I never use to under stand when pepol talked abowt love. I thort it was jus like happy ness. I thort I loved my mum, or my sisters bifore thay left home or even my bruther even thogh he was mene, because I was happy to be with them, happy to make rice pudding with them, or giggerl with them abowt some thing on the telly. I thort lovers were like that. I thort thay jus injoyed being with each uther and that was what love was. But in the garden of the center, in that hamuck stretched bitween two trees, I lay, with naycher bersting all arownd me, as it was the munth of may. Ooh, that rimes, lay…may, may be I am a powit. Eny wey, humming to LittelBaby, and fiyuling her riggel her littel lims with plesher, I felt things giving way in my brane and my hart, letting go, like those grate big aynshunt glasiers crawling thrugh inormus vallys like what Mr Oxburg tolled us happerned thowsunds of years ago. I felt a woosh wooshing, like a big wave pulling me along with it. It jus scooped me up and rushed me along. It was not to be cuntrolled. I realised I coudent fight it and dident want to fight it. I tumbeled into a deep rilax. I felt a sense of pease. My legs and arms felt floppy, right to the tips of the fingers. My in sides felt warm and slo, like treakel or huny. My eyes were harf shut. The sun glittered and flashed thrugh my lashes. My breth came slo and deep and reguler.
I magined how the baby woud look all redy. She was small, tiny, but perfict. Her spine was perfictly curved but later woud be completley strait. Her tiny thum was at her lips. Her fase was thin, her cheke bowns so beautifle, her mowth all redy sensitiv and smily. She was so sweet, jus so so sweet, I carnt tell you. She was the best baby in the werld. I wantid her to be owt so I coud cradel her in my arms and hold her tight to me. But I also dident want her to be owt, as uthers wantid to cradel her and I dident want them to. I woud lie in the hamuck and wisper to my self in time with the swinging, ‘mine, mine, mine. You are mine, not theres, you are mine.’
Evry time I thort abowt her, I had to shut my eyes and take a deep breth in. I held the imij in my mind, cradled in pink clowd. I stroked my tummy and sagn and sagn. The more I sagn, the more I wantid to sign. The notes and werds jus tumbold from my lungs and mowth. I coud fiyul my voice in my tummy as I smoothed it. I knew the baby coud here it. I knew she wantid to lern to sign along with me. She twistid her boddy in dilight when I startid to sign.
She coud talk to me. Not in werds exakly, but in cool breasiz wisling threw my brane. She woud nock, nock, jently in side me. She brane washed me. Juring thos nine munths, she made me wiold.
On Fridays I had the hole day off. Evry week. In bed on Thersday night I woud hug the baby in my tummy, hug her tight and say, ‘tomorro, littel baby, we are going to have tretes.’ I have all weys loved tretes. My muther, before my dad left, use to give me a littel sprig of lavender, a cuple of bits of chocolat, two hazel nuts fresh from the shell. Some times a thin strip of marzipan from a cake she was making. ‘Look, Sally-Anne,’ she use to say, ‘a littel trete for you.’
I loved these littel gifts more than eny thing, so I knew it was inportent for babies to have tretes. And I so wantid to be a good mummy, the best mummy, for my baby. That one Friday that I member more than eny uther day, I dressed in my fayvrit flowty dress of the time, wich was yello with big pink flowers and grene leves, put my oringe and black sun hat on, then bort a slice of cheese from the grocer under are flat, a roll from the baker and a big fat termarto from the man on the markit. I walked to the beach. I straddeled a brake water, looking owt to sea. No one was arownd, so as the sun came owt from bihind a clowd, I unbutterned my yello dress at the frunt and let my bump stick owt in the air. It felt so fresh with the cool breasiz blowing on my tummy. The sun shone thrugh my skin and I coud suddernly see thrugh my babys eyes. I magined the rich red and oringe light poring in to her muffold watery werld, and I took a long slo pease full breth. She loved this. She woud rigel as she got the hit of oxigen. I was so hungry, I ate the roll farst, and the cheese and the termarto. I was still hungry, so I went along the beach to wards the pier.
I took the stone steps up to the sea frunt and a skinny all most bald man in a thin grey cote peeled awey from the bench he was lening on and startid walking in step with me to wards the pier. I looked across at him. His mac was flapping in the wind. He did have a fiew strands of wite hair on his hed and a thick wite mustarsh and biyerd. I was wary. What did he want? ‘Dont wurry,’ he said owt of the side of his mowth. ‘Iyum not trying to scare you.’
That is a scary thing to say in its self. I walked farster, trying to shake him off. He walked farster too. ‘Dont rush of,’ he said, ‘plese.’ I thort he was probly a perv. I dident say eny thing, and I dident look at him again. I felt scared.
‘I jus want you to know some thing, some thing inportent,’ he said. He was spekeing quiertly and farst. I pulled my sun hat down over my eyes. I dident want to here him. ‘Your baby…is not jus…oh, how can I explane this?…not jus eny baby, Sally-Anne.’
I stopped walking. He stopped walking. We looked at each uther. Now I was really wurried. How did he know my name? I coud sware I had never seen him bifore in my life.
‘Sally-Anne,’ he said, ‘Iyum jus warning you, lots of pepol want your baby. Your baby is…speshul. Shes…not what you think…’
I garsped. How did he know my baby was a gerl? I thort only I knew that. The wind had got up and was whipping my hare into my mowth. I pushed it awey and said, ‘What do you mene? I know my baby is speshul, but…’
‘I mene,’ he said, sloly, ‘really, really speshul. And those pepol, that cupel, thayr not…’ He stopped talking as a bunch of lads were coming parst with cans of Speshul Brew, showting and shuving each uther. I thort, ‘This is too weerd,’ saw two nersis from the center nere the entranse to the pier, and rushed to wards them, ignoring the man.
Later I thort, ‘Oh Sally-Anne, you shoud of herd him owt. What was he going to say? Why did he think your baby was so speshul?’
I hedid up the pier to see Duncan. I had been going back to see him quite a lot. He was jus so funny and made me laugh evry time. I woud buy donuts of of him all most evry day, even thogh it was ferther than the baker. ‘A lot of pregnunt ladies come here for there donuts,’ he said. ‘Thay need them to grow there babies,’ he said.
‘I dont eat them much, its for my mum,’ I said.
One june morning I was up erly and dident have to be at the center til ten so, even thogh it was ferther, I went to get mums donuts from the pier. It was a gorjuss sunny day, so I skipped a bit. Duncan smiold when he saw me. ‘Hows Baby Sprinkels?’ he said.
‘Shes fine,’ I smioled too. ‘Shes been skipping.’
‘Skipping?’ he said.
‘Yes. She likes it.’
He said, ‘Your up erly.’
‘The erly berd catchis the werm,’ I said.
He laughed. ‘The werm being me,’ he said. ‘Hook, line and sinka. Dyou want to come owt for a coffee?’
‘Oh, ere we go!’ showtid Big Steve from over at the coffee mashine. ‘Youv only jus got ere. I dont know why I pay you eny thing!’ He rowled his eyes and moned, but heved his self to the frunt to take over making the donuts.
We sat in the caff opasit the entranse to the pier. I tolled Duncan abowt the weerd man in the flappy mac. He said, ‘Probly trying to sell you some thing.’
‘But he said my baby was speshul.’
‘Well, eny one can see that Baby Sprinkels is speshul!’ he said. ‘But he probly said that to flatter you and make you buy some thing,’ he said.
‘But…he dident have eny thing to sell,’ I said. ‘And he said my baby was a gerl. How did he know that?’
‘He had one in two charnsis of getting that right,’ said Duncan. ‘And eny way, how do you know that it is a gerl?’
‘I jus do,’ I said.
‘Dyou want to come up to my flat?’ he arsked.
‘May be anuther time,’ I said. ‘I got to take Mums donuts back then I got clarses from ten til like one.’
‘Well, come back later on then,’ he sujestid.
I came back at one therty. As soon as we got in the dor of his flat what he shared with Big Steve for the summer he lifted my shert and ran his hands over my boddy. ‘Sally-Anne,’ he said. ‘You are gorjuss!’
I laughed and said, ‘You are gorjuss too, Duncan from Dunkan Donuts.’
I squished his flesh in my hands. He was so big and sollid. We fell over to gether on to his settee and giggerled. I jus coudent stop laughing. ‘You is my littel Panda Bare,’ he said.
‘No, you is my big Teddy,’ I said.
‘You is my….Crocerdile,’ he said biting my neck.
‘No, you is my…..’ I coudent think of eny thing. It dident matter. Duncan was kissing me.
Arfter the kiss I had thort of some thing. ‘You is my rinoserus,’ I said.
‘Well, you is my blue wale,’ he said.
We did sex. It was much better than with Gary from the Garidge. For a start I coud aksholy fiyul Duncans penis going in and owt. And this time, I wantid it. In Garys Ford Focus, I wasant really sure if I wantid it or not. I dident say no, but I dident say yes neether. Plus, with Duncan, you got lots of kissing. He kissed me all over my boddy. I liked the back of my legs most. Made me tickel but in a luvley way. Also this time, we dident have to wurry abowt getting pregnunt because I was all redy pregnunt.
We had lots of giggerling fits to gether. Abowt being fat. Abowt bums being wobbley bobbley. Duncan is so big. Like a big bare. ‘My littel Panda,’ he woud say, ‘You is aaaaaaall……wobbly-bobbly!’ I felt fuzzy in side when he said things like this. It was better than a movie. To gether we felt in vinsabel. Like super man or some thing. Like in that film with all the super herows in it flying abowt bashing pepol in. We were like them.
Funny werds made us laugh, like vergina. Most times we woud end up screming with laughing and the man from the down stares flat woud come and bang on the dor and complane at us. I all weys scremed when Duncan prertended to be a shark and did the theme choon of jaws and then bit me on the leg. I woud push him hard and he woud fall of the bed, on perpus, and I woud tickel his fete and he woud screme a really high screme and I woud showt ‘your a gerl, your a gerl!’
He liked to phone me when he was right there in the room with me. It made me laugh to here Duncan saying ‘Hello? Is that Sally-Anne?’ in the phone in my ear and right next to me. Then I woud phone him and he woud anser with ‘Yeh? Phone sex hot line,’ wiol he was stroking my thy, wich made me laugh more. The best thing was darnsing with Duncan thogh. We jus loved darnsing and did it all over his flat. We were really good at it.
A bit later in june, when there were less clarsis as some teachers were on holiday, I was jus going owt of the resepshun airia arfter lunch, and Zoe called me over. ‘I have a littel job for you, Sally-Anne,’ she said. ‘You need to be kept bisy, I saspect.’
I said, ‘I dont mind, I like not doing eny thing, its pease full.’
She looked at me cradeling that baby. I think I looked a bit stowned with love. I tried to stop smioling and make my eyes look harder, less dremey. It was hard.
‘Its making pang cake batter for to night,’ she said.
‘OK,’ I said. I dont mind. Its easy, you jus brake eggs and por milk and bete the mixcher. I went of to the kitchins. Two wimin that I knew a littel bit, as thay did the same cooking clarses as me, were sitting on benchis at a long tabel meshuring flower owt. Anuther, Fler, was siting on a stool with a bowl on the bench in frunt of her, using a hand blender. I knew her, as she sat at my tabel at crafts. She was pregnunt with twins. I washed my hands at the sink and startid braking eggs in to a bowl. I werked and werked. I hardly notised the wimin, but then Fler showtid, over the noise of the blender, ‘How meny munths do you have to go, Sally-Anne?’
I looked up. Her long black hare had a bluey scarf tied rownd it. She all weys wore soft blue dungarees and wite sherts. She had a big nose, but a kind fase. She was skwotting on that stool with her legs wide apart arownd her inormus tummy. ‘Umm,’ in truth it was not a queschun I thort much abowt. I did not like to think of the end. ‘I think, abowt four munths. Thay tolled me end of octoba or erly novemba,’ I said. ‘How abowt you?’
‘Im jue in one week, end of june,’ she said.
‘Ooh,’ I said. ‘Soon.’
Her companyuns on the bench smiold. ‘You get more for twins,’ said one.
Fler smiold too. She took the blender owt of the mixchur and put it on a dish and pushed the batter to one side. ‘Im paying of a chunk of my howse this time. Larst time I put the hole diposit down.’
One of the bench ladies had stopped meshuring and was lening back having a strech. ‘What are you going to do with your muny, Sally-Anne?’
I stopped braking eggs. I stroked my belly quiertly. I dident want the baby to here eny of this. ‘Umm, I dont know yet,’ I wispered. I thort abowt telling these kind ladies that I did not want to sell my baby. But some thing scremed in side my hed: dont trust them, thay might tell Zoe, thay are part of the sistem, thay have been brane washed along with all of them.
‘Here,’ said BenchLady, pushing her three bowls of meshured flower to wards me. ‘Im of, done enugh.’
‘Hunh,’ I said, looking at the three bowls, ‘I only got two pare a hands, you know.’
The three women all laughed. I still dont know what it was I said. What did I say? I have only got two pare a hands.
‘So, come on, Sally-Anne, what are you going to do with the muny?’ arsked Fler again.
‘I might give some to my mum,’ I croked. ‘I coud help her buy a niew settee and a niew TV may be..’ In my mind I was yelling ‘Not really, not really, LittelBaby, dont worry, I wont be selling you to eny boddy.’
I said I had to go to the toilet, and I stood in side the cubikle, panting with the stress, stroking my tummy and humming, low and fiers, all my love for her. You know in those films when a man is going owt with two ladies, or a lady has two men, and she dusent tell them, I felt like that. I felt like I had been unfathe full to my baby. I sang ‘All the loving, I will give to you ou ou, all the loving, baby, Iyull be true.’
How coud those wimin give up there babies? I thort. Why did thay not fiyul desprit like me? How coud thay be so carm? What did thay see in muny? Jus paper notes, and coins. How coud that be eny substichoot for some thing so preshus and perfict as there baby?