This is the twenty-third part of a fiction serial, in 836 words.
Although Olly started to help out more, he also retreated into technology in what seemed to me to be a form of escape. The smaller third bedroom was kitted out like an office already, but he seemed intent on making it into a kind of module like something from a futuristic film. Spending money because he had it to spend, a new Apple computer arrived, with a combined printer/scanner/copier that was placed next to it on the new metal desk he bought from IKEA. The camera that watched Leah in bed was soon replaced by one that had an infra-red capability, so we didn’t need to leave a light on in her room.
As the nine-month appointment approached, I was keeping a diary of what I had noticed Leah could, and could not, do.
Saying actual words.
That was still a definite ‘No’. She only ever said “Gah”.
No. But at least this meant she wasn’t investigating cupboards or switches.
Eating proper food in addition to milk.
That was a ‘Yes’. She ate or drank anything I put in her mouth. But she didn’t hold it if I placed it in her hand.
Pincer-grip with fingers.
She was getting her first teeth, but never seemed to be in pain. She certainly wasn’t crying.
Communication by gesture. Clapping, waving, and so on.
Clinging on to soft toys or blankets for comfort.
No. She dropped anything I gave her.
I gave up after that, as I wanted to stay positive. Her weight was good, she looked healthy, and she slept well. She took her feeds, and rarely cried.
All of those were taken as good signs, and I acted as much like a normal mum as possible. I played with her, spoke to her, sang her songs, and interacted with her whenever she was awake. Even though she never responded in the way other babies might have done, I made the best of my time with my little girl. And when Olly got in from work, he did the same.
At least for a while.
The next appointment was with Polly. I showed her my diary, and we discussed the fact that Leah should be crawling at the very least, and making more sounds than an occasional “Gah”. The general health check went well, so we concentrated on the development issues. Polly tried to stay upbeat, suggesting things might change once Leah passed her first birthday. But she had to agree when I said that would always leave her behind other kids of the same age, whatever happened later on. She didn’t seem very interested in Olly’s idea of sending her CCTV footage of Leah at night. I supposed she had enough to do, without scrolling through hours of that. But she gave me the email address anyway.
That night, Olly had to work late, so I ate alone. When he got home with a pizza, he remembered to ask how it had gone, and showed great interest in Polly being so positive. Nodding enthusiastically as he wolfed down the lukewarm meal.
But I couldn’t shake the idea that he was just pretending to care.
Two weeks later on the Sunday, we made the trip to my parents’ house for dinner. Ronnie was out, and dad winked as he told me, “He stopped over. Got a new girlfriend”. Mum was quick to jump in “Yes, and she’s thirty-four, and divorced”. Her expression and tone let us all know she didn’t approve. Ronnie was twenty-seven, and should probably have left home years earlier. But life was easy, with mum doing the cooking, and his washing and ironing too. He was not a man of ambition. He had left school at seventeen with two ‘O’ levels, and got a job with a big DIY shop chain. But he worked in the head office, in the ordering department, and his main aim in life was to own a souped-up GT car.
Now he had met Lauren, the sister of one of his work colleagues. And he was head over heels in lust. And as for dad saying he had a ‘new’ girlfriend, well other than two weeks with a girl up the street called Emma Thoroughgood when he was thirteen, I think we could rightly say that Lauren was his only girlfriend. I went through the motions of telling my parents some more about Leah’s clinic visit, concentrating on the positives. Mum latched onto that too. “I told you it was too soon to say. You wait and see. Give her time”
In bed that night, I turned over to find an empty space next to me. Wondering where Olly was, I got up and walked out onto the landing. He was standing in the open doorway of Leah’s room, holding a small video camera that I didn’t even know he had bought. When he saw me, he turned and grinned. I walked across to him, and saw what he was filming.
Leah was standing up in her cot, holding the sides for support.