Garrison Fields

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Chapter 6 - As the morning comes in

It was two in the morning. The muffled chimes of the clock on the mantel piece in the front parlour could just be heard in the child’s bedroom. The coals in the small bedroom hearth had turned to those grey powdery lumps which retain the same shape as their previous black selves. Their red centres still visible through the splits in their dying tombs. The faint crackle of the coal as it succumbs to the inevitable progression towards extinction.

The gas lights in the room were off, other than the fire the only source of light was the oil lamp turned to just a glimmer sat on the table next to the high-backed chair where Jane sat. The chair was not situated to attract the warmth of the fire, but in the optimum position to allow a view of the child. She sat poised and still like a hawk, observing every movement, every breath. Indeed, this was a vigil, a vigil she wished would last for eternity, a vigil that when it ended, could only have one possible outcome.

That moment was coming, as she listened, in the stillness of the room, all she could here was the wind outside, the movements of the coal on its final journey and the light laboured breathing. The breathing, that as she listened, changed its intensity, becoming less with each breath. She knew this battle was over, a merciful release was insight.

She summoned up all of her strength to rise from the seat, it was as if many hands were forcing her down, the dread, fear that possessed her at that moment were as if the gates of hell had been opened to her, she would have gladly sacrificed herself to oblivion for five more minutes, but it was not to be.

As she moved from the chair, her heart, her very being cried out. Without a motion in her face, the tears rolled softly and slowly down her cheeks. She did not realise, it did not Matter. She knelt by the bed in the position that she had taught the child to say the Lord’s prayer. Reaching forward, she took the child’s hand in hers and with her right hand she slowly stroked the child’s head. The child did not stir, she knew it would never stir again, the child was already beginning that long journey of which she could not help and guide, she was helpless. She whispered to the child through her veil of tears, stifling them back.

‘Grandma’ and grandpa,′ in reference to her own parents. ‘Will come and meet you, you’ll be so happy and in a while your dad, your brothers and me will all come as well, we all love you’. She then raised herself slightly and said

‘I’m going to say our prayers as we always do, you don’t have to tonight, you just listen... Our Father, who art in heaven... Amen.’ As usual she then concluded with the small childish prayer, she had taught all her children to say immediately after the Lord’s Prayer.

‘And God bless Mummy, Daddy, Matthew, Luke, Alice and our little Ted and everybody else in the world, Amen.’ As she finished this last phrase, she felt the child drift away. She stared at her beautiful child so tranquil. Her head span, it felt as if her body was boiling from within and as it reached higher and higher in her she began to shake as the shock took hold until it reached her head it was at that moment that all those weeks of being strong finally gave way. She leaned forward with her face contorted, her jaw dropped, saliva spilling out and tears were now cascading freely down her reddened face, but she made no sound, just the gasp for air such was her grief.

‘Lord unto your mercy I commit my child, please take my child, and protect her.’ It was now that she crumpled down onto to the bed and sobbed and sobbed, it was several minutes later that she raised her head and pulling the handkerchief from the sleeve of her dress, pulled it across her face to dry the tears.

Carefully, she sat on the bed as if frightened to wake the child and gently cradled her in her arms, gently whispering to the dead child. She had not realised that Albert was at the door, he stood motionless as if an invisible wall had been placed in his way, his eyes were wells of tears which overflowed as he watched her pray. He now regained his composure sufficiently to go to his wife, he sat on the opposite side of the bed placing his arm round her shoulders and his other to help support the child, all three were now cradled.

‘I’m so sorry’ he whispered repeatedly. There was of course nothing which he could have done but this only seemed to serve the feeling of inadequacy he now felt so strongly. Several more minutes ticked by on the parlour clock, though it felt like an eternity before they laid the child down. Jane arranged the bedclothes and combed the child’s beautiful golden hair with her hand arranging it on the pillow. Albert stood up and withdrew slightly so that Jane might finish making the child presentable. When she had finished, she turned to Albert.

‘We’ll have to send for the Doctor, but there’s nothing any man can do now, let’s go down to the kitchen for a while.’ They were both visibly exhausted, Jane left one of the candles lit.

‘It’s half burnt. It’ll fade as the morning comes in.’

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