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In the hallway, her sons waited in anxious silence to see their mother, wanting to be with her, yet frightened from what they could hear.
The boys sat on the landing listening to painful cries, the pleading for the pain to stop, the midwife’s firm encouraging words.
James was sure his mother would die, not that he had any understanding of what death meant, the true meaning of loss. When Trudy died, the mottled cross collie they had for ten years, he learned she would never come back, that she was now in heaven, a place where all God’s creations go. The notion of his mother being with Trudy, and not with him, was something that crept into his thoughts since the collie’s death.

James listened to his mother’s screams, her every laboured cry, as the hours slowly moved by. Outside, the wind rattled loose windows, groaned under doors and crept across the wooden floor sweeping over his small bare feet. He slid across the boards pushing himself against his elder brother who threw an arm about his shoulder, telling him ‘Mum'll be fine, it’s just the baby coming, that’s all.’ The words didn’t ease James’ fear, didn’t stop him wanting to run into his mother’s bedroom and shout – Stop making Mummy scream. Instead, he sank deeper into his brother’s arms, placing his hands over his ears.

Jane Delore settled the baby on her teat, quieting the newborn. The wind dropped to a low pitched whistle and the world calmed and slowed. The midwife stood in the doorway, her shadow gliding over the two small boys huddled in the hall outside.
'You've a sister,’ she said smiling. 'Come on then, expect you want to see. Just for a while now as your mammy will be needing her rest. It’s been a busy night for both.’
James pushed his back tight to the wall as his brother Peter stood and rushed past the tall women in the doorway. James shook his head, hands still clasped firmly over ears watching the midwife’s mouth move soundlessly. She took a few steps forward, stretching out an arm to lift him from his sitting position. He tightened every muscle as fat fingers circled his delicate skinny wrist, pulling him up from the cold floor. He relaxed his small body, allowed himself to go limp. His arm airborne, suspended above his head, trapped in the grip of the midwife’s hand.
Released, he scuttled back against the wall, placing hands back over his ears as words fell from the moving mouth of the giant standing in front of him. The giant crouched down to his level. Red smeared over white cloth. A smile, a grin. He slammed his eyes shut and screamed to make her go away; to make his mother come.

James opened his eyes and wrapped his tiny arms around his knees. The hall was empty, bigger than he’d ever remembered. An icy draft blew across his back and the only noise was an occasional groan from the dying wind outside. He listened to the calm low voices coming from his mother’s room and slowly picked himself up from the cold floor. Taking small careful steps, he made his way to the door before pushing it slightly open. Peering through the gap, he saw Peter sat on the edge of his mother’s bed, stretching out slender fingers to touch their new sister. Jane smiled at her eldest son, her head resting against the pillowed headboard. She took Peter’s hand giving a gentle squeeze and asked, 'Where’s James?’
The midwife cut in before Peter could answer.
'He’s being silly, he won’t come in. I’ve tried. He’ll come to you when he’s good and ready mind. Right, my job’s pretty much done here, and you’ll be needing some help for a day or two. Just till you’re up on your feet.’
'I’ll be fine. Peter will help.’

His mother lay on the bed holding the tiny bundle of cloth close to her chest. She called to James, offered out her hand. He stepped in and stood still, gripping the door handle until his fingers hurt. His eyes moved from his mother to Peter, then to the parcel of white towelling before turning to run out.

He awoke to a darkened room. Rain gently patted the window and a watery moon danced its light across the bedroom floor. His brother Peter slept next to him; short bursts of warm sweet breath swept across James’ face.
He sat up, cried for his mother, but the night stayed silent. The rain played with the window, and his brother slept on.
Through the blue half-light, he crossed the hall, pushed open his mother’s bedroom door, and entered another silent room. The object that made his sleeping mother cry lay next to her wrapped in a shawl.

James picked up the white bundle. The delicate scent of washing soap and sour milk filled his senses. He quietly carried the sleeping child into the cold hallway, stopping at the top of the wooden stairs. ‘You hurt my mummy,’ he whispered, as his small slender arms went limp.

© Copyright 2016 Christopher Tiller. All rights reserved.


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Replies to This Discussion

Good lord :(

Anna L. Walls said:

Good lord :(

Bless his cotton socks eh :-) 

This has certainly ended on a cliffhanger!

I noticed there were a few question marks where there should've been speech marks.  The software here created this for some reason, but I have corrected it now.


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