The baby is wrapped up tightly like a parcel, face pink, eyes tight shut. Swaddling is the word which springs into Angel’s mind as she leans forward to fondly admire the tiny mite.
If only… she thinks, but then maybe next year. The doctors aren’t hopeful, but she doesn’t always trust doctors, she knows her own body. Angel is positive by nature and her glass is always half full, unlike Gabby who wants a child just as much as she; more probably. He stares stoically out of the window with his empty half glass and into the ever increasing gloom. The bus pulls away from its stop as a sudden sleet shower catches at street light, so that for a moment everything turns to quicksilver. It’s now dark by 4pm and he has always hated winter. Angel is looking forward and Gabby is looking out and away while feigning a total non interest in the newborn directly ahead of them. He is wearing his do not disturb air about him. But Angel is feeling festive despite Gabby’s gloom. It’s been nearly one month since they moved to the north of the country, far removed from questioning eyes offered by ‘interested’ relatives who spent a lot of time offering them sly glances or gazing at Angel’s belly intently waiting for it to suddenly sprout blossom.
Newtown- now that’s an unassuming name- which stands for everything that it absolutely is, grey and cold and brimming with ticky- tacky tiny houses where no one knows their neighbours. They wonder what it might look like in the light of longer evenings- probably very much the same, but they might get to see someone who inhabits the same road as them. Gabby sighs, draws himself inward and feels totally invisible, drifting through the town like a wraith, knowing no one and having cut all ties with his intrusive family. He comes from a large Indian family where the females make a career of doting on babies- lots of them. Angel watches his fixed expression, puffs warm breath onto the window and draws a smiley face; he doesn’t respond so she returns her attention to the newborn who slumbers on, beautifully oblivious to all life. The couple sitting with the baby are also silent and in keeping with the time of year Angel labels them ‘Mary’ and ‘Joseph’ in her head.
‘Lovely baby,’ Angel speaks her thoughts out loud and ‘Mary’ turns to the sound of her voice. She doesn’t look well, dreadfully pale and drawn with a prematurely haggard expression, a grey complexion. They are possibly much younger than they look. Angel gauges them at around late 20s and just a tad younger than her and Gabby. ‘Mary’ appears to want to offer a smile, but it lies hidden just behind her eyes. She looks as if she’s been sleeping in her clothes, layer upon layer, and they both look as if they have been travelling for hundreds of years. Angel thinks just how hard life is for some people and silently counts her blessings.
And that’s when it happens, in that finger snap of time, so that when you look back everything has frozen and you try to desperately search for a little bit more of the situation to try to understand. The mother, ‘Mary’ twists as if to confront Angel as Angel coos animatedly at the infant, completely lost in baby land with what must surely pass for a stupid expression upon her face. ‘Mary’ hastily locks her brown eyes into Angel’s blue and it feels as if a piece of film has slipped in its spool for that one moment of breaking time. And then everything happens at once. ‘Mary’ stands up straight and tall and thrusts the baby into Angel’s welcoming arms as she immediately accepts the child; what else can she do? ‘Mary’ and ‘Joseph’ then leave the bus as one and disappear into the night which quickly swallows them as the fog from the river obscures everything for a moment. There is no one else on the bus and so when Gabby breaks from his sullen reverie he sees both Angel and child. They both crane their necks to see if they can spot the couple but the bus has moved on now passing and the sleet has started again bringing forth yet more silver street lit shards, which makes Angel feel as if she has suddenly passed into a parallel universe. She tries to find words to explain something, anything, as Gabby stares at her- through her. There are a million questions forming, but they have no actual substance, perhaps they might later. They reach their stop and begin to walk steadily home where they buy baby formula and bottles from an all night chemist and also ask for a cardboard box, as if for a cat. Angel and Gabby are good people and intend to alert the authorities first thing in the morning. They don’t speak and feel that if they utter so much as just one word the spell will break itself.
The following morning they catch at a headline in the local paper which simply states that less than a mile from their home a couple jumped from the bridge at around 7pm the previous evening. Five minutes before Angel and Gabby reached their stop.
‘Refugees,’ says Angel as she holds the baby girl close, ‘Oh my God that was Mary and Joseph.’
‘And this,’ replies Gabby, ‘is Hope.’ The baby gurgles contentedly and opens one eye as if already understanding and grasping at her new found fate.
I am UK born and bred of Anglo Indian origins holding a lifetime desire for word conjuring. An ex English/Drama teacher with an OU. BA. (Hons), specialising in Creative Writing. I have one self-published novel plus several online successes with both flash and short stories. At present I am Literary Editor for ‘Shorts’ magazine. I have taught writing groups until they all got so good that I made myself redundant. Enjoy politics, teach yoga, adore the theatre, literature and film. I have one husband, three children and am greedily collecting beautiful grandchildren whilst living in a most lovely Devon village where life is very good indeed.