In The Hours Of Darkness

A short fiction piece from my upcoming book In The Hours of Darkness: Writings on Death and Dying.

Detecting Life

I have never seen your eyes as wide as they are now. I have never seen you so scared. The doctor has had to repeat the bad news slowly, leaving wide gaps between each word, so that our tired brains have time to process the information. It’s harder for you. You’re drifting in and out of consciousness. I go to press the help button every time you start to drift. The three nurses here aren’t enough. I want someone at all five points.

She was supposed to be opening her eyes sometime this week, gaining more weight, preparing for delivery. Her eyelashes would follow, red blood cells, a head of hair possibly. Next week her bones would have been fully developed, but still soft and pliable. The week after that, in week 32 she would have been practising breathing, and in week 33 she would detect light for the first time. I’m thinking this like the choice has already been made. We skipped the chapters on death, and raided your parent’s garage for your old kid books instead. We didn’t think we’d need to read and highlight that particular section.

I need to look away from your face, ripped with pain and almost purple, because I can’t do anything. I notice your feet. It’s as though your heel bones have been fused together. You don’t want to open your legs. It isn’t time yet. It shouldn’t be time.

I think of what I love about you. The taste of your fingers when you have spent all day writing. How you wanted me in bed whenever I came back from the gym, my t-shirt outlining my spine. I think about the respect you have for the new day, and the ability to always start again. I love how you’re the last thing I touch at night, the first thing when I wake up. I’ve loved getting to know your body as our baby turned in your belly like a new galaxy.

I try not to think of the cupboard in the kitchen prepped with baby milk, rusks and chocolate pudding – the same one you had as a child, you were insistent our baby had it. I try not to think about the Mothercare vouchers stacked behind the Buddha on the mantelpiece. I don’t want to think about the new car seat, the tiny Dr Martens from your brother. I don’t want to think about the baby grows you packed into your overnight bag. You bought two, just in case. One pink, one cream both with popper buttons in the shape of hearts. I kiss the craters of your collar bones, I kiss around the mask attached to your nose and mouth. I kiss your hair, damp with sweat and tears, so many tears. I want to whisper ‘let her go’ in your hot, red ears, but I can’t.

I am looking for people to help proofread the final version. If you are interested, please let me know here or at katiemariemetcalfe@hotmail.co.uk

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