Originally published in ‘A Tail of a Mouse – An Anthology from Michael Terence Publishing’, which you can buy here.
3.30pm that day
Idris couldn’t tell you what he had for breakfast that day and he couldn’t tell you what he wore to work. He couldn’t even tell you if he went to work at all. The day was completely insignificant to Idris, until about 3.30pm that is.
Idris remembered every tiny thing after 3.30pm in detail. He didn’t want to, but he did, often. He had been sat in a dark room on a blue plastic chair holding his wife Isla’s hand. Idris remembered every movement he’d seen on Isla’s face, every word the nurse had said and where every one of Isla’s tears had fallen to on her cheek before being wiped off onto her sleeve.
At 3.28pm the nurse had rubbed gel on Isla’s stomach. You couldn’t see any difference in Isla’s size yet but she was certain that she could feel the baby with her hand when she tried. A second nurse bought down a widescreen TV on a flexible stand from the wall. Idris squeezed Isla’s hand and they both watched the screen.
‘There it is,’ Isla said softly and Idris smiled at her without moving his eyes from the screen. He could see it too; a clear outline of their baby. Head, body and limbs. Then the nurse said the words that Idris remembered better than anything else that day.
‘Isla, I’m so sorry sweetheart.’ Both Isla and Idris looked at the nurse. ‘There’s no heartbeat.’
9 weeks before
Idris sat on the bed and waited for Isla to come out of the bathroom. They’d been having sex every other day for the past two months, but not being a couple to cancel old traditions they’d also had sex every Saturday. Today was Saturday. Idris picked up his Kindle and started to read. He’d wait for Isla to come back to bed, have sex, wake up the dog, feed the dog and make coffee for Isla and himself. Saturday mornings were pretty good.
The bedroom door opened and Idris looked up and smiled. Isla looked tense and there was a couple of seconds’ silence whilst they looked at each other.
‘I’m a little bit pregnant,’ Isla said and Idris jumped to the side of the bed.
‘Are you kidding?’ Isla showed him the stick she’d just weed on. ‘Boom!’
‘Yep’. They hugged with the top of Isla’s head resting just under Idris’s chin, and then discussed what they should do next. Isla was adamant that they couldn’t tell anyone yet and as the baby would take 9 months to actually arrive there wasn’t really anything to do now. They couldn’t even toast a glass of wine to celebrate.
‘Go and wake up the dog,’ Isla suggested, ‘we can tell him.’
‘Um… it’s Saturday.’ Idris did what he believed to be a sexy dance. Isla smiled at him and played with her hair. She bit the side of her bottom lip.
‘Nope,’ she said letting go of her hair, ‘go and get the dog.’
7 weeks before
It was raining outside and the lounge was that nice kind of dark that only seems to happen late on a Sunday. Isla and Idris hadn’t done much – Idris had cooked, Isla had played tug of war with the dog and they’d both watched a crap film on channel 5, the whole time coming up with inventive ways to tell their family about the baby.
‘A lot of people make videos which end on the mum’s tummy,’ Idris suggested and Isla pulled a face. Idris liked making videos and Isla was already feeling sorry for the baby.
‘You’re going to film the poor thing all the time when it’s out,’ she said. Idris was thinking.
‘What about a stop-motion video of the whole pregnancy? You could dress in your dinosaur onesie, your tummy would get bigger and at the end we could get the baby a dinosaur onesie too.’ Isla pulled a more exaggerated face, this time with her tongue out.
‘I think we want people to know about the baby before it’s born,’ she said sarcastically.
‘At the end of the video you could pretend to eat the baby,’ Idris suggested before getting a soft punch in the arm from his wife. The dog’s tail wagged.
‘Let’s just invite people over after the first scan,’ Isla said, ‘but you can do your stop-motion if you want.’
‘Four couples fight to win £1,000 in a new Couples Come Dine With Me,’ came the voice over from the TV. Idris put his arm around Isla and she fell asleep.
3.50pm that day
Isla usually put her head in her hands when she cried or she’d look away, but now she didn’t try to hide it. She couldn’t. Idris was doing all he could to hold his tears back but he too was failing. He was silent for Isla’s sake but she could see how wet his cheeks were. Why had the nurse shown them the screen? The screen had made it real. That was the only time they’d ever see the baby.
A different nurse came into the room.
‘I’m so sorry,’ she said tilting her head, ‘if you want I can send the photos of the scan to your address. Some people want that, it’s up to you.’ Idris shook his head to say no and Isla murmured a barely audible agreement.
‘Ok,’ the nurse said quietly.
‘Do we get our £20 back?’ Idris asked in a cracked voice trying to make Isla smile. It worked a bit.
‘Of course,’ the nurse answered seriously, before adding, ‘bless you. I am sorry.’ Then she tilted her head again.
1 week before
Idris and Isla had specifically wanted three bedrooms last year when they’d been looking to buy their first house. At the very least they’d wanted a large spare room. What they ended up with was a small spare room, but Kirsty and Phil had taught them well, and so they’d compromised.
Idris had set up a camera for the dinosaur baby time-lapse in the small spare room. He wanted the room to change into a nursery at the same time as Isla’s dinosaur onesie bump got bigger in the video. Isla had bought a big picture of a hot air balloon for the baby, which they’d hung together. Now they were struggling to make a cupboard with newly purchased wood. After leaning the wardrobe door against the wall to check the size Idris stepped backwards and knocked the camera. He swore.
‘That’ll ruin the time-lapse.’ Isla touched both his shoulders.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ she said.
That night at 2.47am Isla sat up in bed.
‘I’ve got a bad feeling,’ she told Idris who semi-woke up, ‘something doesn’t feel right.’ At 3.01am they were both asleep again.
1 day before
Idris turned off the TV, put the dog to bed and woke up Isla who had fallen asleep on the sofa. They’d enjoyed a night like any other.
‘Come on,’ he said and Isla smiled with her eyes still closed, ‘let’s go to bed.’ They’d both forgotten the night earlier that week by the time they’d woken up the morning after.
‘Scan tomorrow,’ Isla said sleepily, ‘we’re going to see our baby.’
4.15pm that day
Both Idris and Isla were silent during the car journey home. Idris drove with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on Isla’s leg, but she didn’t notice.
How she wished there had been a heartbeat. They should be going home to tell their friends and family the good news but instead…well, Isla didn’t know. Should they tell people? Maybe they should keep it a secret, pretend to be fine. Isla couldn’t work out why they’d kept the pregnancy a secret until the twelve-week scan anymore. Was it for them or for the benefit of other people? She looked at Idris. If it wasn’t for him, she’d be completely alone now.
2 weeks after
Idris and Isla were sitting in front of the TV together, neither of them paying any attention to the screen, but both grateful for the sound. The operation was booked for tomorrow.
Isla had been carrying the baby for two weeks knowing that it would never be born. Idris had been working from home in case Isla needed to go into the hospital before the operation. They’d been told that the miscarriage had happened at twelve weeks. If the baby came before the operation it would look like a small foetus and it would hurt.
Idris and Isla were sitting in front of the TV together, neither of them paying any attention to the screen, but both grateful for the sound. Isla was looking at her phone researching miscarriages, trying to regain some control. She wasn’t used to feeling not in control and she felt weak. Idris was looking at Isla.
She looked strong.
Idris and Isla were sitting in front of the TV together, neither of them paying any attention to the screen, but both grateful for the sound.
8 weeks after
‘I wish I’d kept the photo,’ Isla said as they lay in bed together. They’d had sex but not for the purposes of getting pregnant. It was Saturday. Idris looked up from his Kindle. ‘The scan,’ she said. They hadn’t talked much about the miscarriage since it had happened, although they’d both thought about it often.
‘Why?’ Idris asked.
Isla didn’t really know why she wanted the photo, but she did. ‘Because it’s gone,’ she said.
1 year after
Idris and Isla went to work, they walked the dog, they watched crap TV, they cooked and they ate. Everything was the same, except it wasn’t. Not quite. Two of their friends had fallen pregnant without telling them, the small box room had become storage and both Isla and Idris felt empty. Something that had never really been in their lives was all of a sudden missing.
Today was Saturday. Idris sat on the bed and waited for Isla to come out of the bathroom. She was doing an ovulation test. He’d wait for Isla to come back to bed, have sex, wake up the dog, feed the dog and make coffee for Isla and himself. Saturday mornings were still pretty good.