Writing out some of the background for my new novel today I realised I was inadvertently writing a ‘what if’ about my own life, or one tiny aspect of my life.
I think sometimes that’s what writers do. They use their words, their imaginations to explore different lives they might have lived. Mine is a little thing that might have been huge.
I was late for my period this month: second month in a row. Now, we’re careful. We have two beautiful children and I’m in my late thirties. My first child was born at 37 weeks, the second at 35 weeks. My pediatrician friend said that trend to premature babies could easily continue.
So, even if we wanted more children (which we don’t – only when I get occasionally broody) the risks are far too high. And I KNEW I wasn’t pregnant. I’m more likely to be menopausal, as early menopause runs in the family. But, still, you start putting two and two together and making five. I was tired, grumpy, teary and, above all, late.
The protagonist in Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes gets pregnant against the odds. These things happen. I worried.I read up about menopause at 2am on my phone. And, being me, I re-planned my future with a third child in it. I needed to be prepared, just in case. I worked out the age gap, when the third would start school. I decided it would be nice for Aaron to have a play mate when Amber starts school in September. I tried to decide whether I’d prefer a boy or a girl. I’m a writer: I wove stories.
Drove hubbie nuts.
Then I decided I ought to actually get a test and part of me was actually a bit excited (damn you, breeding hormones). I didn’t need the test, as it turned out. As if just buying it was enough, I knew before I got home that it was no longer required. In a tiny way I felt as if I’d lost a baby, even though no baby existed. Because I had made the scary future so plausible.
I wasn’t going to talk about it on the blog – it seems to come under the ‘too much information’ category. Until I started writing out my character list for the new book this morning:
George: 11. Two siblings, Ben (14) and Susie (16). George suspects he wasn’t planned. His sister tells him their mother used to say ‘I’ve only got two hands’ or ‘one of each, job done’. George feels unwanted and an outsider. Susie is academic, Ben is musical. They’re close. George likes football and computer games and being lazy.
I realised, half way through writing it, that George is my imaginary third child. The things I worried about at 2am were all there: that any other children born into our family would feel left out because my two are so close in age; that Amber would remember me saying ‘one of each, job done’; that a third child would feel alienated, like my Uncle and my Mum – both the last of three kids.
The loss of my imaginary child, that hurt for a day, doesn’t hurt so much now. When I see the kids needing another play mate I do wish I had started my family earlier, so more children was a possibility. But now I can write them in to existence instead. So much cheaper and no need for cots, bottles, stretch marks, swollen ankles and endless dirty nappies. Hurrah.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Rain hammered at the window as if it, too, wanted to come in and watch TV. Claire reached for the remote and turned up the volume; the dulcet tones of Rapunzel drowning out the drumming beat. She looked around the abandoned lounge, thankful that they were the only occupants.
Next to her, head propped up on one hand, Sky gazed at the TV as though it were entirely responsible for the rotten weather preventing their trip to the beach. She sighed and the noise cut through thrumming rain and Disney’s finest. Claire smiled at the grown up sound. I wonder if she’s learned that from me or Ruth?
“Do you want to watch something else?” Claire had suggested Tangled because she thought she could work with it on in the background. Lack of attention had left her blog drifting with diminishing views and comments and she knew some serious effort was required to breathe life back into it.
The last thing I need right now is Carl on a crusade to have me do another challenge. The Doctor’s Note isn’t going to hold out much longer. I don’t think surviving the school holidays without committing murder is the kind of thing Coca Cola or the YHA would want associated with their brands, however much it must be a reality for millions of parents.
Another sigh cut through her thoughts and she put down the iPad, searching for patience and a smile. Hitching it in place she turned to Sky and said in as lively a voice as she could muster after a night of bad dreams and no sleep, “What shall we do then? Coffee and cake? More homework? We could go exploring: There are lots of places other than the beach to visit.”
“But I wanted to go to the beach!” Out came the bottom lip. Claire pushed away the irritation and searched her mind for alternatives.
“I think there’s a games room here, shall we go and have a look?”
A glimmer of interest flicked across Sky’s face. I’ll take it. Claire got up and held out her hand. After a beat of hesitation, Sky took it and let herself be led from the room.
“I win, I win!” Sky hopped around gleefully as she connected four yellow discs in a row, once more cutting off her Auntie from her own straight run. Claire smiled at the elation, feeling only slightly guilty at her own cheating. Surely it’s only bad when you cheat to win? Cheating to lose – to make a child smile – that’s normal, right?
Her idle brain ran on with the idea. I wonder if I should win now and then, just so she gets used to losing? Surely losing has to happen at some point in a child’s life? Somewhere in her mind she remembered Ruth telling her about the trials of children’s parties, where everyone had to win at pass the parcel or musical statues. I don’t remember it being like that when we were growing up? Losing, crying about it, getting over it, was all part of being a kid. She looked over at Sky’s beaming grin and compared it with what she knew the alternative would be if she beat her niece. Maybe that particular lesson can wait.
“Well done, Sky. Two out of three?”