Chapter Sixty Eight: Arrival

It was about 4am on the Sunday morning when Thomas called, and I could hear the emotion in his voice, the slightly stunned delight coming over the line, as he told me, “It’s a girl, Elisabeth Ann, seven pounds, two ounces, and she’s fine.  They’re both fine.”

  “Do they still weigh babies in pounds and ounces?” I asked, curiously, after a brief, awkward silence.

  “Oh Maggie…” he laughed, I could have said anything I think; he was so emotionally high that it wouldn’t have mattered. 

  I recovered my faculties at last, “Congratulations, the both of you, and send her my love.”

  “I will”

    It feels terrible to write that I didn’t visit my mother and my new baby half sister in hospital but the truth is; I just couldn’t face it.  They were in Stepping Hill, the hospital I was taken to last month, and, well, I’m not good with hospitals at the best of times.  As it was, I waited a week before going to see them.

  I felt very nervous as I knocked on the door that cold Sunday morning, it’s hard to explain why exactly, but I didn’t feel ready to see my mum just then. Now that the baby has arrived, I have to accept and adjust to the changes that she will inevitably bring, but I’m still not entirely at peace with that. I would like to be, for everyone’s sake, but I’m just not. The whiney, selfish, self centred, childish part of me doesn’t want to share my mother, and it’s going to take time to get over myself.

  But it wasn’t just because of the baby that I was feeling nervous, it was because of what happened last month, of how I felt then, and how I feel now.  I couldn’t face seeing her, knowing that I would have to tell her what I’d done.

  The baby was asleep in her cot in mum and Thomas’ room when I arrived, her skin was very smooth and slightly pink, and what little hair she had was pale reddish blonde.  “She’s a very quiet little girl,” whispered mum from next to me, and I could hear the affection in her voice, as she added, “very serious I think…”

  “Was I a quiet baby?” I whispered back.

  She explained, without taking her eyes off Elisabeth Ann, that I had been what was known as a “difficult baby,” which I read as being shorthand for “child from hell,”

  “You wouldn’t let me feed you, and you used to snatch the spoon off me and throw the food all over the place, and you howled…” she winced in memory, “So did I actually,” she confessed, quietly, “we howled in stereo for about the first six months, I think…”

  I tried not to feel upset about this.  It has occurred to me before, of course, that she might not have had a particularly great time raising me, but I didn’t like to think that I might have contributed to the problem, or that I was the problem. 

  “Still,” she said, brightly, as Thomas came into the room, “at least there’s someone else to feed her, change the nappies, and wake up in the middle of the night when I’m too tired this time…” he kissed her, and put his arm around her shoulders.  Then we settled into silence as we watched the sleeping baby once more.  She had been dressed in yellow, I noticed, and appeared to be drowning in a sea of white and yellow bedding, above which hung a farmyard mobile, featuring a number of friendly looking sheep and cows.

  “Sorry I didn’t come sooner,” I said, quietly, as we moved into the living room.

  “Well, you’re here now,” she said, as she eased herself onto the sofa “sit down.”

  As we drank our drinks, later, I told them about the invitation I’d received to join the Girls From Mars, and about how I wasn’t sure about it. “I don’t think Fergus wants me to do it,” I said, feeling slightly pathetic. “I think he’s afraid of what would happen, to us, and… to me.”

  “What do you mean?” she asked.

 “He’s worried about my health,” I said quietly, dreading the repercussions as I said it, “my mental health,” I couldn’t look at her.

  “But you’ve been doing so well lately,” she said, soothingly.

  I shook my head “I’ve had a few setbacks lately,” 

  I watched as she nodded, sadly, to herself.  “I see,” she didn’t probe me as to what I meant, but I could tell that she was disappointed, just as clearly as I could tell that she wasn’t surprised. 

  “Sorry,” I said, involuntarily.

   She shook her head in distraction, “Don’t be sorry,” she murmured, “Never be sorry,”

  I got to my feet.  I felt as though I’d ruined everyone’s day as I said, “I should go.”

  “No,” she said, looking up sharply, “don’t go… I’ve been thinking about what you said…”

  I sat down once more.

  “There are a number of things I feel I should tell you, they should help you decide… Firstly, you are a far better drummer than you are a waitress, secondly, I don’t believe that Fergus would leave you again, and also, I think this chance you have, if you took it, would probably strengthen what you two have more than it would damage it.  Thirdly,” She met my eyes, and her expression was gravely serious as she said, “you don’t have to be passive about this, you can be in control, of what you do and don’t become involved with in The Girls From Mars.  You have a great many useful friends, Maggie, and they’d all be willing to help you to be in The Girls From Mars, and be comfortable with being in The Girls From Mars.”

    Thomas offered me a lift home, and it seemed rude to say no, so I accepted with wary thanks.  The weather wasn’t fantastic, and it would save me from getting wet.  Mum stood in the doorway, holding Elisabeth Ann, who had woken up with a high, keening, slightly wet sounding cry as is usual for those who have the disadvantage of having no teeth.   Despite this, it wasn’t a particularly shrill or demonstrative cry; it was almost apologetic, as though she was politely trying to draw attention to the fact that she needed feeding.  She hasn’t, as yet, learnt to roar and howl.  I smiled and waved to them both as I climbed into the passenger seat, and mum waved back as she watched the car reverse out onto the road.

  We talked a little on the way home, and whilst I did my best to keep up my end of the conversation, I was aware that we were making small talk; the situation had a depressingly familiar feel to it and our conversation soon petered out.  The early evening darkness was creeping in as we passed The Blossoms in Heaviley, and I found myself thinking about Elisabeth Ann. 

  Thomas almost echoed my thoughts as he said, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but you didn’t seem entirely comfortable at home today.”

  I looked up, guiltily, “Was it that obvious?”

  He nodded.

  “I’m sorry,” I couldn’t look at him, so I gazed at my hands, clasped tightly together in my lap, “I shouldn’t have come; I knew it was going to be…” I stopped myself in time.  “I… felt a little out of place,” I said, more carefully, “it was like walking in on a picture of a family, I felt as though I was intruding.”

  He didn’t say anything for several minutes, but when he did, I could sense the tension in his voice, “You said that we were a family, but you didn’t include yourself in that remark, I’m just wondering why.”

  “I don’t believe I am a part of your family.” It felt strangely good to say it at last, and I felt able to look up and meet his eye once more.

  “My family is your family,” he shrugged, “your mum, your sister…”

 “Half sister.”

  He turned to me, and said, sharply, “Does that half make such a difference to you?”

  I hesitated, “I don’t know,” I confessed at last, my confidence dipping again, “I don’t know how it feels to have a sister, or a brother, I just knows how it feels to have a half sister and two half brothers. Now, I have another half sister. It feels the same, but it also feels different because…” I stopped. I wasn’t sure why it was different, just that it was.

  “Because she’s Rachel’s, not Tony’s” he finished from me.

  I nodded.

  After the long silence, he said quietly, “Your mother cares about you, as do I. We both love you; we don’t want you to feel pushed out.”

  “Maybe it’s because we were always a team,” I reflected, “it was always the two of us, and now…”

  “You’re sharing her with me and Elisabeth Ann.”

  “Yes”

  “It doesn’t have to be either/or, it can be both.”

  “I know that, I think, deep down… I just don’t want to be in the way.”

  “You aren’t in the way, how you could be?”

  “Because with Elisabeth Ann I become an afterthought again, a mistake again.”

  “Why do you feel you were a mistake?”

  “Well, I know I wasn’t a planned baby.”

  He was quiet for a few moments before he said, “I’ve known your mother a long time; we were students together, before she met your dad.”

  “I know, she told me.”

  “She was very determined: she knew what she was doing when she decided to keep you.”

  There was another awkward silence, before I said, “I remind her too much of Tony sometimes, I think.”

  He sighed as he said, “I think she accepted Tony for who he is a long time ago. Maybe you should too.”

  We lapsed into silence again.

  After a while, he asked, “Are you going to tell me about some of the setbacks you’ve been having lately?” He added, tentatively, “I think I understand why you don’t want to tell Rachel, but you can talk to me, if it would make you feel better.”

  “It’s best I don’t” I said quickly.

  “Sure?”

  “Yes.”

  “You don’t have to keep everything bottled up, you know, it can help to talk about it.”

  “I know, and thanks,” I smiled, awkwardly, “but I already talked it over with Fergus, and I’m hoping that particular crisis is over now.”  There was another lengthy silence before I asked, “Are you going to marry my mother?”

  We were nearly home now, and I saw him hesitate before he replied, “I’d like to, but she hasn’t said yes yet. Would you like me to?”

  “I don’t know,” I confessed, “I don’t think she knows either.”

  “I did wonder if she didn’t want to say yes until she’d got you used to the idea.” He confessed as he stopped the car. “But I could be wrong.”

  “You could ask her again,” I said hesitantly.

  “Would you like me to?”

  I thought about it for a few moments. “Yes” I said at last, “I would.”

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