Sophie woke with a start. Eyes wide, she listened for Tommy’s cry. But there was no sound from the next room, only the steady breath of Pete beside her. Moonlight, filtering through the lace curtains gave the room a sinister, Hitchcock quality. She turned to the clock: 4.13! Tommy must be ravenous. This baby, her biggest, ate more than the first two, was faster to temper, scowled at his sisters, tugged at her nipples. He pulled her hair then chuckled when she called out in pain. She tiptoed into his room, her pulse thumping in her ears.
Tommy lay on his back, staring at the mobile hanging over his cot. ‘Hello my sweetness, you’re awake.’ She touched his cheek, expecting him to turn as if to her breast, but he jerked away to focus on the feathers floating above his head. Gwendolyn, Pete’s mother, had made it. Sophie had objected, but Pete had agreed with his mother, had balanced on a chair and taped it, precariously, to the ceiling. Gwendolyn’s visit, Sophie felt, was more interference than support. Picking Tommy up she marvelled at his weight. Heavier every day. She took him to the change table, tucking his wrap out of the way while she unzipped him. His nappy was dry. Had Gwendolyn seen to him already? Tommy arched his neck, trying to see his mobile. Sophie scooped him to her shoulder, holding him close with one hand, she spread his wrap across the table. She frowned, pulled a corner close. Even in the grey light she could see the wrap was green, covered in a fine pattern of leaves. Exquisite, but foreign. Not the baby blue one she’d put him down in. This wrap with its forestry theme she’d never seen before. She clenched her jaw. Tommy was mouthing her neck, licking then sucking his mother’s soft flesh. ‘Damn you, Gwendolyn,’ she whispered. She shook her head, the shudder passed down her shoulders to her ribs. She lay Tommy on the wrap and he smiled at her, his mouth closed, a cheeky, almost sly smile. Sophie wondered if Gwendolyn had fed Tommy. Given him the bottle they had argued over earlier.
Sophie settled into the rocking chair, pulling her swollen breast from her nightdress. Tommy took it noisily, greedily. Sophie smiled, petted his oversized head and looked out the window at the hawthorn tree: Gwendolyn’s ‘fairy’ tree. Luminous in the moonlight. It took Sophie a moment to comprehend the figure, in a long white dress. A pre-dawn dancer, surreal beneath the tree. Gwendolyn. Her long hair out, arms stretched above her.
With Tommy fed and settled Sophie crept to the study. She closed the door and turned on the computer, but no electric light. As she waited her hands trembled. If Gwendolyn believed in banshees she could believe anything. Sophie opened a browser. She had to know what Gwendolyn might do. She typed, then paused, unsure if there was an e before the l. She looked at the search bar: someone had already typed the word she dared not speak.