This is the twenty-seventh part of a fiction serial, in 752 words.
Rosa came and did the housework the next day, leaving me feeling increasingly guilty about watching someone do that when I was fit and well. I had been going to mention to Olly that it might be time to tell her we didn’t need her, but to be honest I enjoyed having her around. And I also knew she needed the money.
The next few weeks seemed to fly by, making me realise that I now had a routine in place, and that Leah not being active made my life a lot easier than it was for most young mums. Her one year appointment was looming, as well as her first birthday before that. I phoned mum and suggested a small party might be in order. She told me that dad hadn’t been feeling well, and he should probably rest and not get excited. That was the first I had heard of it.
It was settled that I would buy her a birthday cake and mum would give me the money, as well as a shop voucher for anything I wanted to buy her granddaughter. Ronnie had moved out as he had threatened to do, and was sharing a house with two strangers after answering a newspaper advert. He still wasn’t speaking to me, and rarely to mum either. She blamed me of course, saying we had pushed it too far.
On the day, poor Leah only got three cards in the post, and one of those was from Polly at the hospital. The other two were from my mum and dad, and Olly’s sister in Canada. Olly and I hadn’t even bought her many presents, as there seemed to be no point buying toys for a child who didn’t play with them or even interact with us if we tried to play. I had bought her a supermarket cake, and was waiting until Olly got home to light the single candle. Then he rang to say he had to work late. Publishing deadlines, and blah blah blah. I had already tuned out, and just hung up without saying goodbye.
Leaving Leah on her play mat, I nipped into the kitchen to get the cake and light the candle. When I came back into the room singing ‘Happy Birthday to you’, she wasn’t there.
I almost dropped the cake in shock, just managing to get it onto the coffee table before it slid off the plate. That same moment I got a clue, hearing a “Gah” from behind one of the sofas. I looked over the back of it, and was amazed to see her crawling. A crawl of sorts, anyway. Supported more on her elbows than her hands, she was making her way towards the window like a soldier crawling to avoid detection from the enemy. I watched her a little longer, entralled by the activity. She was dragging her legs behind her, and making slow progress. But she was definitely moving.
Deciding not to get too excited, I picked her up and faced her the other way. Off she went again, heading back to the play mat. I broke off a piece of cake, not even bothering to cut it, and blew out the candle as I turned to offer it to her. I was willing her to reach out and take it. Whether she actually noticed it was food, or was attracted by the smell of it, she stopped crawling. I put a tiny piece into her mouth, and she ate it immediately, saying another “Gah”. But when I moved the rest of it in the direction of her hand, she made no attempt to hold it.
So I sat on the floor and fed it to her. No need to be disappointed. She had made huge progress. I wanted to tell the world. But Polly was on ‘leave a message’, and my mum sounded completely uninterested. The best she could manage was a negative. “Well if she’s crawling around now, you are going to have to fit those stair gates and get one across the kitchen door too”. So even though it was still early for her over there, I rang Olly’s sister in Canada. At least she squealed with delight, so I had someone to squeal with.
I always thought that squealing alone was rather too strange a thing to do.
By ten that night, Olly still wasn’t home. I left his dinner stone cold on a plate on the dining table and went to bed.