09 FEBRUARY 2008

"- Anyway so it was around then that I decided that I wasn't going to stay there any longer. He told me and - well - I was shaking. Something was. I don't know if it was me or the baby. I don't see why the baby would shake. The baby doesn't understand about relationships or sex or whatever. It doesn't understand anything.

She spanned her hands across the globe of her stomach. Her black dress zig-zagged between them. Her nail varnish was nearly gone. I wondered if she was delirious.

"What even is it? Like, an ameoba or something. Still, it shook when he told me. It was wierd."

"What does it normally feel like?", I said.

"It spends its days drumming its heels on my muscles and stretching them inside out, that's how it feels. Spends its nights bracing its fists on the sides of my ribs, pushing like Luke and Leia when the walls close, you remember?

"But it never felt like that before. It was rattling round like a pong ball off a pong paddle when he told me, and I sat down, and I took a breath, and I said, well, that's it for me and this country. I'm going home. So here I am."

She leaned back and spread her legs, knees right angles. She breathed in and lifted her ribcage. I saw her burrow her fingers into her diaphragm, massaging the muscles. She exhaled, pulling the band of her bra away, holding it loose. She let her breasts rest on her thumbs. She had two chins.

Once before this started she had one chin, a young chin. Now she was all bloom and boob. Fat cheeks like twin 'O's. I picked up her knitting and knitted three stitches, pulling the wool tight as I could with the fingers of my right hand. Increasing the tension.

I remembered my own child, splat smash on the floor in the bathroom, twelve weeks after conception. Dead for the last five. I had shunned the operation to remove it. 'As long as it's still there', I told the doctor, 'it's not really gone.' Then it was. He had shaken his head. I thought I'd heard him thinking. "Women".

I got her a glass of water. Her left breast dropped as she stretched her hand to take it. 'Course what I really want, Helen,' she said, eyes widened with naughtiness, 'is a cigarette'. I reached under my chair for my bag. Who was I to deny my friend?

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