The actual beginning is pretty far back, now that I think about it. And as unremarkable as you might expect. Girl meets boy. Girl likes boy. Girl gives up everything and moves from Europe to the US to be with boy.
Boy turns out to be a manipulative, controlling bastard.
Now, before I go any further.. boy also happens to be the son of a well-respected member of the US Government. And, seeing as they never directly helped him in systematically ruining everything, I’m not going to name names. So, for the purpose of my ramblings, I’ve given everyone very deep and meaningful codenames.
Myself – Cake. Single mother. Prone to neurotic introspection. Enjoys lentil and bacon soup.
The Ex – Shovel. Unemployed. Prone to confusion between fantasy and reality. Enjoys online sex games.
The Offspring – Twig. Master of disaster. Prone to overspinning circles. Enjoys dirt.
Yes, I’m aware these pseudonyms suck. But they’re easy to remember, in my head. Like the dream I had last night about a midget waiter and some thigh-high boots.
So. I suppose the first time I left Shovel was when I was about 8 months pregnant. We were still living in Europe, and I was still working. Mostly because we needed the money for, y’know. Food. So when he took my last twenty and merrily went off to buy himself some hash, I packed a bag. Benefit of living in a small town, your friends are never far away. I never really appreciated that enough, until I was thousands of miles away and very much alone.
I came back, of course. What a downtrodden cliche. But we were having a baby and he promised to do better.
In the sparkling, crystal-clear HD that comes with hindsight, I suffered fairly badly from postnatal depression. You never say so at the time. In my case, it was because I didn’t want people thinking I was a bad mother, or hated my child. It wasn’t that. I hated my life. Cheerful, right? But.. and anyone who has been through this knows how exhausting it is.. everything just seemed to get on top of me. Drowning is quite a lot like suffocating, when you think about it.
I went back to work when Twig was 3 months old, just a few days a week when Shovel wasn’t working. You’d think you could trust your child’s father to take perfect care of them. After all, they helped create this tiny, vulnerable little bundle. They’re responsible for making the world a wondrous place, for never withholding cuddles. In short, I expected Shovel to be as rapt with our baby as I was.
So imagine my confusion when he showed up at my place of emply.. without the baby.
Cake: “..where’s Twig?”
Shovel: “In the house.”
Cake: *blank stare*
Shovel: “He’s fine, he’s sleeping.”
Cake: “Get. Back. There. NOW.”
What kind of moron leaves a 3 month old home alone? It’s not as if he could just call his cell-phone if the house was on fire, or he broke an arm, or a pack of stray dogs broke in.
In the end, none of those things happened. It was his own father that would hurt him.
The story from him – seeing as Twig hadn’t mastered speech well enough to disprove it – went something like this. He put Twig in his bouncy-chair, and set him up on the living-room windowsill, so he could look out at the street and be entertained. Then he left the room. To play a computer game in peace. Five minutes, he swore. More like 2 hours, I’d wager.
When I walked in the door, after a long day at work, I was actually quite warmed to see Shovel cuddling Twig tight to his chest, trying to comfort and cajole him into not screaming anymore. This is what family should be about, I remember thinking with a smile as I shut the front door and walked over.
Then I noticed the capsized chair. The bruise at Twig’s temple. The unchanged diaper. He had, over the course of definitely longer than five minutes, jostled his chair to the edge of the window-sill. And he had fallen. And nobody was there to catch him.
There’s no describing the guilt that still plagues me over this ‘accident’. Guilt, at being foolish enough to think I could leave my child in the care of his father and not have to worry that he’d survive the day.
When Twig was diagnosed as having ‘something not quite right’, what do you suppose my first thought was? ‘Oh God, I left him with that man, he fell and now he’s probably brain-damaged.’ I suppose it’s a mother thing, always finding a way to blame yourself, regardless of circumstance.