tiny fragment of comfort its soft, cotton body offered. She took a deep, steadying breath, feeling the tears streaming like fire down her cheeks. Her life was forever changed. Her dreams had been shattered into a million tiny pieces, and she was terrified at the thought of what would come next. She had no idea what she would do, who she would even be without the label of wife, mother. She was lost. All she could do was put one foot in front of the other and follow blindly until she found her way.
It was time to say goodbye. She stepped out into the sunshine, holding tightly onto the doll, and walked into the blinding glare of the unknown.
The copyright of this story belongs to Sam Vickery.