Emily: Chapter Twenty One

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HOME HEALS ALL HURT

Surrounded by memories of her youth – a carefree, happier time – Emily began to feel her spirits slowly lift again. There were moments in the day that she felt like herself again. Unfortunately, it didn’t take much for her mind to travel back down the difficult path she had been on a few months earlier and the smallest triggers were enough to cause her to get lost in a dark world from which she seemed unable to fully escape. Selfishly, she was glad that Abbey had moved away from their hometown and could not visit that often. She was sure she would not have been able to handle it if she had been around with her growing womb while hers was and would possibly remain empty forever.

One morning when she had almost finished watering the tiny tomato plants she had in her bedroom balcony, the bell rang. She didn’t feel up to entertaining so remained where she was hoping that one of her parents would answer the door. When it rang again, she slowly put down the watering can and sauntered to open it. Arun was there with a package in his hands.

“You?” they both said at the same time.

“I’m here on a holiday Imli. Just came by to give Aunty and Uncle this package of goodies from the States.” Arun replied, grinning.

“I’m here…on a short holiday too.” Emily said haltingly, inviting Arun inside.

While Arun chatted with her parents about his American dream and life in the United States of America, Emily fell silent; lost in her thoughts. Arun kept looking at her, trying to get her attention by gesturing wildly and cracking loud jokes. She hardly noticed he was there.

“She’s a little off colour since…” Ma began to tell Arun, noticing how his gaze often wandered in Emily’s direction.

“I heard Aunty. I didn’t want to say anything. I thought she would be, I don’t know, herself, again?”

Ma smiled sadly and shook her head. “She has taken it very badly. I suppose any mother would. It’s absolutely terrible for us to see her this way. Somehow, everything reminds her of Grace. I don’t know what to do…” She looked at her daughter who was staring blankly out the window. Then she looked at Arun, “Perhaps it would be a good idea if you could take her out? It could help get her mind off things while you’re here. If you are free that is of course. You two used to be good friends after she got over the whole ‘Imli’ thing.”

Arun laughed and stroked his nose reflexively. He rose to leave. “Sure Aunty, I’m here for a while. I’ll see if she’s up to it.”

“Emily, Arun is leaving. Would you show him out please?” The sound of her name brought her back to the present and she got up to take Arun to the door.

“Listen Imli, I’m here for a long break. It would be great to catch up. What do you say? Let’s go get some coffee or dinner or a movie or something some time?”

Emily looked at him and was quiet for a moment. Then she shrugged. “Sure. Call me.”

A couple of days later, Arun and Emily went out for coffee and for the first time in months, Emily laughed. It was a raspy sound, unlike her old laugh, and she couldn’t help wondering if that is what had happened to it on account of non-use. In Arun’s company, she began to finally heal. In Arun’s company, she was able to take her mind off the loss of Grace, forget to brood about the grave injustice of Abbey’s pregnancy and ignore the fact that Ethan had hardly been reachable since she got home. She wouldn’t openly admit it because doing that would be accepting it was actually happening, but every day that he didn’t call caused her heart which was held together with flimsy sticky-tape to splinter more and more.

One evening, Arun came home to visit her and found her staring at her phone.

“Imli, what’s up?”

She looked at him a little blankly and then said, “It’s Ethan. Since I’ve got here I’ve spoken to him maybe three or four times. Three or four times in a month Arun! After the engagement, we used to talk three or four times a day and sometimes for hours at a stretch and he was always swamped with work, even then! I…I don’t know what happened. I know I took a long while to start talking again after we lost Grace. I just couldn’t. I wanted to die. I spent every waking moment reliving my pregnancy, wondering what I did wrong. Angry? Exhausted? Depressed? That doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling. I tried. I think I did. Perhaps I didn’t try hard enough. Maybe I took too long….” then she looked up from her phone and into Arun’s eyes. “Do you think that he hates me because I wasn’t able to keep Grace safe?” she asked, instinctively clutching her belly. “When we first got married, Ethan couldn’t keep his hands off me…now, it’s almost an anomaly if he kisses me good morning or good night and even then, it’s perfunctory at best. Do you think he doesn’t want to or simply can’t make love to a woman like me because I have the stretch marks and nothing to show for it? Do you think he hates that I don’t look the way I used to? That I’m broken? I’m damaged? I’m ugly? I’m…”

Arun put his hand over her mouth to stop the rant that she was on and then gently held her face in his hands. He looked deep into her eyes. “Shush! You listen to me, Emily. You need to stop thinking and talking that way. You’re beautiful…”

Emily held his gaze for a few moments. She felt drawn to him and found herself wondering what it would be like to kiss him. Milliseconds before things got out of hand, she pulled away. She shook her head as if to empty her mind of the impure thoughts she had just had and protectively pulled her clothes tighter around her body.

“You need to go Arun. Leave now. Please.”

Arun started to say something and then decided against it. He walked out of the door as Emily’s knees gave way and she sank onto the sofa, unsure of what had happened.

******

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Emily: Chapter Twenty

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CHANGE

Emily hated being alone in the still, silent house that should have been full of laughter and baby babble so she spent long hours in the park, trying to walk her sadness away. The fresh air did her good and some nights when she got home, she felt more like the old Emily. One evening, she bumped into someone she was least expecting.

“Oh my God, Emily! It’s been years!! Look what’s become of me!”, Leanne, now with hair as black as it was the day she was born, pointed at the small, spit-bubble blowing, baby boy she held in her arms.

Emily swallowed.

“I heard you were pregnant too? Already out and about without the baby? I wish I could get this one, off of me! Wish I was you!” Leanne continued giggling.

Emily looked at her for a long minute, her hands on her sagging belly. “I lost her…” she whispered. “Still wish you were me?” She was unfairly enraged with the happy woman standing in front of her.

“Oh! Oh my God! Emily, I had no…I’m so sorry. I…Emily, I’m…” Leanne stammered.

Emily dismissed her and turned the other way. The conversation had made her so uncomfortable, she was sick in a trash can on the way out of the park. She couldn’t handle another chance meeting like that. She wasn’t strong enough yet. She wondered if she ever would be. So, she gave up her walks in the park and remained within the confines of the house once more.

Emily had finally reached a stage when she felt ready to share her heavy load with Ethan, but it seemed as though she was too late. It appeared that he had found consolation in his research and didn’t need to talk to her anymore. He had thrown himself into his work and was spending long hours at his lab. He was hardly ever at home and whenever Emily tried to talk about their loss, he would quickly change the subject.

Emily made several attempts to bridge the gap that had come up between Ethan and her. Out of character, she initiated physical intimacy with him. If Ethan seemed like a man who didn’t think sex was important before, now, whenever she gave it a shot, Ethan would say he was too tired and head off to their bedroom to sleep leaving Emily alone with her thoughts again. His complete lack of interest in her made her feel worse about everything that had happened and finally one evening, frustrated and spiralling deeper into depression, she shouted, “I need a change. I think I’ll go to my parents’ place. Not sure for how long. I need to go.”

Ethan who had been on his way to the bedroom whipped around and said, “That’s a good idea. I think the change will do you good. You should leave as soon as you can. Do you need me to book your tickets?”

Emily shook her head and clenched her fists. She would not let him see how much his apparent indifference was affecting her. She watched him walk into the bedroom and cried softly as he closed the door. She thought about staying where she was and wondered whether Ethan would be forced to talk to her eventually if she remained in their flat. On the other hand, if she wasn’t there Ethan would possibly miss her and want her again.

There was no other way. She didn’t want to go. She needed to go. She had to get out of the house that had once held so many happy dreams.

The next day, she packed the few clothes that still fit her in a duffel bag and took the bus home.

******

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UBC: Post 24

Emily: Chapter Nineteen

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PICKING UP THE PIECES

Emily slowly began trying to put her life back together. It was a much more difficult task than she felt up to on most days. Every time she caught her mother-in-law’s eyes, she thought that she saw disappointment there and it made her both sad and angry at the same time.

Anything Emily touched reminded her of her pregnancy. What was hardest to do was – everything. Nevertheless, life had to move on. The first thing she decided to do was return the crib and pram that she had bought for the baby. She had caught hold of the notion that if it was out of sight it would somehow make all of it easier to deal with. Abbey offered to do it for her. Emily refused, telling her that she had to do it herself to get closure. She stood about two feet from the exchange counter with the bills clutched tight in her hand, lips trembling for almost half an hour before her mother and Abbey couldn’t watch any longer and took over the awful task, finishing it on her behalf.

Some days later, while searching for something at the back of her cupboard, she found a box of baby clothes Mummy had packed away probably to save Emily the heartache of doing it herself. It hadn’t worked. Emily cried for almost the whole day – thinking of herself as a failure both as a daughter-in-law and as a mother.

A while later she turned on the radio, hoping that music would soothe her aching soul. It was retro hour and they were playing Johnny Cash. ‘You are my sunshine’ came on.

‘…as I lay sleeping,
I dreamt I held you in my arms.
When I awoke dear, I was mistaken,
So I bowed my head and cried…’
 

Emily, in near hysterics, pulled the music system from its socket and threw it as hard as she could. How could the world send her such brutal reminders of Grace and plunge her back into the cold swirling vortex just as she was trying to resurface and breathe again?

Emily wanted to talk to Ethan but every time she looked at him, her eyes would fill up and she would turn away. She was so very sorry she hadn’t been able to keep their daughter safe. She didn’t know how to apologize and Ethan was giving her limited opportunities to try. It seemed as though he was spending more and more time at the hospital. She wanted to be able to grieve with him, but she felt so guilty that she needed a little more time before she could ask Ethan to share some of the intense weight of the sorrow with her.

The day before her mother and Abbey were leaving, Emily caught them whispering about something for what felt like the millionth time since they had been at her flat. Exasperated, she shouted, “What are you two always whispering about? Mad Emily? Crazy Emily? Emily needs to see a shrink? Has Emily’s lost her marbles because she can’t stop crying at everything??”

“No, Emily. It’s not like that.” her mother said, as soothingly as she could.

“Then what is it? Why are you two always whispering and then turning into stone the second you see me coming?”

“It’s…it’s…” Abbey began, tears welling up in her eyes.

“You’re crying?” Emily shouted, laughing like a maniac. “It’s WHAT Abbey?”

“I just found out that I’m expecting…” Abbey mumbled. Mrs. Vaz took hold of her hand and Abbey squeezed it.

The air had been sucked out of Emily’s lungs. No. She hadn’t heard right. Not now. Not when she had lost Grace only days earlier. She stood there immobile. She told herself to breathe. She knew what she had to do if only she could make her body do it.

Emily swallowed. “That’s…that’s amazing Abbey…I didn’t know you guys were trying again…” Emily somehow managed to say in an unnatural shrill voice, forcing one foot in front of the other till she was standing in front of Abbey. She raised her arms and gave her elder sister a stiff hug.

“Yeah…” Abbey replied uncomfortably, not knowing if she could ever tell Emily, who had been on such a rough road, that it was an unplanned pregnancy.

“I’ll…I’ll get something to celebrate…” said Emily, going to the kitchen so that they wouldn’t see her cry.

She needed to yell at someone. But at whom? God? Clive? Abbey? At whom? She felt hot tears streaming down her face and it was a while before she was able to stop sobbing and reappear in the hall with some cookies and juice. Her eyes and nose were red, but she had managed to stop crying. “Sorry I don’t have anything more celebration-y.” She said, trying to sound excited.

Abbey smiled and squeezed her hand. “Are you alright?”

The brown eyes met the black and Emily knew that there would be no point feigning happiness with her sister. Abbey knew her better than she knew herself. So she said softly, “No. Not really. I’m sorry. I am happy for you…at least I’m sure I am somewhere deep down inside. It’s just…I…I’m…”

Abbey held her in a warm, long embrace. “I know Emmy…I know…”

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UBC: Post 23

Emily: Chapter Eighteen

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GRACE

The doctors at the emergency ward rushed Emily to the labour and delivery room where they tried to find the baby’s heartbeat.

The silence was deafening.

Everything after that was like a nightmare for Emily. The nurses prepped her for an emergency cesarean section. Emily wished they wouldn’t give her the anaesthesia. She felt like she needed to feel the intense pain to cope. That she had to endure physical agony in preparation for that which was to come. It couldn’t have been very long after the surgery began, yet it felt like several agonizing hours had passed before a perfectly formed baby girl was placed on Emily’s chest.

Through tears, she said, “Hey there, Sunshine. Do you want to open those beautiful eyes for me? Mama loves you so much. I…I…I’m so sorry I couldn’t keep you safe. I’m so sorry I couldn’t do the one job I was supposed to do. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m…”

As she broke down into hysterical sobs, one of the nurses gently eased the sleeping baby away from her and the anaesthesiologist gave her a sedative. The last thing she remembered was watching the nurse take her baby away.

She never saw her child again.

The days that followed were no better than that early morning on which little Grace Mendonca said goodbye to this world before she had a chance to say hello. Emily tried to show courage and strength but it was beyond her to do so. In her hospital room where she spent three miserable nights in order to recover from her physical injuries, her eyes kept darting to the side of her bed where a baby crib should have been. Every time a nurse or a doctor or Ethan entered the room, she involuntarily glanced at their arms hoping that were carrying her little girl and they had decided to put an end to the cruel joke life seemed to be making at her expense. She couldn’t believe that her Grace was gone.

Reality hit her like a brick when the hospital administration staff  handed her the baby’s death certificate as they were being discharged from the hospital. She collapsed into unstoppable tears and had to run out of the hospital to draw in some fresh air to breathe again. It didn’t help that when she got into their car, the blood stains were still visible on the car seat. She noticed that Ethan, or somebody, had tried to scrub them away and had been unsuccessful. The large brown patch brought back the horrors of their drive and Emily almost couldn’t breathe again. She slammed the front door shut and got into the back seat shivering. She began to hyperventilate and Ethan handed her a paper bag in which to breathe. He tried to put his arms around her to help calm her down. She pushed him away. Silently he got back into the driver’s seat and took her home.

Emily had hoped that when she got home, things would get better. They didn’t. When she walked into the bedroom, she was greeted by the baby crib she had ordered. It stood there fully assembled, waiting for a baby that would never lay in it. She felt irrationally angry at Ethan for being so insensitive to her feelings and leaving the crib there in full view. She crawled into bed, drew the covers over her head and cried until there were no more tears left. Then she fell asleep.

When she woke up the crib was gone and her family, as well as Ethan’s mother, had arrived. Emily, who could barely pull herself out of bed, found that she had lost the will to talk or eat and wanted to be alone, in the quiet dark world into which she had gone.

She would need time, and lots of it, to heal. Her world had been shattered and she felt as though she had been left there, alone among the million fragments. She would have to pick everything up and fix all of them together again. It had to all fit together if she was to go on. But, how could it when one of the biggest pieces of all had been lost forever?

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