BTW I have found a brilliant track for the movie, (if the wondrous Ben Sommers will allow me to use it) for when Sally-Anne is skipping along hi-fiving the leaves near the beginning. All the lyrics seem to go pretty well with my Sally-Anne, strangely.
Duncan woke up to with all the screming. ‘Woh, woh, LittelBaby,’ he said. We took terns cudderling her til she was carmer. After that night, she talked abowt her brudda evry day.
I thort it was a bit odd that she shoud dreme of having a bruther. And I wasent even shure she had ever herd the werd bruther. But then, we all dreme weerd things. I some times dreme of donuts. Making them and droping them in the hot fat. Or I woud dreme I was back in my cooking clars, rolling owt pastry or choping up lekes. LittelBabys night mares became more and more often thogh. All most evry night, LittelBaby was dreming of the pane of her brudda. Some times in the day too, she woud stop playing and crese up her fase and say, ‘where my brudda, mudda, where he?’
May be she had made up her bruther because she needid a friend. But I knew she probly coudent have a friend. Uther kids woud think she was to weerd. She looked to diffrent from them. Some times uther muthers woud see my chiold, from a disternse, and there fasis woud light up, then drop as thay got clowser, when thay took in her high fore hed, her large ears, her wide flared nostrels. It was a bit better when she was waring her hat, but if she took it of, her aperance frighterned pepol. We took to making her ware a hat most of the time.
Eny wey, I all weys thort she was abserlutely beautifle.
It was finerly summer. LittelBaby was nine munths old. In are villige there was a farm shop. We picked rars berries there and took them home to eat owt side. Duncan was wotching LittelBaby signing. She was balancing rars berries in a littel tower shape and signing lustily: ‘uppa tower uppa tower, in a awer in a awer, fiddle de doo, fiddle de dee, weeee,’ again and again.
‘Shes jus…not normel, is she, Sally-Anne?’ he said.
I frowned. Not Normel. That kind of rang a bell some where in my hed. Oh, yes, it was what that CrazyStranger man on the sea frunt had said when Id bene choking on my ice creme. What had he said? Had he said I was Not Normel? No, I thort it must have been the baby he said was Not Normel… and, yes, he had said she was a cone. ‘Duncan?’ I arsked him.
‘What is a cone?’ I said.
‘Its what you get your ice creme in, you numpty,’ he laughed.
‘Well, that CrazyStranger, you know, he once said..when I was pregnunt..he followed me all the way up the frunt…’ I frowned trying to member, ‘..he said my baby was Not Normel and he said she was a Cone.’
Duncan propped his hed up on his hand and lay side ways in the bed. ‘Well, she woudent be normel if she was a Cone, woud she?’ he arsked.
We both laughed and laughed. I thort of a good joke. ‘She woud have hare made of ice creme,’ I said.
‘Oh…. ice creme cone, thats good that is… I thort you ment traffic cone!’ he said. We laughed again.
LittelBaby did not like towns. She was freeked by them. But some times, like once a fort night, we had to go in to town to get stuff. I woud say, ‘Today, LittelBaby, Iyum afrayd theres nuthing for it. We have to take the bus in to town.’ LittelBaby woud start grinding her teeth. She only had five on the top and five on the botterm, and the canines were quite long and sharp, so it was a weerd iffect. Thay sort of clicked and clacked against each uther. ‘LittelBaby! Stop that,’ I said to her. ‘You will hert your teeth… ‘ I tried to be a littel bit feerce abowt inportent things as some times you see kids in the super markit who are wining and you think, thats not right. There mum shoud be more feerce.
In town she woud hold my hand and toddel along, hed down. If we terned a corner, she woud look a long the next strete in fere and hold an arm over her hed as she walked a long, as if the bildings on eether side were clowsing in on her. I coud pick up on her fiyulings, as my hart woud pownd too and the gray ness of the ciment woud way hevily apon me. I woud carry her parst shop windos and some times stop at a pritty display but she woud cuver her eyes and say ‘notta gogo town notta gogo, no likey.’ She was scared of eny thing new, aspesholy shiny bildings. If we tried to take her in side she woud mone softly. A low creakey sownd, like a tree creking in a gale.
One day in July, I had forsed LittelBaby in to town. She was in the back pack on my back and we were buying orangis at the markit. Talk of the devil, there was CrazyStranger right next to me. I coudent bileve my eyes. He fell in to step biside me as I walked awey. He did not look at me. ‘Sally-Anne,’ he said. I stopped. He stopped too but carried on looking straight ahed. ‘Please carry on walking,’ he said. ‘Its better if pepol dont realise we are talking.’
I walked on sloly. ‘So what is it this time?’ I muttered. ‘And how do you know my name?’
‘Umm, we have friends in commern,’ he said quiertly. ‘I need to tell you…there are pepol arfter your baby…your baby is very inportent to them.’
‘Is this abowt my baby being a cone?’ I said. ‘I dont under stand what you ment by cone.’
‘Um, shes a colone, a colone,’ said the man, his eyes darting abowt. ‘Look, I carnt tell you more right now, but please, wotch owt. What ever happerns, dont let them get the baby.’ He startid talking rapidly, quick fiyer. I dident under stand much of it. He kept looking up and down the rode, nervasly, then bruptley veered awey from me. I was mistified. What a weerdo! And what was he doing all the wey up here? May be he was on holiday. Pepol do come up on holiday because of the lovely seenery.
‘Duncan?’ I said later.
‘Yes, Sally-Anne,’ he said.
‘Whats colone mene?’
‘Colone? Its stinkey, isent it? French,’ he said.
Well, CrazyStranger was getting frankley in sulting. Talking bluddy french, as if Iyum gonna under stand eny of that, and making owt my baby is stinkey. Por LittelBaby. Shes not at all stinkey.
A fiew days later, Duncan was owt bilding for are land lord so I was jus hi fiving leves with LittelBaby on are way to the swings. I had to pick her up evry five secunds as she wantid to hi five all the leves. ‘Hi five! Hi five!’ she said. A BMW parsed by us. I terned my hed to wotch it, as it was going so sloly it looked like may be the driver dident know where he was going. Then I ducked my hed farst because I thort I had seen Zoe from the center looking owt of the passinger side. I pulled LittelBabys hat down over her eyes, scooped her up and raced into an alley. I ducked into a dor way, my hart hammering awey in my throwt. I felt like I might faint. Shit, well, if thay were arfter my baby, thay were getting her over my ded boddy, I was shure of that. I pulled my phone owt of my pockit and phoned Duncan. Jus as he picked up and said, ‘Yeh? Sally-Anne?’ two pepol came rownd the corner to wards me. It was Zoe and…Big Steve.
‘It’s OK, Sally-Anne, you dont have to be afrayd,’ said Zoe. I notised her hare dident look nerely as nete as ushul. ‘Were on your side. I herd you were here, and Ive come to warn you. There are pepol arfter you and…’ she hesitated and looked at LittelBaby, ‘the baby.’
‘Its Zoe and Big Steve,’ I pantid in to the phone. ‘What sort of pepol?’ I arsked. ‘Do thay know where we are?’ I notised Big Steve had a yello and perpel bruse all over his eye.
‘Thay dont know you are here, but thay might know soon,’ she said. ‘Thay came and thretened us at the center. You shoud get ferther awey, ferther awey! Onistly, thay were…horribel, Sally-Anne. Terifiying. The bloke has titchy eyes in a fat face, dusent he, Steve?’
‘Yeh,’ said Steve, ‘and the yunger one is vilent, in sane. He took me owt when I woudent tell him where you were. ‘
‘But…’ I looked from one to the uther of them. ‘How did you find me? And,’ I looked at Zoe, ‘how do you know Big Steve?’
Zoe sighed. ‘Hes my bruther, Sally-Anne. Iyum sorry, but he said Duncan coud spy on you for me.’
‘Those Collins pepol werent even the parents,’ I tolled her.
‘How do you know that?’ she said.
‘I saw her re…’ I said, and stopped because LittelBaby had pinched my arm. I had nerely said, ‘I saw her real name on her pars port.’ Shit. That woud of been a massiv fale.
‘I jus do,’ I said.
‘She was fownd merdered, that Mrs Collins,’ she said.
‘Oh dere. Was she?’ I said. LOL.
Duncan-in-the-phone was showting in my ear. ‘Its OK, Duncan, thayr being…OK,’ I said.
Zoe backed off, pulling Steve by the arm. ‘If we fownd you,’ she said, ‘thay can find you. Come on,’ she said to Steve, ‘lets get owt of here. Look arfter your self, Sally-Anne.’
The next day, Duncan got up erly and spent the two hundred quid what had bene in NarstyLadys hand bag, on a very crappy car from a deeler. We had gathered quite a lot of stuff over those munths, wich we wantid to take with us, like LittelBabys stick collecshun, her fossil collecshun, her shells, her flints and her buckit of moss and buckit of sheeps wool. The car was red, but one dentid dor was grene and the bonnit, also dentid, was gray. ‘Oh grate,’ I said, ‘were not going to stand owt much in that, are we?’
‘Its better than nuthing,’ said Duncan.
We did not get tax or inshurance for the car. It had two munths emoty on it. All that morning, we looked at the map wiol we packed and dicidid we woud go to the banks of Loch Loogal, because I liked the name. At around midday there was a tap at the dor. We thort it was the land lord as we had tolled him we had to leve. We operned up. It was Fler, my friend from the center.
She had a grate big belly again, and was back in baggy dungarees. ‘Yeh, working again,’ she said, patting her belly. ‘Iyum visiting my grand farther, in Ullapull, so thort Iyud find you owt. Took quite a bit of arskin. Hey, nice baby!’ She hi-fived LittelBaby and smiold at her.
‘Who did you arsk?’ I said.
‘Dont panik,’ she said. ‘Only Zoe. She tolled me where you were but she dident know the ixact villige nor the ixact howse.’
We had packed the tea pot all redy but we got it owt again and made some tea. LittelBaby was unpacking her sheeps wool, laying the tufts owt in lines. ‘Dont unpack it, LittelBaby,’ I said, ‘You gotta pack it. Weyer moving on, Fler, ferther in to the wiolds.’
Fler pored her self a cupper and said, ‘Sally-Anne, you obviusly never knew this, but I jus have to say it: you had evry right to hang on to your baby.’
I stared at her, dum fowndid. ‘What do you mene?’ I arsked her.
‘Well, in a cort of law, thay woud of ruled that you had evry right to kepe the baby if you wantid to.’
I felt big things that I thort were true come crashing down in shardy splinters, dust and rusty nales. ‘That carnt be right,’ I wispered. ‘That jus carnt be right, can it?’
‘Yes, it is,’ she said. ‘I know, because it has been happerning in the news some times that the surogut wants to kepe the baby, and she dus all most all weys have the right to kepe the baby.’
I felt like I was going to claps in a hepe. I was thinking ‘We dident have to kill NarstyLady. We coud of jus tolled her to fuck of in sted.’ I stammered: ‘But …thay kept saying it was not my egg… not my sperm, thay kept telling me I had singed the papers…thay never said I coud kepe the baby.’
‘Well, thay dident want you to know,’ she said. ‘Of course, its better for them if all goes acording to plan, as thay get there fee, the ‘parents’ are happy, thay avoyd the corts. Far less hassel. But thay make an effert to hide the truth, because thay know full well that if one of there suroguts wants to kepe the baby, thay carnt stand in her way.’
I had bene to scared to arsk. I asyumed I had no rights because I was so use to not having eny, I serpose. What I wantid had all weys, as long ago as I coud member, bene not very inportent.
But then, a thort struk me. ‘Shurly, having the baby in the beach hut shoud of tolled them that I wantid to kepe the baby…I even said it then, I member saying it, to the nersis.’
‘Well, for some reson, thay really really dident want you to kepe the baby.’
‘May be because shes speshul,’ I said, smioling at LittelBaby who had broght me a fer cone from her fer cone collecshun. ‘Pack them. Dont unpack them, LittelBaby.’
‘May be. Or thay were being pade massis for her because she was speshul,’ she said.
‘Why dident you tell me I was aloud to kepe her, Fler?’
‘You never tolled me you wantid to kepe her,’ she said.
She was right. I had been too afrayd that pepol woud tell on me. ‘But why did thay choose me to have such a speshul baby? Coudent thay tell I woud be trubbel?’
‘You must of bene the only persen who matched the baby. Member when you start at the center you have blud tests, smeres? Thats testing you for compat erbility.’
‘Whats compat erbility?’ we said to gether, then we laughed.
‘You can do it to!’ I said to her.
‘Do what?’ she arsked.
‘You can guess what I am going to say next!’
‘Only some times,’ she said, smiling. ‘Compat erbility is like how you match,’ she said.
‘Well, thay were clever at it, because me and LittelBaby do match. We match so well that we carnt be a part.’
‘Yes, you do,’ she said, with a smiol, looking at LittelBaby who had left of the packing and was doing her darnsing in her wellies with a fer cone in each hand and a twistid garland of sheeps wool rownd her neck. Fler had to run, so we hugged. ‘Good luck, Sally-Anne,’ she said. ‘I jus had to let you know you got a friend.’
We followed the map to Loch Loogal. We stopped for a fiew wekes in a beautifle berch wood on its banks. It was mid Orgust by then and really warm. Duncan had bort a tarp so we made a littel shelter in a cops. All of us felt more normel there because there were no pepol and because LittelBaby, at eleven munths old, was all most all weys happy there, apart from when she got upset abowt her brudda. She liked dark, woody plasis. Even when rane was thudding on the tarp jus inshis from are fases, she was happy. She broght moss and ferns in for the flor and fell aslepe with her fase in a pillo of leves and petels. Often, we woud wake up in the morning and find LittelBaby owt side, digging holes or jus sitting, looking up at the canerpy of leves abuv, lisening to the berd song.
In the larst week of Septemba we dicidid that for the winter it woud be safist to move to an iland. We packed up again and drove to Thurso to get the ferry to the Orkneys. We bort a tickit for the mid day crossing. The sea looked rugh and gray. Waves were ixploding against the key. We sat in the car in a long kew of cars. Duncan smoked owt of the windo. It was boring wating.
‘Duncan?’ I said.
‘Yes, Sally-Anne,’ he said.
‘I think those pepol over there are wotching us.’
‘Only look with your eyes. Over there, by the caff thing.’ I pointed with my finger, but bilow the level of the car windo, surrup tishusly and with owt looking that wey. See, I had lernt some things from my life on the run… and quite a lot of niew werds like surrup tishusly. ‘A bloke in a black hoody with a huj fat fase and a yunger ugly chap in a gray cote. They kepe looking over here but prertending thayer not.’
Duncan looked for a minit. ‘Sally-Anne,’ he said. ‘I think your right.’
‘Are they arfter the baby?’ I arsked. ‘Are thay the ones Zoe and Steve said were arfter us?’
‘I dont know. But we dont want to be stuck on a ferry with them, thay look dedly. Strap LittelBaby back in her sete and get your sete belt back on, Sally-Anne.’
I did so, my hands shaking.
‘Howld tight,’ said Duncan.