"I wish everyone would stop staring at my belly," Emma groaned exasperatedly, whilst fumbling relentlessly with her school shirt, trying desperately to cover up her bulging stomach.
"Well, you've only got yourself to blame, Emma!" Her mother replied, trying not to sound as incensed as the roaring sun that was blazing down on them.
When Emma first confided in her mother about the pregnancy, she was almost seventeen weeks pregnant. As disappointed as she was with her teenage daughter, Emma's mother couldn't change what had already happened. Emma was secretly dating Adam, her next door neighbour, whom she had liked from afar for almost a year. They were only together for three weeks when they were at a party and after a few bottles of vodka, tumbled into bed together. Two weeks later, Emma is sat in a toilet cubicle with a positive pregnancy test staring back at her.
Sitting in her GCSE History exam, Emma feels an excruciating pain as her stomach muscles tense, her face crinkling in agony. Two minutes later, the pain returns. No, this can't be it. Not now. No! Emma thought, pleading desperately with her unborn child. Sweat beading on her forehead, she feels a big gush of warmth from in between her thighs. Oh god! Emma raises her trembling hand to be excused.
Sixteen hours later, a rotund midwife in blue scrubs attempts to hand over the newly delivered bundle of joy to Emma. Emma tries to convince her that she is exhausted but the midwife is extremely persistent."It's a beautiful baby girl. Congratulations!"
"Thanks." Emma muttered, unable to summon the enthusiasm chirped by the midwife.
"Ahhhhhhhhhhh..." My stomach is rumbling. I'm really hungry. Mummy, can you make me a bottle and feed me please?
Emma disregards the wailing coming from the other room; she turns the volume up on the television, concentrates on watching the daytime TV and continues ignoring that baby.
"Wah, Wah, Ahhhhhhhh." Where is my Mummy? I miss her smell and the sound of her heartbeat. My tummy is really hurting now, and I'm sure my nappy is full. I can't hear my Mummy's voice; all I can hear is the three teddies above my head, playing a soothing tune.
"Emma. Emma. EMMA!" Her mother struggles to get her daughter's attention over the deafening sound of the television.
"Aren't you going to see to your baby? I've just got home from work and all I can hear is my granddaughter crying upstairs! I'd be extremely surprised if you'd be able to hear a freight train in here. I can't even hear myself think!"
Instantly, Emma is stomping up the stairs, her footfalls imitating those of an elephant. Focusing all of her anger towards the handle, she grasps it with such force that her bedroom door flies open. She storms towards the frilly pink moses basket and aggressively picks the baby up.
"God, what do you want?"
"Hmmmm, mmm." Mummy! Have you come to feed me and change my nappy? Could you please be careful as my legs and bottom feel a little sore.
Both mother and daughter are sitting rigid at the dining table, eating their shepherd's pie in silence, the kind of silence where you could hear a pin drop. Emma's mother stops pushing her tepid food around her plate, trying cautiously to engineer a conversation by bringing up a subject that has been troubling her.
"Emma, I think we need to talk."
"Yeah?" Emma manages the one syllable word without bothering to look up at her mother.
"Well, I've picked this leaflet up; I can see you're struggling a little. I've offered my help but it seems like you're just not interested. Would you like to take a look at this leaflet?"
She hands over the adoption leaflet to Emma. She sets her cutlery down and anxiously awaits her daughter's response. Emma snatches the leaflet from her mother's quivering hand and begins to read. Emma glances up and across the big oak dining table in the direction of her mother, who is looking at her daughter expectantly, searching for her daughter's eye contact. Emma slowly nods her head as if the weight on her shoulders is preventing her from doing so.
"What do we do next?" Emma questions in such a hushed tone that her mother has to strain to make out what is said.
"I'll call to make an appointment tomorrow."
I can't quite reach those teddies. Is that mummy? Oh, it's Nanny. Hello Nanny. I really enjoy your cuddles, they're perfect. Why does mummy not cuddle me like this?
Emma is continuously looking at the clock. Ten minutes past four, only another twenty minutes. They are both perching stoically on the edge of the sofa, knees tensing together, their clenching hands in their laps, palms sweating, and gasping for air. When the doorbell rings the intensity of the moment makes both of them almost jump out of their skin.
DING. DONG. Emma's mother jolts up immediately to answer the door.
"Hi, I'm Diane. I'm from the adoption agency, I spoke to you yesterday. Do you mind if I come in?"
"Yes, Yes, Come in. The lounge is just to the left. Can I get you anything? Tea? Coffee?"
"White tea, two sugars please." She turns, looking at the slumped posture of the figure standing adjacent to her. "You must be Emma?" Diane extends her arm to offer a friendly handshake but Emma just stares vacantly at Diane and shuffles into the lounge.
Everyone piles into the cramped yet sparsely furnished lounge. Emma switches the television off and sits crossed legged on the dilapidated sofa, glowering at Diane impatiently. Her mother tentatively sits next to her daughter and crosses her arms, whilst Diane is sitting in the tattered armchair opposite, casually sipping her tea.
Diane delivers information about the processes of adoption, reeling off the facts like a one-hundred metre sprinter. Emma feels slightly overwhelmed although she does not make it obvious; she just keeps nodding her head at the appropriate intervals. All Emma is concerned about is where to sign and when her life will return to normality. After Diane finishes with her robotic speech, which is a clear indication that she has explained the procedures before, she pulls a few forms out from her lustrous leather briefcase.
This isn't as comfortable as my singing teddy bed, this 'bed' doesn't sing or smell familiar. It's a lot noisier, bumpy and foreign. It's shadowy and appears to be moving. Where in my Mummy? Where's my Nanny who gives the best cuddles? They're not here, not in this 'moving bed'.
Diane pulls up to a large Victorian house, with an elegantly arranged front garden, blooming with every colour of the rainbow. She walks through the embellished wrought iron gates and rings the ornate doorbell.
A graceful woman wearing a long floral summer dress answers the door and welcomes Diane into her home. Diane enters into a huge foyer with a high ceiling, boasting a wooden spiral staircase. The glowing woman leads the way towards a room, which again has a sky-scraping ceiling, decorated in a deep wine red. Diane and the dainty woman sit down on the red eight-seater suede sofa and pull some more forms out of her polished briefcase.
I like this smell, sweet and fresh. I'm gazing up to my new feeder, taking in all her perfect features. I see a kind, loving face and release a soft, content sigh. I can sense I am going to get lots of perfect cuddles from now on.
Emma stands poised in front of the mirror applying the last of her make-up. She finishes touching up her bright scarlet lipstick and admires her reflection. She is ecstatic about being able to go to the party tonight, no worries on her mind apart from whether her skirt is too skimpy, or whether a strand of her hair is out of place.
"I'm off now Mum, I'll see you tomorrow afternoon!" Emma hollers up the stairs, just before she turns on her heels. As she leaves she slams the door leaving it shaking in her wake.
Emma's mother is aware her daughter has just yelled up the stairs but she is oblivious of what was said. The only thing she is mindful of is her surroundings, posters covering every inch of the walls, dirty glasses with the beginnings of mould forming. To the left of her is the pink lacy moses basket with the teddy mobile. She paces over to the crib that once safely held her peaceful sleeping granddaughter, twiddles around with one of the dangling teddies, gazes down and picks up the pink fluffy blanket. With the velvety blanket in her hand, she caresses her cheek with the softness and inhales the last scents of her granddaughter. As she places the blanket back into the cradle, she wipes away the last of her silent tears and whispers "Bye Bye Angel."
"Happy birthday dear Suzie, Happy birthday to you."
Suzie observes her three-tier princess cake in amazement, which is sporting an enormous pink number five and squeals in delight. Blowing her five twinkling candles out, she makes a wish.
"Thank you so much Mummy," Suzie says as she leaps into her mother's arms, the familiar sweet and fresh scent wrapping her into a soft embrace.