a distraught mother needs to make a decision
Ruby stared at the kitchen wall. Her mind empty, unable to even think rationally.
There was no sound. Her eyes closed with exhaustion. No one told her there’d be days like these. No one could have the words which would have explained this utter exhaustion, this emptiness, this depression.
Depression? Is that what she was experiencing? The thought squirmed its way into her cotton wool brain. She couldn’t be depressed. There was no time, no space, no room for such a thought. Was it possible she could simply raise her hand and say she desperately needed to sleep? Would someone come to her aid? Was it that simple?
The clock ticked methodically as she sat on the kitchen chair. It wasn’t a comfortable place, but she didn’t dare sit in an armchair or, God forbid, lie down.
The clock struck three. Dong. Dong. Dong. Shit! She needed to be at school to pick up Sarah. Now! Ruby’s heart hammered. She was going to be late even if she left this minute.. It meant her four-year-old daughter would be standing outside the school by herself, looking for her mummy’s car.
Ruby opened the door to the twin’s room. In the darkened, cool room, she saw both infants sleeping soundly. All night they had been awake. Each baby crying for different reasons. Ben, because he was teething and Emma, because that’s just what she did.
She glanced at the sleeping babies and then at her watch. How long would she be out? Surely nothing bad could happen in twenty minutes. What’s the worse that could happen? They’d scream, that's all.
If she tried to wake them, put them both in the car, it would make her even later.
An image of her little girl standing waiting came into her mind. She had to go.
Ruby’s thoughts flitted momentarily to the family she’d left behind in the UK a year ago. Mum living next door. There was no way anything like the predicament she found herself in today would ever have happened. How had it come to this? A year ago, there was just her, John, and their three-year-old little girl setting out on an adventure. Leaving home and family to start again on the other side of the world. Australia. The land of new horizons, of excitement and challenges.
Their arrival had been a culture shock. The sudden realisation of the fact they knew no-one, and no one knew them, had hit her hard since the twins arrived. Ruby had been born, gone to school, and grown into adulthood in the place where she’d met her husband-to-be, John. They both had the same dream of leaving what they considered the stifling, small- minded place. To be free, away from family scrutiny and small-town gossip.
Now, she was torn between being late, waking the babies and all that entailed or just slipping out quietly. But leaving them on their own and driving away to pick up her daughter, who no doubt was getting distressed, was a big risk.
The decision was made, she closed the door to the nursery and slipped out of the front door, quietly closing it behind her.
As soon as she started the car, her thoughts went to what might happen whilst she was out of the house. Visions of fire engulfing the property, her babies trapped in their cots, unable to escape the smoke. Heat and flames, headlines in the newspapers and on the television news bulletins. Mother leaves her infants alone in a burning house.
Her heart skipped a beat as she started the engine and reversed down the steep driveway. Hearing a crunching sound she slammed on the brakes. Looking into her rear-view vision mirror, she saw nothing. Ruby opened the car door and peered out. It seemed clear so she carried on reversing. Again the crunching sound caused her to stop and get out of the car. Going around to the back of the vehicle she saw to her dismay the twin pram crumpled under the rear wheels. She felt sick at the thought of her carelessness. What if the babies had been strapped into the pram and she so recklessly reversed over them? She glanced at the house and thought of them lying in their cots alone, then thought of Sarah in tears, searching for her mummy’s car.
Could this day get any worse? she thought, as she wrangled the mangled mess of pram from under the rear wheels.
Dare she drive away? The decision was made. The babies were safe for a short while, except for if the house burst into flames, but her daughter was vulnerable. She may decide to walk away from kindy. Might try to find her mummy. Run into the road and get hit by a car. No. She needed to fetch her. That was her priority.
Throwing the heap of tangled metal and canvas across the lawn, Ruby got into the car and drove away from the house and her children. Each mile made her feel more nervous, more convinced this was a bad idea.
At last she arrived at the kindergarten. Screeching to a halt outside, she leaped from the car and ran through the gate to where she saw her little girl playing on the swings with other children. Sarah looked up and smiled, “Mummy! Can I stay and play for a bit longer?”
Ruby swung her daughter up into her arms and hugged her tight. “Not today, sweetheart. We need to get home, quickly.”
At the sight of Sarah’s crestfallen face, her heart broke. How can I do this? I’m a terrible mother.
She coaxed the disappointed child into the car with a promise of ice-cream once they got home.
The trip home, although only fifteen minutes, seemed endless. Visions of disaster waiting for her filled her head. She imagined the police would be knocking on her door, accompanied by people from Child Protection. Someone must have seen her drive away without her babies, knowing that her husband was at work and the children were left alone.
She pulled into the driveway. The mangled pram was still lying there accusingly. With shaking hands, she put the key into the door, stepped into the hallway, and listened. Nothing.
Perhaps they’d choked or suffocated in their sleep, she thought as she rushed into the nursery.
Ben was sitting up playing with his teddy, sucking on his dummy. He gave her a big smile when he saw her. Her glance went to Emma’s cot. She was still lying on her back sleeping, arms above her head, utterly relaxed.
“Ice cream please Mummy, you promised.” Sarah called from the kitchen.
“That’s the last time I ever leave them.” Ruby promised herself.
At six o’clock, John came home. He looked tired. “I'm starving. What's for dinner?" he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "I’ve had a terrible day at work,” he said. “You’re so lucky to be home all day.
Ruby was lost for words.