He held my hand as we climbed Donna's front path. These last few weeks had been perfect, nut today could change everything and neither of us wanted to admit it.
Being with Trace had allowed me the chance to be my age again, even though I was a mother. Maybe me and Gerard had just gotten too serious, too fast.
Some part of me still loved him, but now I'd had the chance to be me again and I loved it, and I knew I could forgive him for what he'd done to me, but I wasn't sure i wanted too.
I carried Hes in her basket and she cooed happily. The hair on her head was getting darker daily and she was looking more and more like Simon everyday. But if anybody saw us together, they could easily mistake Trace to be her father.
The door opened as we reached the top, a dishevelled Donna holding the handle. “Has something happened Don?” I asked slowly as I wrapped my arms around her carefully. “Mikey came home last night but wont talk to any of us. I'm so glad your here,you can take my mind off everything.” She hugged Trace just as tightly as she'd hugged me and stopped when she noticed Hes lying in her basket. “Oh, hello Baby!” Hes must have notcied Donna's face because she reached out to be picked up instinctively. Donna picked her up gently and rocked her side to side.
“She's so much bigger!” Hes grabbed her finger in her fist and held on tightly. “She's so beautiful, just like her mother.” Don took my hand and i felt tears run down my cheek. How could i have taken this away from her ? How could i have separated them? They needed each other as much as i needed them.
Trace could only watch as my tiny world began to crumble around my shoulders. I couldn't do this anymore. Trace was a friend and i loved him for how much he cared about me and Hes. But I realised now that love i felt for our family and that they felt for us was more than Trace could ever give. We needed our family back.
As I looked up at Trace, I knew he knew what I was thinking. He'd been angry when I'd pulled away from him in the car without any cry of release, any gasp of surprise or joy, even as he grabbed me and bit down on my breast.
He'd known we were over at that moment. I could see it in his eyes. I shook my head slowly. Walking across the hall slowly, he nodded and pressed his lips gently to Hes's forehead before turning to me, tears welling in his eyes as he took my shoulders in his hands and held me tightly before kissing my lips so gently it was lighter than a leaf falling in autumn. He closed the door behind him gently and I began to sob. I wanted to run after him and explain. Say sorry. He'd been there when I needed help and I'd used him when I knew it was Gerard I really needed.
Donna wrapped me in her arms, careful not to squish Hes between us and I felt he damp in my hair as she realised she had her family again.
The kitchen was so cold and washing was piled high in the corner of the room. The smell of unwashed clothes, staled the air. I pulled out my old seat and held Hes to me while she slept quietly. “He's ready now, it was tough, but he needs to apologise to you, if he doesn't have you, I think it's over.” Sighing, I raised the cup of coffee she handed me. “Things can't go back to how they were before Don, We'll ended up hating each other. We'd lost it, whatever 'it' is. We weren't who we were supposed to be anymore.” Hes whimpered a little but soon quietened down as Donna played with her tiny fists. “When he was in hospital, all he did was cry out for you, Ray says that was the hardest part of watching him heal.”
“When was he in hospital? Why didn't anybody tell me?”
“You mean Trace didn't say anything? He nearly killed himself when you left, drank a couple of bottles of vodka and got in the front seat of Rays car.” The blood in my veins ran cold as ice. “But he's okay now? Why didn't Trace tell me?”
“He's fine, physically at least. Mentally not so much. He wouldn't let me call you, but I called Trace and told him to tell you, but that you couldn't get in touch with him because you weren't supposed to know, I think he was ashamed.”
“He didn't tell me. Trace didn't want me to know.” Tears ran heavily and sobs raked my throat. “When will he be back?”
“A couple of hours. Rays taking him out for lunch. Maybe you should go take a bath, clean yourself up. I'll take care of Hester and whip us up some lunch for when your finished.” I grabbed her then, she was better than any mother I'd ever had, thank go this woman.
The basement door swung open slowly. Clothes and rubbish scattered the floor. The bed was a mass of sheets and blankets. Pictures taken the day that Hester was born lay on the to of the vanity and a picture of the three of us was pinned on the mirror frame. The looking glass was smashed, although it was if something had been thrown at it, not as if it had been punched.
I took the longest bath I could have taken and my skin was pruned and wrinkled as I wrapped myself tightly in a towel. The water had washed the musky smell of trace from my skin and I was glad of the relief. He hadn't told me. He loved me that little bit too much.
As I rearranged the bathroom I found them. The tiny rusty blades crusted in blood, it was only now I noticed the bloody towels tiling the corner of the room, bitterness bit at my skin.
I went on to clear most of the jumble from the floor and stripped and remade the bed with clean sheets and put the dirty washing in the already overflowing laundry bin.
Luckily Donna had kept some of my dresses because we hadn't had enough space for them all, so I changed quickly and reapplied my make-up before blow drying my hair gently so that it tumbled down my back in the loose waves that Gerard loved so much. The raven black I'd been before was gone and my hair was a more natural auburn colour, making my skin looking less yellowy white and more olive.
By the time we'd eaten it was late in the afternoon and I napped lightly on the sofa with Hester in my arms, after being firmly reassured by Donna that Gee wouldn't be back for a while.
It must have been about an hour after we'd slept before I was woken gently by the sound of the front door closing in the hall. I heard Donna conversing with him, he sounded so broken and lost. I pulled myself up and flattened down my white lace summer dress before patting down my hair. I placed Hes in her basket quietly and tried to slow my breathing, but my heart felt as if it was going to explode through my chest. I tried to calm down but I just couldn't, I was anticipating the moment when he'd notice the baby bag and my handbag on the dining room table. Come on Gerard, notice. Notice me. And as I waited, his sentences slowed down and his voice could no longer be heard through the panel door. You could almost hear the cogs whirring in his head, thinking of a reason. I could hear Donna as she took him in her arms as his sobs racked his weak tired body outside the door. “Careful.” I heard Donna whisper and I was certain that my heart was about to explode. I wouldn't cry, not until I was in his arms, I needed this to be right and me sobbing before he entered the room wouldn't help anybody. I hear Donna scuffling away from the door. It was just us now. Come on gee, open the god damn door.
It creaked as it opened, moving slowly across the rug on the floor. He forced himself to stay still and look me over, waiting for me to make the first move.
He was so thi. His face was pink from where he'd been crying outside but you could see his skin was yellowing and pale. He walked towards me so slowly it was as if time had stood still altogether.
I was the one to wrap my arms around his neck and as I pressed my head to his chest tears shook us both. “I'm sorry.” he repeated it again and again. Even I joined in, for every time I'd let Trace touch me, for every kiss we'd shared.
Everything before was false, wrong in so many ways, this was right. I kissed his neck and his cheek as he kissed my forehead and eyes.
His fingers were entwined in my hair and I pulled myself closer to him.
“We need to sort ourselves out, We cant carry on the way we were.”
“I know I know, but your back, that's all that matters. I missed you so much.”
I giggled as I pulled back in his arms, “I missed you too.” And with that, Hester wailed as she realised she didn't have my attention for once. I watched as Gee ran over to her and scooped her up. She was quiet again soon enough, and as I wrapped her in my arms, her little fingers clutched onto the strap of my dress, signalling to me that she was hungry. “I'd better feed her. I'll be downstairs I guess.” He smiled and kissed my forehead before I carried Hes out. “Gee, has Mikey spoken to you? Your mums killing herself over this.” He shook his head, “I dot get it, he hasn't spoken to any of us.”I smiled weakly before continuing on down the stairs.
We were home.