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Watermelon (Walsh Family #1)(6)
Marian Keyes

For the millionth time I wondered how James could do this to me.

"How could James do this to me?" I asked Judy.

"You've asked me that about a million times," she said.

So I had.

I didn't know how James could do this to me. I just knew that he had.

Up to now I suppose that I'd thought that life doled out the unpleasant things to me in evenly spaced bite-size pieces. That it never gave me more than I could cope with at one time.

When I used to hear about people who had serial disasters,


like having a car accident, losing a job and catching their boyfriend in bed with their sister all in one week, I used to kind of think it was their fault. Well, not exactly their fault. But I thought that if people behaved like victims they would become victims, if people expected the worst to happen then it invariably did.

I could see now how wrong I was. Sometimes people don't volunteer to be victims and they become victims anyway. It's not their fault. It certainly wasn't my fault that my husband thought that he'd fallen in love with someone else. I didn't expect it to happen and I certainly didn't want it to happen. But it had happened.

I knew then that life was no respecter of circumstance. The force that flings disasters at us doesn't say "Well, I won't give her that lump in her breast for another year. Best to let her recover from the death of her mother first." It just goes right on ahead and does whatever it feels like, whenever it feels like it.

Now I realized that no one is immune from the serial disaster syndrome. Not that I thought that having a baby was a disaster, but it could certainly come under the heading of upheaval.

Judy and I sat on the bed in silence, both trying to think of something constructive to say. Suddenly I had the answer. Well, maybe not the answer, but an answer. Something to do for the time being.

"I know what I'll do," I said to Judy.

"Oh thank God," I could feel her thinking fervently. "Thank God."

And like Scarlett O'Hara in the last few lines of Gone With the Wind, I said plaintively, "I'll go home. I'll go home to Dublin."

Yes, I agree with you. "Dublin" doesn't have quite the same ring to it as "Tara," but what would be the point in my going home to Tara? I knew no one there.



Judy picked me up from the hospital a couple of days later. She had booked me and my baby on a one-way flight to Dublin. She took me home to pack some things.

I had heard nothing from James in the meantime. I was stumbling around in a grief-sodden daze.

Sometimes I simply couldn't believe it. Everything he'd said to me seemed like a dream. I couldn't really remember the details, but I could remember the feeling. That sick feeling that something was very wrong.

But sometimes the loss would make a guest appearance.

It would invade me. It would take me over. It was like a physical force. It knocked the life out of me. It took my breath away. It was savage.

It hated me.

It had to, to hurt me so much.

I can't really remember how I spent those couple of days in hospital.

I can vaguely remember being bewildered when all the other new mothers talked about how their lives had now altered forever, how it would never be just oneself ever again, the problems of having to adjust their lives to fit in with their new baby and all that.

But I couldn't see what the problem was. Already I couldn't imagine life without my baby. "It's you and me, sweetheart," I whispered to her.

The fact that we had both been abandoned by the man in


our lives probably sped up the bonding process. Nothing like a crisis to bring people together, as they say.

I spent a lot of time sitting very still, holding her.

Touching her tiny, tiny little doll's feet, her perfect pink miniature toes, her tightly curled up little fists, her velvety ears, gently stroking the delicate skin of her incredibly small little face, wondering what color her eyes were going to be.

She was so beautiful, so perfect, such a miracle.

I had been told to expect to feel overwhelming love for my child, God knows, no one could say that I hadn't been warned. But nothing could have prepared me for this intensity. This feeling that I would kill anyone who so much as touched one of the blond wispy hairs on her soft little head.

I could understand James leaving me--well, actually, I couldn't--but I really couldn't understand how he could leave this beautiful, perfect little child.

She cried a lot.

But I can't really complain because so did I.

I tried and tried to comfort her, but she rarely stopped.

After she cried for about eight hours solid on the first day and I had changed her diaper a hundred and twenty times and fed her forty-nine thousand times I became slightly hysterical and demanded that a doctor look at her.

"There must be something terribly wrong with her," I declared to the exhausted-looking youth who was the doctor. "She can't possibly be hungry, but she won't stop crying."

"Well, I've examined her and there's absolutely nothing wrong with her, so far as I can see," he patiently explained.

"But why is she crying?"

"Because she's a baby," he said. "It's what they do."

He'd studied medicine for seven years and that was the best he could come up with?

I wasn't convinced.

Maybe she was crying because she somehow sensed that her dad had abandoned her.

Or maybe--major pang of guilt--she was crying because I wasn't breast- feeding her. Maybe she deeply resented being fed from a bottle. Yes, I know, you're probably outraged that I didn't breast-feed her. You probably think that I wasn't a proper mother. But, long ago, before I had my baby, I had


thought it would be permissible to have my body returned to me after I had loaned it out for nine months. I knew that I wouldn't be able to call my soul my own now that I was a mother. But I had kind of hoped that I might be able to call my nipples my own. And I'm ashamed to say that I was afraid that, if I breast-fed, I would be a victim of "shrunken, flat, droopy tit" syndrome.

Now that I was with my gorgeous, perfect child my breast-feeding worries seemed petty and selfish. Everything really does change when you give birth. I never thought I'd see the day when I'd put anyone else's needs before the attractiveness of my tits.

So if my little sweetheart didn't stop crying soon, I was going to consider breast-feeding her. If it made her happy, I'd put up with cracked nipples, leaky tits and sniggering thirteen-year-old boys trying to get a look at my jugs on the bus.

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