For the previous instalments of Camomile Crescent please go here
Emma stared at the newspaper she had placed on the small kitchen table and tapped her cheek nervously with her finger. She had been out and purchased it a good hour earlier, and despite having made and drunk her coffee, she still had not opened it.
"This is ridiculous." she said out loud to herself "You are only looking at what jobs are available, it's not like you are waiting to go into the interview." Even so, her stomach still flipped over. She had never had a job. She had gone from school, to college, to University and then had the children. She had never even had a Saturday job.
She filled her days the children had been at school, so far three weeks, catching up with all the household chores that needed doing. All those things she wished she had time to do but never did. Along with keeping on top of the day to day things; washing; ironing; making packed lunches she had been pleasantly busy and felt a real sense of achievement as she focused and completed her tasks.
Now her 'back log list' was coming to an end. All rooms had been de-cluttered, pulled out and deep cleaned. Toys had been sorted, fixed and stored in a logical order with labels to help the children maintain the new system. She had been brutal in what was kept and what was donated to the local play-group and for the first time - in the history of having the children - all toys fitted into the numerous storage solutions that had been purchased over the years. She had even undertaken a little bit of painting and now the hall and living areas were looking much brighter.
Now though, she was facing the thing she had longed for, and now feared. Time to do something other than look after the children. Most people she had spoken to - albeit briefly she didn't have an abundance of friends - had questioned whether she would try to find a job. What job she had no idea. But it would make sense to help the families finances, which were always tight on Luke's Firefighter wage. Even during the months when his side line of being an Electrician brought in some extra money, it was immediately paid off of the credit card or used for buying the children new essentials.
The family had never been on more than a long weekend away, usually a caravan in a British seaside town. They had plenty of fun but it was always over so quickly. Emma and Luke had dreamt of being able to take the children on a holiday abroad, especially as they were all now potty trained and free from baby paraphernalia. But try as they might to save, a serious of unfortunate events; a new oven; an exhaust for the car; all the school uniform; meant any surplus money they acquired was spoken for and as such the 'Holiday Fund' account was still sitting at a rather sundry £90.
Only one person had told her to 'Enjoy herself.' when discussing what to do with her time. Sarah the lady from number 27. Emma had only recently discovered her name. Emma had been walking home from dropping the children at The Academy one morning and Sarah had been out tending to her front garden. As Emma neared, the women clipping her roses stood back, pondering her next move and had noticed her walking along. She smiled warmly.
"Hello!" she had ventured. Emma returned the smile, quietly replied and nodded. She was surprised when the lady continued "I don't think I have ever seen you without children?" Emma laughed.
"Me either. I have just dropped them all off to school." she verified.
"The Academy? So lucky to have such a good school so close by. I am hoping my daughter, Melanie, will teach there one day." She took off her gloves and walked over to lean on the gate "She is just about to go off to University. She's going to do Sports Science. She wants to be a PE Teacher. She has always excelled at sports, lucky thing. She's doing some travelling around Europe at the moment, she is due back tomorrow. That's why I am out here so early, trying to get all those things I would do over the course of the week done so I can spend the next week with Mel, before she leaves for the start of her term." Emma was taken aback by the barrage of information from a women she had only ever nodded recognition too.
"Oh." Emma responded slightly unsure "Where is she going to University?" This question prompted a further flurry of information and Emma wondered if she gushed about her own children in the same way as Sarah was about her daughter. Probably she thought, they were her world, as Melanie obviously was to her parents.
"It's four you have got isn't it?" Sarah asked, tilting her head slightly to one side. Emma was caught off guard with the sudden change of direction in conversation.
"Er... yes." she said with a lack of confidence. Sarah laughed. "Yes!" Emma reiterated shaking her head "Sorry, yes four, two sets of twins."
"Dear little things." Sarah stated, then added winking "Well, they look like." This time Emma laughed.
"Ha, sometimes. No, they have definitely got better as they have got older. And now they are all at school, they have less energy for fighting in the evening."
"Dream for you isn't it?" Sarah said "To finally have a bit of time for yourself." Emma pondered this. Yes it should have been. But she had been struggling to find a new routine. She just didn't really know what she should be doing with herself.
"It's..." Emma paused "Odd." She wanted to say, in actual fact it was petrifying. That despite her best efforts at keeping busy she found herself pacing around at 2.30 in the afternoon wondering if it was too early to take the ninety second walk to the school. Then she felt frustrated with herself. At the first glimmer of that emotion she found something to clean, again, and pushed it aside.
She had found, however that she was becoming more short with Luke, when he invariably asked her what she had done with her day. She knew it wasn't his fault that she had decided to stop having any other life outside of him and the children, but she just couldn't help it. She felt foolish saying that she had spent all day cleaning and tidying and re-arranging. He had commented how wonderful the home now looked, and she was grateful that he appreciated her full fledged efforts. That had been a target since the children were born and it was satisfying to be fully on top of that at least. Why wouldn't it be, she thought, it was all she had.
Emma realised she had lost focus on what Sarah was saying, re-engaging as she said "A new routine just takes time, but just remember to make some time for yourself." Emma forced a laugh.
"Oh yes, certainly!" The one thing she wasn't sure how to do, was just that. Sarah tapped Emma's hand affectionately, which she had absent-mindedly rested on the gate.
"It's been lovely to chat to you. It's madness I have lived in this road for so many years, yet I don't really know anyone. Although," she said in a hushed tone "Some people I don't think I will be making an effort with." she nodded towards one of the larger detached properties, directly opposite Emma's modest semi-detached home.
If memory served Emma correctly, the couple who had bought it had a son and daughter. They looked like they were in their early teens. Emma had seen them individually running into the gates of The Academy High School section, late, as she had been returning from dropping her own children several times over the last few weeks.
Ellen. That was the women. She had no real idea who the man of the house was, when they had moved in there had been months of builders arriving and departing and Emma had given up trying to work out who was who. She had seen a man coming and going daily certainly, but he left extremely early in the morning and usually returned at the time Emma was attempting to settle the children in to bed. Sarah was right, they didn't seem particularly approachable so she would probably never need to know. "Well, must get on, I am sure you have got plenty to be doing too." Sarah concluded and both women had returned to their day.
Emma now drummed her fingers on the newspaper and sighed. The day she had stood and chatted with Sarah had given her a spring in her step. One to one adult conversation with another female had been such a change and had given her a buzz she missed and longed for, moreso now than ever. She had heard some of the mothers at the school deciding to take their animated conversation at the gates to the local coffee shop and Emma had found herself forlornly watching them leave. She desperately would have loved to have been involved in that sort of peer group but found herself struggling to get involved enough to get an invite.
Frowning at her own lack of self confidence, she pushed the chair back and made her way to the kettle. One thing Emma loved was coffee. It had been an essential ingredient for her to make it through the day for years and habits were hard to break. Reaching for the sugar bowl, she remembered it was empty. At one point Emma had been partial to three sugars, although she had got it down to one over the last few weeks she still needed it. Opening the cupboard she scoured the cupboard for a new bag, failing to find one.
"Grrrrrrr Luke!" she admonished him without him knowing it. Luke had few bad habits but using the last of something and not telling her was one of them. "I'll have to go back out now." she grumbled. Making her way to the hall she pulled on her jacket and felt for her purse and keys. Opening the front door she realised she did not have her phone with her. Although she was only walking the short distance to the shop she didn't like to think the school couldn't get hold of her for a second.
It was quite an old phone, nothing like the mini-computers mobiles seemed to be these days. But it made her contactable and she could text, which is about all she required it to do. She couldn't work Luke's, it didn't have buttons. Emma liked the comfort of what she knew. Advancement scared her, and she wondered if that fear was starting to hold her back in life?
Venturing out, for a second time, she pulled the old front door shut with a bang and set off down the small garden path. She glanced along the road and saw one of her neighbours also coming out of her house. As she closed the gate and started along the road she saw her neighbour grip onto her fence, sudden standing still with her head down, her long auburn hair covering her face. Emma watched her warily, wondering what she was doing. As Emma drew closer the women slowly started walking again, opening her own gate. She stepped towards her car as Emma approached, suddenly gasping and pushing her hand against the door as if to help her stay up. Emma looked around unsure what to do. No one else was insight. She could hear the women cursing.
"I...er..." Emma started "Are you OK?" She didn't draw any closer but couldn't just ignore the her when she was visibly in distress. The women seemed surprised to see her.
"I don't know." she replied her face showing discomfort.
"Is there anyone, indoors, I can get for you?" Emma asked glancing towards the house the women had just emerged from.
"I hate hospitals." The women said, more to herself before responding to Emma. "No." the reply came hastily "No, my partners away on business." The women seemed to compose herself a little, but Emma wondered if she had been crying, her eyes had the tell tale signs but otherwise she was immaculately turned out in a suit. "I need to get back to my office." At that she again started to rub her abdomen "Oh no." she murmured.
Emma hated to see anyone in pain "I think you better go and get yourself checked out." she said unhelpfully.
"Can you drive?" the women asked her expectantly. Emma could but rarely did, they only had one car and Luke used it most of the time. If Emma needed anything requiring a car she usually waited for Luke and he drove her.
"Yes, but," Emma started.
"Great." the women interrupted "I think it would be better if you drive." Taken aback Emma stood, staring open mouthed.
"But," she started again just as the women pounded her fist on the car door, face contorted in discomfort, cursing. "OK." Emma quickly agreed as the women shook the car keys at her. She glanced at the car, a sporty little red number and with her heart racing she pressed the unlock button. The women opened the passenger side door and Emma made her way to the other side. As she stood by the drivers door she took a deep breath and exhaled "You can do this." she commanded herself. She opened the door and got in, surprised at how small it was inside, she was only used to having to have a car the size of a mini van.
She looked by the steering wheel and then glanced at what she had in her hand. Where was the key? She looked the other side and briefly shot a look at the face of her passenger, who had her eyes closed and was rubbing her forehead. At the lack of engine starting she opened her eyes and looked at Emma, who was looking quite clueless.
"Oh, you push that button." she said, indicating with a immaculately manicured finger nail. Emma felt a stab of envy as she noticed her own dry hands. That was what constant washing up, cleaning and sorting wet laundry did, she thought. Bemused by the lack of key she didn't speak but checked that everything else in the car was as she remembered it, at least there was a gear stick and clutch.
Pressing the button as instructed the car roared into life. She touched the steering wheel, gear stick, clutch several times before actually taking the plunge and pushing the car into first. Feeling for the indicator as she glanced in the side mirror she tentatively jolted away. The sharp kangaroo jump led her passenger to open her eyes again.
"Sorry," Emma blagged "So used to our people carrier." She slowly crept up the street letting the engine rev a little too long between gear changes, but soon realised that she could still remember how to drive. As she reached the end of the road and made to take a right her passenger groaned and sat forward putting her head in her hands. As she wheel spun out on to the road she thought that at least she would have something different to tell Luke this evening. It was as she was contemplating if she was going to make it through the lights that her companion spoke.
"I'm Danielle." she took a deep breath and leaned back on the seat. Emma glanced over at her briefly and realised it was her turn to introduce herself.
"Emma." she responded concentrating fiercely on the road "Have you had this pain before?"
"For a day or so." She paused and looked away "I'm pregnant." Emma shot her a look again. "Crossing." Danielle warned Emma.
Emma slammed on the brakes just in time.
"Sorry. Again. How far along..." she began.
"Oh I don't really know. I'm not," she paused "keeping it." She turned her head towards the window once more as she said it "It's not in our plans." She continued "Children I mean. We agreed, right at the beginning of our relationship."
"Oh," Emma said quietly "Are you going to contact, er,"
"Marc?" Danielle replied "No he is in Ireland at the moment. I was going to deal with the situation over the next few days." She groaned again and pulled her knees up a little "Now fate might have taken it out of my hands."
Emma turned off of the main road and thought back to her own pregnancies. Nothing could have stopped her having the twins and she would have been devastated if she had found herself in a situation that Danielle was currently in. Different people she thought.
"Have you had any bleeding?" Emma questioned. One thing Emma did feel confident talking about was pregnancy and babies.
"A little, more brown colour than red though. And then these god damn cramps. Mind you, they seem to be easing off a little now." Was that hope Emma heard in Danielle's voice? Emma still didn't think the prognosis was going to be good, maybe Danielle was right, maybe fate had intervened. Emma indicated and turned into the hospital grounds. "Could you drop me by the door and then go and park?" Although it was a question, it was asked in a tone that indicated that was what Emma was to do.
"Of course." Emma obliged. She drew the car to a stop and Danielle opened the door.
"I'll speak to the desk and meet you in there." She put one leg out of the door and turned back "Thanks." Danielle seemed to be mentally preparing herself for entering the hospital building. Emma pulled away round to the car park where she inexpertly managed to get the vehicle into a space eventually. Emma was really quite proud of herself and had only been tooted at twice by other, impatient drivers.
She assumed the engine was turned off in the same way it was started. As the car silenced and settled she took stock of the situation. She was currently sitting in a sports car, that belonged to someone she had never spoken to before and was likely going to have to support that person in one of the most emotional experiences of their lives. Emma paused, would it be emotional though, when she didn't want the pregnancy in the first place? Emma yet again realised how naive she was and how much life experience she didn't have. She could only think of the world through her own eyes.
Checking there was no one around she leaned over and opened the glove box. She found make up, deodorant, a bottle of perfume and spare tights all neatly packed in. Emma thought of her own car, strewn with car seats, littered in sweet wrappers, empty juice cartons, toys, drawings and an abundance of crumbs. Oh what would she do if she had her own little number like this she thought. She could have Cd's of her choice for a start.
She suddenly realised she was still sitting pondering in the car, whilst Danielle was waiting for her. Hastily getting out and locking up she hurried across the car park. It was then she suddenly became conscious of what she was wearing. Although today, by luck, she had not thrown on a pair of soft comfort trousers she had at least grabbed jeans, they were her old bell-bottom style ones. These were accompanied by a knitted jumper that had numerous pulls and had seen better days. Just from looking at the other mums at the school she knew skinny jeans were now the fashion and for the first time since having the children it bothered her. She was going to be forced to sit next to Danielle who, even in her pain and discomfort had managed to turn herself out perfectly.
By the time she got to the entrance of the hospital she could see Danielle in heated discussion with the lady on the desk and was unsure whether to approach. She could hear Danielle stating that she categorically could not wait an hour and a half to be seen as she needed to be in a meeting by then. It was only when Danielle paused, to obviously let a cramp pass that Emma thought she may need some support.
"Hi!" she beamed at the lady on the desk "Can I speak with you," she discreetly pointed her finger to the side "In private." she mouthed. The receptionist nodded and Emma encouraged Danielle to take a seat. The receptionist looked at Emma expectantly, as if it was going to take a miracle to get her to do any favours for the women that was so rude.
"I'm sorry I wasn't sure where I was supposed to take her, I think she is," Emma paused and realised she did not want to say what she was going to have to say "She's er..." she stammered. The receptionist raised her eyebrows. Emma took a deep breath "I think she's having a miscarriage." The receptionists face softened.
"OK. Give me a few minutes to speak to the right people."
"Thanks." Emma said gratefully. She went over to Danielle "Hopefully we won't have to wait too long."
"Thanks." Danielle said, somewhat defeated. "I'm not a hoity-toity person you know. This whole," She waved her hand "Situation - just couldn't have come at a worse time. I'm flat out at work and," she looked around concern covering her expressions "I have a real issue with anything medical and " she didn't finish the sentence.
"Is there anyone I can call for you? Parents? Sister?" Emma tried again. Danielle shook her head.
"No, I really do not want to have to tell my mum about this. Marc said she would make too much fuss. I'm an only child." She looked thoughtful "I've got plenty of friends, but only two really close ones. Matilda lives in the States now, she was the one who introduced me to Marc." Danielle added. Emma noticed that at this point her mouth turned into a small smile, as if remembering an affectionate moment. "And Nancy, she does live nearby but I haven't been able to get hold of her for weeks. She's trying to get a big promotion at work." Danielle said as if needing to justify this fact to herself. At that moment a nurse arrived and escorted them out of the waiting room, to the audible tutting of the other patients.
Emma waited on a hard plastic chair in the maternity seating area that she knew so well. She absent-mindedly rubbed her stomach thinking of the last time she sat here when she was expecting the girls. She had enjoyed her pregnancies, she loved all the extra attention she got from it, but knew how much hard work babies were once they came into the world. Danielle had been shown into a private room for a consultation and examination. Emma had thought Danielle might pass out, but didn't feel it was appropriate to offer to accompany her, given she had known her for about an hour.
Suddenly the door opened and the nurse summoned Emma in. Emma looked around uncomfortably "Are you sure?" she asked.
"Yes!" she heard Danielle shout. Emma gathered her things and walked in. Danielle was sitting in a chair, tissue in hand. Emma stood awkwardly. The nurse cleared her throat.
"I have tried explaining to Miss Marchant, that we need to do a scan, to see what is going on."
"And I have told the Nurse that I do not want a scan, that I am not," she looked from the nurse to Emma and swallowed hard "having it. A baby I mean." Emma sensed she had been called into referee, this was something she was proficient at having four, similar age children.
"We still need to know the situation." The nurse pressed on "Even if you do decide not to go ahead with pregnancy, we would still probably need to do a scan to ascertain how many weeks you are."
"Why? Why would you need to do that?" Danielle asked desperately looking pleadingly at Emma. Emma opened her mouth to speak but the nurse beat her to it.
"Well, there are different ways to proceed, depending on how far along in the pregnancy you are."
"Oh." Danielle replied. Emma was quite shocked that Danielle hadn't found this sort of information out, given that she seemed like a savvy women in all other respects. Emma sensed Danielle had perhaps buried her head in the sand due to her medical fear. Danielle suddenly crumpled and Emma felt a rush of empathy for her.
"It doesn't hurt, the ultrasound I mean." Emma offered. "I'll go in with you if you like." Danielle nodded slowly as she tried to regain her composure.
"OK," the nurse said, a note of relief in her voice "Let me go and see if they can squeeze you in." The nurse left closing the door gently behind her. Emma looked out of the window, not sure what to say next when she heard Danielle speak quietly.
"Don't let me look at the screen." Danielle looked up "Please, don't let me look at the screen, I don't want to see..." she didn't finish.
"I don't think they'll show us the screen." Emma comforted gently. The nurse returned with some water.
"Drink this for me and I'll take you along." Danielle took the bottle and nodded. Emma gathered up her scared companions designer handbag and coat for her as the nurse showed them out and along the corridor. At the door to the ultra-sound the nurse went in handing over paperwork and speaking in hushed tones. Danielle paused.
"I think I'm going to be sick." Emma put down all the stuff she was holding and rubbed Danielle's back.
"Take some deep breaths, I think you're just really nervous." Danielle closed her eyes and shakily breathed in and out.
"Come in, come in." The Sonographer called. They entered the darkened room. "OK, which of you ladies am I doing?"
"This is Danielle." Emma answered for them both gently moving Danielle towards the bed.
"OK my love, I just need you to lift your top, and pull your bottoms down a little." Danielle hopped onto the bed reluctantly drawing her top up as requested. The Sonographer tucked paper towels into her clothes. "Just going to squeeze this jelly on - it might feel a bit cold." Emma didn't think Danielle would notice, she was shaking like a leaf and had fixed her stare on the ceiling. Emma took the seat next to the bed and suddenly felt compelled to hold Danielle's hand. Danielle looked over to her and tried to smile but crumpled into tears. Emma felt Danielle's grip tighten as the Sonographer started pressing around on her exposed flesh.
Emma flicked her eyes around the room. She felt lucky, she had only ever experienced joy in these rooms. A little fear, of course, when they said she was having a second set of twins, but the minute she saw the two little beans flying around the screen she had surged with love. She had been able to share the most magical moment in the world with the man she loved and she suddenly felt guilty for being so grumpy with her husband of late.
The only noise that could be heard in the room was the clicking of keys on the computer the Sonographer made every now and then. "Well," the Sonographer said quietly "Everything seems to be fine."
"What?" Danielle and Emma said in unison.
"What about the bleeding? The cramps?" Danielle questioned. The Sonographer spoke carefully.
"It's not, uncommon, to experience those things. Sometimes it has no reason, sometimes it can be attributed to the implantation period of the pregnancy..." Danielle shook her head.
"Where?" Danielle demanded.
"Where?" The Sonographer repeated confused.
"Where? On the screen is it. Show me."
"Danielle," Emma started.
"Let me see." Danielle asked.
"Er..." Emma flustered "I didn't think..."
"Please." Danielle said almost pleading "Show me."
"If you're sure."
"Yes." Danielle answered. The Sonographer turned the monitor. Emma saw it instantly, she had become very familiar with scans and working out what was what. She could not stop the smile breaking out on her face. Danielle on the other hand looked perplexed. The Sonographer clarified for her. Emma saw a slow look of wonder cross Danielle's face "Wow." Danielle mustered.
Emma knew in that moment a different women was born. A women that wanted her baby. And from the squeeze and smile that Danielle now gave Emma as the Sonographer continued to talk she felt a bond, a friendship beginning. With neither women knowing how much one chance encounter would change their lives.