A Silent Lament (Short Story)

A Silent Lament

They keep asking if I regret what I’ve done, if I feel remorse. I try not to scream that I’d do it again and again, only I’d make sure that they didn’t find me. But I know I can’t say that. So I just sit … sit and stare.

Every Saturday I walked around different towns, unnoticed on the crowded streets, searching. I worked methodically, the towns mapped out, listed alphabetically, a red line crossed through each in turn. I’m like that. A planner. Knowing what I’m going to do next. I learnt the hard way that you’ve got to take control.

I was in Sheldon on that Saturday, ‘S’ on my list so I knew I was close. The centre was claustrophobic with young girls screaming their adoration at some pop star signing CDs at the music store. They were like flies, swarming all over the place, but I still heard her, over their cacophony. Standing on tiptoe I saw her, just a little away, her face screwed up an angry pink. My heart pounded; my breathing quickened. It was her, I knew it was.

‘Mira.’

I pushed my way through, ignoring angry frowns.

‘Mira.’

Sweat trickled down my back. What if I lost sight of her? What if they saw me and took her away again?

Tears were falling freely down my cheeks when I reached the pram. I peered in and her crying stopped. She kicked her little legs free of her blanket. My shaking hand hovered, too afraid to touch. How many times had this happened before, only for it not to be Mira? I’d be left standing, muttering apologies to the angry mother hastily pushing her baby away.

But not this time. It was really her.

‘Sh … sh … Mummy’s here now, Mira. Let’s get you home.’

The house was quiet and her cry startled me. I recognised her hungry cry and I prepared her bottle. Everything was waiting in the kitchen.

She nestled into the crook of my arm, her warmth seeping to my soul. We lay on my bed afterwards and she fell asleep. I watched her tiny chest rise and fall, her breath whispering softly on the inside of my arm. She was home. My Mira. My miracle.

I’d never been one for socialising. I couldn’t relax, always on edge, you know?  People, they made me like that ‘cos I didn’t know what to expect, didn’t know what they were going to say next.

Being passed from foster home to foster home had never given me the chance to connect, I guess. I just did what I was told to do, even when I knew it was wrong. I let them put their dirty hands on me ‘cos I didn’t know how to stop it. I had no control.

It was when I was finally free that I decided. It just made sense. If I had a baby, I could release all that love that was locked away inside me. And I’d have someone to love me back. The thought became the blood pumping through my veins.

So I got planning. Searched phone directories. Tim I chose. I phoned and he came to look at the boiler on Monday morning, just as I’d come out of the shower, a short towel wrapped around me. It didn’t make me feel dirty, not this time. I was in control and that felt good.

The moment they placed Mira in my arms was the first time I truly felt my heart beating. I breathed her in and she became a part of me. I became whole.

I woke up early one morning. I knew something was wrong. She was laying there, her breathing rapid and she was so hot.

‘Mira? What is it baby girl?’

I lifted her hand to kiss it. It was as cold as ice on my lips.

They took her from me straight away. I sat in the room praying, hoping with all my being that despite all the other times He’d ignored me that this time He’d listen.

When the doctor walked into the room and closed the door gently behind him, I took one look at his face and knew that He hadn’t listened.

‘I’m so sorry, Sarah. She had meningitis. She just couldn’t fight it.’

My legs gave way, my breath trapped in my lungs, my body suffocating. I could hear screaming, howling, and I placed my hands over my ears but I couldn’t shut it out. Strong arms lifted me gently as words were whispered softly like distant echoes.

They didn’t let me see her again. They sent me home, the doctor visiting every few days, feeding me pills that disappeared into the black void inside me.

‘You will get better. You’ll live your life again, you’re only young. You’ll learn to forget. It won’t always be like this. Look to the future now, no looking back. Give yourself time.’

Who made time the miracle cure? When your heart is ripped out what’s the use of time?

At the meetings they said I was getting better. They sat smiling at me, but I’d worked it out by then, see. I knew what they’d done. I knew that Mira would never have left me. They’d taken her from me to punish me for all the bad things that I’d done and given her to someone they thought deserved her. Someone better.

But I wasn’t going to let them get away with it. That stuff in the past, it wasn’t my fault. No one could love Mira more than me. So I got planning and I left. I packed up, got rid of most of my stuff. I kept her things, Mira’s. I knew I’d find her one day.

The village I chose off my list was as remote as I could possibly find. They weren’t going to find me this time. The small bungalow hidden behind a jungle of weeds was perfect. No one knew me. No one bothered me. I was left alone to search for my baby.

It only took a couple of days to get her new room ready. I painted it sunshine yellow. When it was finished, the toys and books stacked neatly, I twirled my delight in the centre of the room.

All I had to do then was find her. And I did.

She never really cried. She’d just gaze at me, like she couldn’t believe I was real. We played and I read her stories and I sang to her all the time.

‘Hush, little baby, don’t say a word, mama’s gonna buy you a mocking bird.’

Her eyes would flutter and she’d fall asleep in my arms, her hand twined tightly around my finger. I’d keep whispering words, telling her of all the things we were going to do together, so that she’d carry them to her dreams.

We went to the park when it was sunny, to feed the ducks. I’d push her on the swings and she’d raise her arms above her head and laugh. She was flying, my Mira, soaring like a bird through the clouds.

She was eating porridge that morning. I was holding the spoon out and she said mama. I stared and smiled, the tears blurring and she caught me unawares and knocked the spoon out of my hand.

‘Mira, you’re a little monkey! You’ve porridged mummy!’

The sound of splintering wood and shouting came just as I lifted her out of the chair. I stood frozen as they rushed in. They didn’t give me a chance. They snatched her from me then held my arms tight behind my back. Why were they taking her away? What had I done that was so terrible that my baby would be taken from me again?

‘Mira … Mira … No … You can’t so this … You can’t do this again …’

She was screaming and holding her arms out to me but they wouldn’t let me touch her.

‘Please … my baby … my baby …’

They walked out of the house and put her in the car and drove away. I stopped struggling as I shattered into a million pieces.

‘Sarah Davies, I’m arresting you on suspicion of abducting baby Eliza Jenkins.  You do not have to say anything, but anything you do say may be used as evidence in court.’

I felt the cool pinch of handcuffs on my wrists then the weight of a hand at my back guiding me out of the house.

I sat in the cell hugging my knees to my chest. Where was she? She must have been so scared. It was too quiet and I jumped as the door opened.

‘Where is she? Where’s my baby?’

‘Sarah, you need to come with me. They’re ready to interview you now. A lawyer has arrived to sit in with you.’

I followed the police officer to another room and sat next to a young woman, smartly dressed.

‘Remember, you don’t have to say anything right now.’

The machine on the table clicked.

‘Sarah Davies, you are being charged with the abduction of baby Eliza. You took her from Sheldon city centre on Saturday, May the fourteenth of this year. You have kept baby Eliza with you in your home for the past three months. Do you have any comments to make?’

‘I … I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know baby Eliza. Please … where’s my baby? What have you done with Mira?’

‘My client is clearly in no fit state to be placed under interrogation at the moment.  She needs to be admitted to professional care.’

‘Have you harmed her in any way, Sarah? What was your motive behind the abduction?’

Bile rose in my throat, all the old feelings surfacing and the blackness filling me. I couldn’t go through it again. I couldn’t lose her again.

‘Please … you’ve made a mistake -’

‘Sarah, you don’t need to speak now.’

The lawyer placed her hand on my arm. I looked at the manicured fingers but I felt nothing.

‘This interview is over.’

She stood to leave, the scraping of her chair deafening.

She kept coming to see me, but I didn’t really listen to what she had to say. I nodded at the right times, pretended that I understood when she talked about not having bail and going to court.

‘Is there anything you want to ask me, Sarah?’

‘Where is she? Where’s Mira? When can I take her home?’

I sat in the court, my hands wrapped tightly in my lap. I looked up at the balcony and stared at the angry faces of young girls, painted brightly. I wondered who they were and why they were shouting.

‘… A woman who has shown no remorse for what she’s done. Taking a child away from its mother causes extreme emotional hardship, yet Sarah Davies, snatched baby Eliza, without a second thought for the baby’s mother, or caring one bit how being separated from her mother would affect Eliza …’

I’d hear my name, fluttering into my consciousness like an autumn leaf and I’d raise my head, only to find myself staring at unfamiliar people and not understanding what they were saying.

‘… Sarah Davies has not recovered mentally from the tragic death of her baby at six weeks old. It is clear that this woman, merely a young girl, can no longer differentiate between what’s real and not …’

I became lost in days and nights. I’d soar on the swings with Mira, watching a broken woman being dragged to and from court and I cried for her.

The judge finally spoke.

‘Life can be cruel and tragic. I have no doubt in my mind that Sarah Davies truly believed that baby Eliza was her daughter, who was taken from her by that cruellest of illnesses. Under no circumstances does this woman deserve a custodial sentence for her crime. She will be sectioned under The Mental Health Act …’

So, here I am in this hospital. It’s nice enough and I get left in peace to talk and sing to Mira. I don’t have books to read to her so I make up stories; stories about princesses with beautiful golden hair. She likes my stories better anyway.

I go to my meetings and say what they want me to say. I learnt how to do this the first time. They give me the pills. Only I’m cleverer this time. I know what they’re trying to do. They want me to forget about her, erase her from my memory, so they can keep her. Only I’m not going to let them. I’ve been planning, see. I’m in control.

I place the pills in my mouth and I swallow the water, the pills safely tucked under my tongue. They leave the room and I spit them out. I’ve been doing it for weeks, no one has ever suspected.

You won’t have to wait much longer, baby girl. I want to make sure that I’ve got enough. I’ll never let them take you from me again. Not ever. A few more days, that’s all. I’ll come then. I’ll come and find you again. So hush, little baby, don’t you cry, Mama’s gonna be with you in a little while.

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