Chapter 46: Isla
Periodically, Isla would open her eyes and surface for a moment. Each time she did so, she noted that Dee was still sat at Milly’s bedside, holding her hand and that Milly was still there, still clinging on to life and hopefully working her way back towards the surface. Dee’s presence, and Milly’s continued fight repeatedly gave Isla the reassurance that she needed to sink back into sleep, which she would do after only a few moments, desperately seeking the oblivion from the physical and emotional pain that tormented her in the waking world.
On her fifth waking, in the moments before she returned to sleep, she realised that she felt safe. This was a feeling almost so entirely unknown to her that she didn’t recognise it at first. It had been so many years since she had felt safe that it was hard for it to register. It was a welcome feeling though, as was finally being able to sleep fully, deeply and without remaining on constant alert in case something went wrong. In case He entered the room in a rage; in case she became scared for her daughter’s welfare.
She fell into the oblivion of sleep, welcoming it like an addict deprived of her hit. She had forgotten how sleep’s warm embrace felt and she could feel her brain slowly, slowly resetting and charging and preparing for the new life that she would have to forge when she eventually awoke.
It had not always been this way, she thought as she drifted yet again into sleep. Once she had felt safe and loved, and as she carried her new baby she had become increasingly convinced that things had changed with Simon for good. That there would be no more fear, no more hatred, no more beatings. She truly believed that he loved this baby she was carrying as much as she did. Why would that not be the case, the baby was made up half of his genes after all.
And at first, it had been son. Excited by the idea of becoming a father, he had littered her with flowers and gifts, he’d even written her sentimental cards – not something he had ever done before. He seemed genuinely excited and Isla was delighted that her plan was working – in fact it was working better than she’d ever dared to hope.
This baby was going to be a fresh start, and a new life. Her husband was returning to his rightful role of lover and protector. She felt loved for the first time in many years and the tenderness with which he touched her belly or stroked her shoulders made her ache.
But sadly, it was not to remain that way.. When she was six months pregnant, she returned home from some local errands late one morning and she found her husband sitting rigidly on the arm of the sofa. She walked into the room, ready for his embrace which felt almost normal by now. She had let her guard right down and so she was taken entirely by surprise when she was hit in face with such force that she thought she might vomit.
The magic was gone, the spell broken and even her swelling belly and all that it promised was no longer enough to keep her husband from hurting her. In fact, if anything he seemed ever more ready with his hands. Sexual frustration may have had its part to play. As she ballooned and was no longer so easy or inviting a sexual prospect for him, he became bound like a tight coil. It seemed that he needed to vent somehow and when he was not able to do so sexually, he used his fists instead.
The smile on his face as he would strike her told her that he sought pleasure from inflicting physical pain every bit as much as he sought it from sexual endeavours. She sometimes found herself wondering why he couldn’t just take a cold shower or go for a run like other men, but wondering these things did not change the situation.
She became worried about the wellbeing of the baby inside her and hoped and prayed that her swelling belly was a safe cocoon. She avoided check-ups, worried that the midwife would note the bruises on her belly, arms and legs. Instead she bought a small heart monitor and would obsessively listen to her baby’s heart, just checking that it was still beating. She would also count the number of kicks every hour, making sure that they did not drop too low.
Every time her baby kicked or she heard its heartbeat, Isla knew her hopes of a new future were still alive.
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Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.