Fiona began to wake slowly, snuggled in the warm comfort of her own bed. In her dreamy haze, she ran her fingers expectantly down her stomach; reality crashed into her day. There was no bump, no baby.
She caught her breath, but it was no good; tears engulfed her yet again. Would the pain ever go away?
‘Its okay love,’ Ben murmured, holding her close, stroking her hair. She felt her despair wash through them both.
Their baby was gone. Black and white scan images were all they had left. Images that would join the others in her top drawer. A whole family of images who should have grown up together, played together, gone camping together.
This had been her last try. There would be no more tests, no more treatments. The dream was over.
Fiona saw the years yawning ahead of them; empty years. Ben deserved to be a Dad. He was so kind, generous, smart. He would have made a great Dad. His parents will be devastated when they hear; no grandchildren, ever. The line finished right here. Why? Why? It’s not fair.
All her friends had children. It’s so normal to go forth and multiply, everyone expected it.
Knowing the medical reason did not make it any better. Her body had let everyone down, again, and again, and again. So many images.
The next few weeks passed in darkness. Fiona mechanically went to work, did the chores, watched the news. Fog wrapped around her brain, blocking out any sun. She forgot how to laugh. Dark thoughts moved in. Ben would be better off without her. He needed a real wife; one who could give him children.
She took to wearing loose clothes; her body did not deserve celebrating. She ate rarely; there was nothing to nourish.
Ben watched helplessly as his cherished wife slid into unknown territory. No amount of love could bring his wife back.
Fiona stopped visiting her siblings, with their bouncy children and busy days. Instead, she would sit in the garden for hours, doing nothing. She no longer cried, but she didn’t laugh either. An empty void replaced all emotion.
Ben took her to the Doctor. Give her time, the Doctor said. Ben wasn’t sure there was time.
Fiona walked out of her job. Her boss called Ben, generously offering to keep the position open for twelve months. Ben gratefully accepted.
Fiona knew she was a problem, a drain, a rotten wife. The knowledge dropped her deeper into her hole. Ben was so good to her, and she was nothing.
Friends stopped calling; there was nothing to say. Ben gave up sport, afraid to leave Fiona alone, just thankful that he worked from home. He was frightened for Fiona; frightened for himself. Loneliness threatened to engulf him. Everyone sympathised. No-one understood.
Ben was sliding into his own hell.
He suggested a holiday. Fiona was too tired to object; she didn’t care.
He took her up the coast, driving a little each day, short walks to see the sights; museums, galleries, waterfalls.
Little by little, Fiona sensed a change. She noticed a flower, an insect flying by; little things.
Ben couldn’t believe it, the first time she actually asked for a cup of tea. He dared to hope, just a little.
One afternoon, they were sitting together on a rocky outcrop at the beach. Ben was worried; their holiday needed to end, but he dreaded taking Fiona home, back to the same. He didn’t know how to tell her; the future scared the hell out of him. Would Fiona, the love of his life, ever come back to him? He couldn’t desert her, but what did the future hold?
Two seagulls spotted a food scrap right in front of Fiona. They both rushed to claim it. A screech pierced Fiona’s fog; her brain grabbed the light. The birds had hold of a corner of the food each; they awkwardly danced to and fro, pulling frantically, wings beating furiously; neither would give up the treasure.
Fiona watched the battle with growing interest, and suddenly a burst of laughter escaped from her, releasing endorphins that flooded her brain.
Ben laughed with relief, dissolving the ever-present tightness in his chest.
Fiona turned to him, and together their laughter turned to tears, as they hugged each other close.
Ben’s fingers stroked her hair. Fiona heard him murmur ‘It will be okay’ and suddenly, she knew that it would.