This is the twenty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 750 words.
As I watched, tears welling up in my eyes, Leah dropped back onto the mattress. Olly stopped filming, and I ran into the room, scooping her up into my arms. Olly was grinning, his hair sticking up like some mad professor. “I heard her doing some loud ‘Gahs’ over the monitor, and came in to check on her. When I saw her standing, I went to get the camera from the study”. Calling the fitted-out boxroom a study was a stretch, but I let that go, saying she must have been hungry. I sat down in the chair and started to feed her. As I did that, Olly sent his sister a text message telling her.
I couldn’t stop crying. But at least they were happy tears.
At a reasonable hour the next morning, I rang Polly to tell her the news. But I had to leave a message, as she wasn’t in yet. When she rang back an hour later, she let me blab on excitedly, waiting until I finished speaking. “Angela, you mustn’t read too much into that at the moment, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen again today”. Talk about a downer, she crashed my mood with one sentence. But I took her warning seriously enough not to bother to ring my parents and tell them.
The temptation to hold her up in the cot and see if she did it again was overwhelming. But Olly was at work, and I had grocery shopping to do. I got ready, and then loaded Leah into the car seat before throwing her baby bag into the back. I never went anywhere without that bag. Using the parent and child spaces in the supermarket car park was a boon. They tended to be closer to the shop, and the extra width of them made life easier. I had become something of a busybody, very protective of those spaces. If I saw someone trying to park in one when they obviously had no baby or child with them, I would walk over and stare them out.
With the removable baby seat wedged into the trolley, I wandered around the aisles flinging stuff in. I had never been an organised shopper, someone with a list, and meal plans. I just got whatever I liked the look of, and thought about actual dinners later. That meant I normally bought too much stuff, but what the hell.
Fully-laden, and looking for a free checkout, I stood behind an elderly woman who only had a few items on the conveyor belt. She turned to look at Leah, and smiled. “How old is she, about nine months?” I told her she was almost spot on. Then she nodded like some wise sage. “Shame about her, though I’m sure you are coping well”. I would like to have replied with an aggrieved ‘What are you talking about?’ or something similar. But the look on her face told me that she could see there was something wrong with my baby.
I said nothing, and stood with my face flushed until she paid and left.
For some reason, I didn’t want to go home. I took my shopping bags out to the car, grabbed the baby bag, then carried Leah in her seat to the coffee place in the row of smaller shops opposite. I went into the baby changing room in there and changed and fed her. Then I bought myself a cappuccino, and a huge chocolate muffin. I felt a desperate need for some woman to come up to us and compliment me on my lovely daughter. But nobody did, so I stared out of the window until my coffee got cold.
When I had put the shopping away, leaving out the stuff I was using for the meal later, I could resist the temptaion no longer. I picked Leah up off the playmat where she was lying staring at the ceiling, and carried her up to her cot. I stood her up inside, and placed her tiny hands around the wooden railing. She fell onto her back with a “Gah”. I did it again, talking to her encouragingly. She fell again. I thought the third time might be lucky.
But it wasn’t.
Olly got in at a reasonable time, and as he walked through the door, he was beaming. “How did it go today? Was she crawling or standing?”
I told him I was cooking his favourite for dinner, Pesto Chicken.