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Second to last teaser
You might care to read my other novel
The Case of Billy B.
Herewith the second to last part of the teaser. One more instalment for you and then no more until the book is done. To understand the story so far, it's probably best to read Teaser for you, Teaser for you part two and Teaser for you part three. Comments, questions and feedback welcome.
Chapter 10: Billy
The time has come. The walls of my cave move in and out, squeezing me down. A tube of toothpaste has nothing on me. I am gripped by fear. The passage is so small but the plates on my head are not joined and are made to be compressed. I feel like I am being tightly held, as if in a vice. My eyes close, I will this ordeal to be over soon. It doesn't help for me to resist, there are unknown forces pushing me, down, down, down. Through a dark small tunnel, even though it feels as if I'm wedged, I move a centimetre at a time. From the darkness to the light. Is this where they get that saying, 'there is light at the end of the tunnel?'
My chest is constricted, it's not easy to breathe as the fluid leaves my lungs. Instinctively, I wriggle and wiggle and try and force my way through the smallest of places. Nobody is telling me to do it, somehow I just know that that is what is expected of me. As if I have done this very same thing before, many times, over thousands of years. Even If I wanted to stay in my cave, I can't. My time there, in this generation, is over. No more protection and safe haven. The elements and humankind await my arrival. I hope that they will not be disappointed.
At last, after what seemed like hours, I can feel something start to give. Then, the coolest of breezes on the crown of my head, and before I have time to think about the experience, I fold my shoulders inwards and slowly slip through the gap, and into the world. Hands touching my skin that is still wet and slippery from the birth. I take my first gulp of air and start to cry. Pain, fear, joy. I hear the snip as my lifeline is severed. I am on my own. Opening my eyes, everything is fuzzy. Someone wraps me in a soft blanket and I'm given to the woman who kept me in the cave for nine long months. I squint my eyes, trying to focus on her features, as she looks down at me. Then, she lets out a piercing, horrible scream!
Chapter 11: Carly
Carly closed her eyes to block out the nightmare before her. "Forgive me Father for I have sinned," she repeated over and over again. She felt hands taking the baby away from her, and she started to rock back and forth, her eyes closed tight shut, too terrified to open them and see the monster that had just come from inside her. "Why me, Lord? Why have you chosen me to punish? Other people get away with it, so why me?" she called out in anguish. Carly could hear Chris's voice mumbling in the background, talking to one of the doctors probably. Overcome with guilt, Carly started to scream. There was no more pain from the birth, the pain was all in her heart. "What have I done? What have I done? What have I done?" God, I am hysterical, I can't stop myself. But that baby, that poor, poor baby...
"Carly! Carly! It's okay! Pull yourself together!" Carly felt Chris patting her arm as you do a dog that's been obedient and sat down when told to. She shook his hand off her and turned on her side with her back to him, changing from a scream to loud heart-wrenching sobs. It was all her fault. God was punishing her for cheating on Chris while she was pregnant. That hogwash story she'd told Chris about the baby being damaged when you had sex during pregnancy was all true. She'd thought she was being clever and was making it up to scare Chris off from making demands on her. God was having the last laugh. Carly felt the nausea rise, and through her sobs, sent a spew of vomit all over the sheets, over the floor. It's my guilt coming out, thought Carly. There's something wrong with me. Everything I touch turns to shit. I ruined Chris. I ruined our marriage. And now, I've ruined a baby. Carly felt her body begin to shake uncontrollably and through her tears her teeth began to chatter. She was so cold, so very cold.
"Do something, Doc!" Carly heard Chris shout. "Can't you give her an injection or something? She's hysterical! Doctor, can you help? Nurse!" Through her tears, Carly felt rough hands lift her hospital gown and then the prick of a needle, a sting, and then everything started to fade into the distance.
"My fault, all my fault, have to go now, can't stay," Carly murmured softly as the drugs began to take effect and she drifted off to sleep.
Chapter 12: Chris
Chris still felt shock. When the baby was born, it had appeared healthy, until the nurse had cleaned it up, wrapped it in a blue blanket and handed the baby to Carly and then he'd seen its face. A gap where there shouldn't have been a gap. Although he'd felt shock, it was still his baby. He would never reject it. But Carly, my God she'd way over-reacted. As if it was her fault. They'd taken the baby to the nursery and Carly was fast asleep after being knocked out by drugs. Jeez, Chris had never seen her so hysterical before. He'd seen her upset, but not like that. Chris sat in the armchair next to Carly's bed. He wasn't sure what to do or what was expected of him. All he knew, was that he wanted to do the right thing, but he wasn't sure what the right thing was. Despite the baby's appearance, Chris had a strong desire to hold it, talk to it and tell it that everything would be alright. Chris stood up slowly. Carly was snoring softly, she looked like the Carly he’d fallen in love with when she was asleep. I'm going to check on my little boy, thought Chris, his mind still not quite registering all that had happened.
Chris walked down the passage to the newborn nursery with its bright disney characters and knocked on the door. A nurse opened the door and smiled at him. "You have a beautiful healthy little boy," she said still smiling and Chris saw that she was missing a tooth, probably a canine. "It looks far worse than it is and the doctor wants to talk to you about what can be done for him. It's not the end of the world, you know. Just means a bottle instead of a breast." The nurse didn't stop smiling and Chris had an urge to slap her. It wasn't her baby, how dare she say it wasn't that bad! The nurse led Chris to a tiny glass basinet with a swaddled baby inside it. She bent down, lifted the baby up and put him in Chris's arms. "You see, it's not so bad," she said reassuringly. "I've seen far, far worse you know. A baby born without a brain," she added in a hushed tone. Chris tried to imagine what that would look like but couldn't. Instead he shivered, then looked down at his baby, his little boy. The little boy was perfect, except for that one thing, that gap. "Have you a name for him yet?" asked the nurse with a friendly voice, still speaking in a hushed whisper.
"Billy. His name is Billy. Not William or Will. Just, Billy." Chris looked at his little boy and felt the pride swell up his heart. "You and me Billy, just you and me." And Chris felt Billy grab his finger and squeeze it.
Chris bent down his head and kissed the sleeping baby softly on his soft pink cheek. A plethora of emotions came to the fore. Love, pride, worry for the little baby sleeping in his arms and hatred for the woman who had just given birth to this baby, who was lying asleep and drugged in her hospital bed, who had dared to reject both him and the baby. The nurse gently took the baby from Chris and put it back in the basinet. "Follow me, " she whispered, "Doctor will see you now."
The doctor was in a little office with yellow files piled high on his desk, almost obscuring the computer that he was busy working on. He looked up when Chris entered the room. "Ah, Mr. B., the proud dad, eh?" said the doctor getting to his feet and extending his hand to shake Chris's hand in congratulations. "Take a seat, Mr.B." The doctor lent back in his chair and folded his arms behind his head. "When you see a baby born like that, it is a bit of a shock, yes?" The doctor had an annoying way of ending every statement with a question mark. "Your wife reacted badly, yes?"
Chris cleared his throat. "Um yes, she was a little upset. I think she blames herself."
The doctor removed his hands from behind his head and started to type something on his keyboard. He didn't look up as he spoke. "It's nobody's fault. Just one of those things, yes? Happens right near the beginning. Nothing you can do, about one in six hundred babies are born with it, yes?"
"I don't know," said Chris impatiently.
"Not a big problem at all actually. Just a simple operation will fix it, yes? Close the gap, yes?" The dooctor looked up from his keyboard.
"An operation?" asked Chris, his heart sinking as he tried to imagine such a tiny baby on the operating table. How would they find his tiny vein?
"Not straight away, er, when he's about three months or so, yes? Come around here and look at my monitor." The doctor moved the monitor slightly so that Chris could see the photos on the screen. "Look, before and after, yes? As the child grows older, the scar fades and you can hardly see it. Nobody will know, yes? So, don't worry, love your little boy. We'll show you how to feed him in the meantime because in this case, breast won't be best, yes? Any questions?" Chris shook his head and the doctor stood up, shook his hand again, obviously indicating that he was dismissed.
Chris popped his head into Carly's room but she was still fast asleep, so he headed back to the nursery. He just wanted to spend time with his little boy, with Billy. The nurse was still smiling inanely when Chris knocked on the nursery door. "Did the doctor show you how easily an operation can fix it. You're lucky, it's only a cleft lip, not a cleft palate, but even that is easily fixed these days, and there's no brain damage or intellectual impairment with it. In a few months, your little boy will be as good as new and you won't even remember the gap." The nurse nodded reassuringly, but Chris was only partially listening to her. Instead, his eyes were hungrily searching for his baby's basinet. He just wanted to pick Billy up and hold him again and feel his little body close to his. He wanted to hold his little hand, stroke his little cheek and protect him from the harsh world outside.