The Silver Lining

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Chapter 26 - Zoe

My mother caressed my cheek lovingly. Soft, pearlescent light danced around her. Golden tresses feathered across her face as if she were caught mid-breeze, but I could feel no wind. Her eyes glistened brightly as she smiled. White teeth sandwiched between scarlet lips. She was soundlessly talking, mouthing something I couldn’t make out. I stretched out to touch her, but I could not reach. My body locked without motion. Her features began to fade and dispel into the light until there was no trace of her left; only specks of dust floating in cloud and the rhythmic beep of machines.

“I thought you’d died.” I heard, as my eyes fluttered open.

The first thing that I noticed was the white bed that I laid on and the needle and tube inserted in my hand. Then, there by my side, Jesper emerged.

“Jesper? Where am I?” I croaked, as Jesper flung his arms around my chest.

“You are in the hospital still. You gave us quite a scare. How do you feel?”

We? Who else is there? Everything is muddled in my mind, am I missing something?

“What happened?”

“You lost a lot of blood after giving birth. You had to have a blood transfusion… we didn’t know if you’d make it.”

I immediately clasped my stomach. I had my baby! The memory rushed back to me. A girl they said. Her cries like an echo in a well.

“Is she okay?” I panicked.

“She’s sleeping, next to you in her crib. Would you like to hold her? Do you feel ready?”

“Yes, bring her to me, please.”

He cradled our daughter in his arms. She was wrapped snug in a blanket and hat with just her rosy face poking out, eyes still shut.

“Isn’t she beautiful, just like her mum?”

She was so tiny and light in my arms. A precious, beautiful bundle indeed. I watched her as she breathed small breaths, safe in the crook of my arm. It was as if every cell in my being radiated with love. The energy was so strong I swear you could see it bouncing between us in all its shimmering glory. I placed a kiss on her forehead and wondered what to name her.

“Clara. She looks like a Clara, don’t you think?”

“Sounds perfect,” Jesper agreed.

*

When I was finally given the all clear and discharged from hospital some days later, the protected bubble that I felt dissipated. We were on our own. In the big wide world. The notion was terrifying. Jesper took immediate control of us both. He drove incessantly slow all the way home to the sheer annoyance of everyone else on the road, constantly checking in with how I felt. How did I feel?

Having a baby was like nothing else I’d ever experienced. It is an indescribable act. One of those life experiences you can only understand when you experience it for yourself. I was overjoyed and thrilled, but I was also afraid and anxious. Weirdly, I’d never felt closer to my mother. I now knew exactly why she was a worrier. Why she watched over me so much. The thought of ever taking my eyes off Clara and her getting hurt was heart-wrenching. I just wish my mother was still here for me to tell her as much.

“You’ve had a lot of calls from your family back in England - Aunt Caitlyn and Darcey, Vivienne’s parents, Tracy and Phil. We should send them a little video when we get home.”

Vivienne. I’d completely forgotten about Viv’s body being found.

“Did you speak to Tracy or Phil?”

“Yes, I had a phone call with Tracy. Your Aunt told them when you went into early labour…and when you…well…you know. They wanted to know if you were okay.”

“Did they mention anything about Viv?”

“I didn’t want to tell you yet, in case you weren’t ready. They found Vivienne’s body, Zoe. I’m sorry.”

Flashbacks of me listening to the news report played out in my head. I could see myself struggling on the floor, writhing in pain as the contractions began.

“Actually, I already know. The day I went into labour was the day that I found out. I was listening to the news, and I guess the shock of it all brought on the labour.”

Jesper sighed, “Zoe, I…I’m just so sorry. I should have been there more. You shouldn’t have been working such long hours at the coffee shop. All this stress, it was never going to be good for you and Clara.”

“It’s all ancient history. I’ve got my own family to look after now,” I said, “We should show Clara off. A video sounds like a great idea.”

I tried to sound as genuine as possible. Deep down, another emotion loomed. A hatred I’d left to languish was resurrecting. Untamed and underfed. Intertwined within this resentment a new feeling was ablaze. Something primitive, protective. I felt no fear. Just a desire to put all the wrongs right. For I would not bring my daughter up in a world where her murderous Grandfather could lay a single finger upon her head.

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