PEOPLE SAY I HAVE a special glow about me. That always makes me smile. Sometimes they ask if they can touch my belly – complete strangers! But I always let them. It’s good that people can share in my little miracle. After all, it’s what I was made for.
I think I was born to be a mother. Ever since I was a kid all I ever wanted was a child. Someone who I could lavish all my care and attention on, and who would love me back unconditionally. Things were tough for me when I was growing up, but I always took refuge in my dream that one day I would have a baby all of my own, and that from that day on I’d never be alone again. Sometimes that dream was the only thing that kept me going.
Mother wouldn’t even let me have a dolly. Even when I was six or seven she said they were too childish, that they were toys for little babies, “and you’re not a little baby, are you Claire?” So my dolls were all scraps of fabric or tiny mannequins that if made myself out of whatever I could get my hands on that mother wouldn’t miss. They never lasted long, though. Mother always found them eventually, and into the trash they’d go. “You’re not a little baby, Claire.” Then I’d be in trouble. Big trouble.
Any day now. I should be due any day now. My darling boy will come into the world and everything will be okay. I know it’s a boy, even though no doctor has ever told me. I can just feel it. I haven’t decided on a name for him yet, though. It doesn’t seem right to name him before I’ve even seen what he looks like. Besides, if I named him now, I wouldn’t be able to speculate, would I? That’s one of my favorite little games to play when it’s late at night and I can’t sleep and I’m feeling tired and lonely. I run different names through my head, getting the taste of them on my tongue. Anthony. Hector. Kevin. Thomas. Each one conjures up a different image, a different set of possibilities. Andrew. Terrence. Robin. Hugh. One’s a teacher, one’s a doctor, one’s a professor, another an explorer. Simon. Gareth. Robert. Bruce. I whisper the names in the darkness and they lull me to sleep, where I dream about my baby-to-be and the world that will lie at his feet.
His father isn’t in the picture anymore. He was a strong man – I made sure of that – and smart, too. I don’t think he ever really loved me, though. I certainly never loved him. He wasn’t the type to settle down anyway – too passionate, too impulsive. Ironically, the qualities I wanted from him for my child were the same qualities that would have made him a terrible father.
He got violent towards the end, when he found out that I hadn’t been using birth control like I promised. Called me a lying bitch, said I was just as bad as his wife and slapped me hard around the face. I always hated his hotheadedness, but I knew that my calm and stable nature would temper it in our child. He hadn’t known it, but all the time we’d been seeing each other I’d been trying to conceive. Three months, and nothing at that point. I was beginning to wonder if he had it in him.
So his reaction was a surprise when I finally told him I was pregnant. I had hoped it would drive him away, but the exact opposite happened: he held me close, told me he loved me and swore that he’d leave his wife for me and make a new life for us and our child. That wasn’t what I wanted at all. Now that I had what I needed from this man, he was surplus to requirements: he could only get in the way and come between me and my baby. Even as he held me in his arms, tears rolling down his cheeks, I knew he had to go.
It wasn’t difficult. I was methodical and systematic. First I convinced him that we had to have a completely fresh start, and he had to totally cut himself off from his family and friends if we were to become a real family. Then I made sure I had access to all of his assets, including his bank account. Finally I persuaded him that what we really need was some time away together before we started out on our new life: a little holiday where we could get away from it all and really sort things out between us.
We rented a little cottage way out in the country for a few days. It was perfect. On our final evening there we went for a romantic walk in the moonlight, walking hand in hand through the blue-silvered night. I really thought he was going to propose as we stood on that remote hillside overlooking the babbling river below. But the knife slipped in as intimately as a kiss, and I walked back to the cottage without him – just me and my unborn baby, that little bundle of new life I carried within me that I would never have to share with anyone.
He left us well provided for. We lived like nomads from then on, my son and I, travelling from city to city and town to town, never staying in one place for more than a few days at a time. My body began to change, filling out and becoming more curvy and shapely: I liked to think of it as being freshly upholstered for my little passenger. At night I used to dream about him swimming around inside of me, snug as a hand in a new velvet glove. Those were good times.
Soon after, however, the sickness came. I knew that most women experience morning sickness to some degree in their pregnancy, but I hadn’t been expecting anything like this. Every morning without fail I would vomit until my stomach ached and my throat was raw, and I was left feeling light-headed and utterly vacant.
And then there were the cravings. I’d never felt anything like them before. They washed over me in waves, great suffocating tsunamis of desire that overwhelmed my senses and almost drove me insane. I didn’t know exactly what it was I wanted, but I had a maddening urge for something, and I knew I could never be truly satisfied until I got it.
For two weeks I endured this misery until I was at my wit’s end. I felt like a slave to forces beyond my control, like an empty bag whipped around by the wind or a scrap of driftwood tossed and buffeted by ocean storms. Then one day I was sitting in a diner staring at a plate of pancakes and trying to stop my stomach from flipping over when everything changed.
A woman came in, obviously heavily pregnant, and made her way straight to the restroom. I rose from my chair and followed, intending to ask her advice on what I was going through, tapping into that universal camaraderie that all mothers-to-be share. At least, I think that’s what I was planning.
The moment the door closed behind me, however, I was completely overtaken by events beyond my control. The craving sized hold of me again, and for the first time I knew exactly what it was I had to do.
I still had the knife with me. I’d kept it as a sort of talisman. In a flash it was in my hand, the cold steel shining unnaturally bright in the harsh artificial light of the stalls. The woman had already vanished into one of the cubicles – I could hear the door rattling as she fumbled with the lock.
I kicked it open. The knife slashed across her throat, cutting short her brief gasp of surprise. She floundered uselessly on the seat, her arms flapping like the wings of a dying bird. It was all over in an instant: I remember the sound of a tap dripping as the blood pooled silently around her feet.
I felt energized – more alive than I had ever felt before. Just at that moment, as the last of her life left her body, I felt my unborn child kick inside me for the very first time. It was truly sublime.
That was three years ago. Not a lot has changed since then. We’re still traveling around, me and my son, seeing the world one motel at a time. He still hasn’t come out yet: who can blame him? The world is often not a very nice place, and he’s already got the most comfortable little den he could ever desire. I am his world, just as he is mine. The cravings still come, and it’s just as delicious as the first time when I satisfy them. He’s going to be such a special little boy when he finally makes his appearance. And I’m sure he’s due any day now.
Any day now.