The Child

Chapter 2

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Vanessa Ives fought the urge to giggle and open her eyes as she was awoken by tickles to her feet.

The person behind those little fingers that she counted every night now, had lately become her anchor in this life. Heloise came to bring her light, now she understood. At the time of her daughter's birth, she had been locked into her bedroom in the home of her parents and her mother had convinced everyone that Vanessa had been sent to a convent in France, to repent on her sins and find her way to God again, while she, Claire Ives, was miraculously expecting a second child.

Heloise had been born into a world containing a cold and cruel number of lies.

There was a storm the night her daughter was born. Because of the strong winds, muddy roads, lightning and heavy raining, the midwives nearly failed to arrive. There couldn't have been a more perfect occasion. It had been quick and easy, the next day she was on her feet, barely having held her child and was being sent in the middle of the night to the hospice her parents had thought fit for her to retreat to, with the purpose of curing Vanessa of her hysteria and so that no one would ever find out.

Milk streamed from her breasts and the pain killed her. The pain of her baby's absence inside of her, the pain of the torture they called a mental treatment, the pain of abandonment and humiliation. She could have hated them forever, her parents, but poor them—didn't know better. Couldn't think beyond a world of false appearances, social conventions, repressing customs and the pointless and undermining opinions of others such as they yearned to be.

And it felt almost unreal that she was here, on their little home on the moors, together as mother and daughter-and somewhat happy.

This wasn't a home with the comforts of the large and decorated mansion they had both been born and brought up in. But for certain, this was a home where they could run outside, do as they like, say what they want to say, without reprimanding eyes and hands of nannies, tutors and bitter German governesses.

Of course Heloise was a child and she had to do those things that her mother and caretakers had for a long time done with her: send her to bed, admonish her on the use of vulgar and bad language, tell her to take a bath, insist with her to go take a bath; tell her not to run where she couldn't see her and to never speak or go off with strangers, unaccompanied.

And Heloise was probably not the easiest child to be raising.

She was a little ball of fire and energy. She spoke whatever she felt like speaking. She had no use for cloth napkins or cutting knives while eating. She hated to comb her hair and fought to not have it cut. She couldn't see a piece of paper that imediately the entire house was littered with tiny cut-out pieces. She spoke loudly and her legs were constantly swinging out of anxiety. She had a much larger preference for adventure books and could care less about poetry. Heloise ran around in the limits of their garden, scared off all of the birds, climbed up on the roof, baked mud pies for lunch and for hours on end would speak to her imaginary friends Cissy, an old lady and Mimi, a talking purple cat.

Vanessa would smile and at the same time worry about her antics. She cooked and cleaned for double and every single day she had filthy stockings and skirts to wash. But she hadn't been this content in a while. Her daughter almost filled that little spot in her heart, that spot he had left empty with his departure.

Heloise loved her unconditionally, would no longer leave her for a minute-and that was good. Her child kept her company, occupied and made her feel an extension of feelings always changing that she could never have imagined. One moment she was laughing, another she was fuming in rage. In another moment, such as when Heloise learned to write her own name, she was filled with pride. And sometimes when Heloise was fast asleep, at her side on that tiny, tiny bed, she would cry in fear that somehow, those which were her greatest enemies could hurt her innocent little girl. But Heloise, couldn't ever mask the solitude she felt without Sembene, Sir Malcolm, Dr. Frankenstein and her Ethan most of all. They too were her family by now and in one way or another she felt in her heart that the family was disrupting and it was all her fault.

She missed Ethan like she had never missed anyother man. She thought of him constantly and this very cottage was where she had ultimately realized her feelings for him. This had been their little home and now he was missing. Dead or alive. In America or Russia or Spain. He was suffering and she was not there with him as he so many times had been with her.

"Mama, I'm hungry, the sun is out, get up!" Vanessa smiled, her eyelids fluttering open and meeting with the blue of her daughter's.

"Oh, but I'm tired!" She faked a yawn, her eyes twinkling with humor.

"I made you a gift..." Heloise said, the hand hidden behind her back revieling an unshapely package wrapped in old newspaper.

"Oh. Thank you, Heloise." Vanessa sat up and took it, unwrapping it carefully. Heloise smiled in delight as the box revealed a square piece of wood that had been painted on in white. A mother and her daughter. It certainly was not the most beautiful piece of art, but it certainly was the most precious gift Vanessa had ever received. "Thank you, my baby scorpion." Vanessa pulled Heloise into a tight hung and smothered her in kisses.

"I want you to be happy, mama... Just as I am happy now with you." And once again Vanessa's eyes filled with tears, but those of joy.

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