Elizabeth was suffering. Father had insisted
she see our GP. It was like all the words were
stifled in Elizabeth’s throat. She was mute, gloomy.
She lingered in bed until late afternoon, then came
and sat silently in the lounge, in her unlaundered
pyjamas, wrapped in a dreary blanket. The doctor
diagnosed clinical depression. This was serious.
He prescribed anti-depressants and rest. I couldn’t
extract a sentence from Elizabeth. Father gently
encouraged her to take her medicine. I couldn’t
see them helping. It was horrible to witness
Elizabeth’s bubbly spirit slayed like this. Worst
of all, nothing I did, could comfort her.
The foetal remains were to be laid to rest in the
lawn cemetery. There was even to be a little
ceremony. I thought it heartbreaking. We dressed
in black, like regular mourners, while the wind blew
leafy eddies. In the children’s area, the graves were
lovingly decorated. Favourite toys, even old brown
teddy bears, strewn flowers, there was so much
love and sadness. Elizabeth stood rigid, saying
nothing, not even weeping. I knew she was
irreparably damaged. When the rain streamed
down, it seemed fitting. Like the whole world cried.
Elizabeth had to remain in hospital for a procedure.
I stayed quietly with her, until she was sent up to
the ward. Father reappeared with hot drinks. He
looked broken, lost. Nothing was said. I stared at
the hollow Elizabeth’s body had made in the
sheets, and my eyes began to leak. Once we knew
Elizabeth was out of theatre and resting
comfortably, it was time to go home. There was
a nauseous pit in my stomach. My life was full
of death. Somehow this was sad as Mother’s
departure. The world was cruel.
We all moved into the doctor’s consulting room.
Elizabeth was to have an ultrasound. I watched
with fascination as the cold gel was massaged
into Elizabeth’s gorgeous tummy. The doctor put
on her glasses and focussed in a professional
manner. After a while she removed her
stethoscope in a concerned gesture. We all
held our breath. Something was wrong. The
doctor couldn’t detect a heartbeat. Elizabeth
made a small sad animal sound. This was tragic.
The doctor tried again, then nodded her head.
It was certain. Elizabeth had lost the baby. I felt
immeasurably sorry. I clutched at Elizabeth’s
hand. Her whole body was trembling. She was
devastated. The doctor turned off the monitor
and withdrew. Father followed her. The room felt
icy and antiseptic. I melted into the bedside chair
while Elizabeth wept softly.
Elizabeth showed no signs of planning for the
future. She seemed happy to live off our charity.
I was surprised that Father didn’t mutter under
his breath. He was pleased to feed the waif I’d
brought into our home. In fact the two of them
got on like a burning house. It was touching to
watch. Elizabeth clearly needed a Father figure
after all the fuss with Dan, and my Father was
willing to oblige. I didn’t know how long this
peculiar situation could endure. Elizabeth had
an upcoming hospital scan. She asked us sweetly
to go. It was agreed. I couldn’t help but think how
peculiar the situation really was. Two grown boys
enamoured of a wilful, pregnant girl. The strange
idyll couldn’t last.
When I returned home, deflated, Father and
Elizabeth were chortling together in the lounge.
She’d won him over already. Everyone loved
Elizabeth. It irked my soul to think how gullible
the male species were. We were all fools. Myself
being a prize idiot. Elizabeth was a cunning vixen.
She kept men in her back pocket, like billiard balls,
ready to play. I knew I was being sour and
uncharitable. Suddenly Elizabeth looked up,
and threw me a glittering smile. Despite myself
I grinned. I was her smitten lapdog. It was like
a law of nature.
I’d never been to Clarissa’s house. It was an
imposing Edwardian villa with a significant
driveway. The lawns were beautifully manicured,
box trees decorated the overall austerity. I walked
up to the oak door and rapped on the knocker.
There were no cars, but something told me
Clarissa was home. Net curtains draped across
all the windows, so I couldn’t peer inside. I felt
certain Clarissa was waiting behind the drapes,
her breath bated, tears stinging her eyes, her
shoulders trembling. I was immeasurably sorry.
I’d stuffed up everything. I waited for ten minutes,
even calling her name softly. There was no reply.
Hang-dog, I shuffled away, glancing regretfully
at the house. It felt like a beautiful era had ended.
I ran up to my room, bolted the door, and dialled
Clarissa. It was futile. She’d think I was some
grubby low-down cheat. My call went straight to
voicemail. Clarissa was clearly in no mood to
answer me. I left a simpering message on the
third try, but I expected no reply. I’d fucked up
things entirely with Clarissa. The glamour of
Elizabeth suddenly withered and expired. It was
all false. I lambasted myself for being so shallow,
for being conned by Elizabeth’s empty allure.
Such a flighty girl, I knew, would soon move
onto the next boy. I was simply entertainment
at a troubling time. I thought of roses. To heal
things with Clarissa. But she wouldn’t be
hoodwinked by such a hollow gesture. I had
some major explaining to do. So I put on my
smartest shoes, cantered down the stairwell,
and slammed the door, heading for Clarissa’s
Elizabeth and I were returning home. Our hands
were intertwined, our throats giggling. Somebody
was waiting beside the front door. My stomach
lurched. It was Clarissa. This was immensely
difficult. I saw Clarissa’s body stiffen, then her
shoulders trembled. Elizabeth beside me was
merely curious. I didn’t think polite introductions
would work. Clarissa was fumbling with the
toggles on her coat, clearly distressed. As we
approached closer, Clarissa bolted. She ran
through the gate and charged up the street.
Our relationship was over. I thought about
hurling my hands in the air and running after
her. However it was hopeless. Elizabeth was
asking wickedly who that young woman was.
I barely acknowledged her. My head and heart
were in turmoil. I knew I’d lost a loyal love.
It was appalling. I shook away Elizabeth’s hand
brusquely, unbolted the front door, and we
Elizabeth had cravings. She desired chocolate
and cream cheese bagels. I was surprised, but
said we could go to the bakery. There was an
element of adventure which always made
Elizabeth exciting. I loaned her a trench coat
and a woolly scarf, and we went out into the
hoary morning. Elizabeth had shaken off the
fog of despondency which had depressed her
at first. She was positively bouncy now. After
our sweet treat, Elizabeth wanted the cinema.
She didn’t care what was playing. Any soppy
B-grade teen flick would fit the bill. I relished
the prospect of holding hands in the dark, maybe
even smooching a bit. We walked to the multiplex,
bought random tickets, and a huge carton of
buttery popcorn. I worried that my money was
nearly out. Naturally I would pay for everything,
that was the way with Elizabeth. We went straight
to the back row seats, clutching hands. Elizabeth’s
eyes shone brightly. I brushed her button nose
with my fingertips. I was bewitched.