This is part 2 of ‘Frames’, if you need to catch up before reading: click here.
8 months seemed a long time to wait for the little addition to our family. We wouldn’t even have a black and white scan to frame for a few more weeks and I’d looked for frames of that size and couldn’t find one anyway. I’d bought some little footprint magnets and stuck them onto the fridge ready. One pink. One blue. One yellow in case we changed our minds and wanted a surprise. I’d told James last week and he’d been dying to tell his parents but we’d agreed on one month. He was going to see them after work. His parents stand in a little frame with slightly forced smiles on their faces, over by my mother on the windowsill. They hadn’t really wanted him to marry me, unemployed for two years with so many health problems we’re all surprised I haven’t dissolved into ashes already. They worried about him making enough money to support us both.
Housewife. I looked like one in the frame in our room. Above our bed, a canvas print from the wedding of course. We’d got the proofs the day after I’d told James about the little parcel with a long wait for delivery. We’d scrolled through them ‘cooing’ and ‘awhing’ and laughing together, admiring our beautifully made up selves in the crisp clean print of the photographs. We’d ordered the canvas in the middle size and stuck it on the wall as soon as it arrived. I was leaning in James’ arms, laughing with my eyes closed. Pure joy. Leaning into him to demonstrate my submissive, demure position as his wife. His arms were wrapped tightly around my waist, new ring glinting in the sunshine, bright teeth all on show as he smiled.
I’d wanted a career before I got ill. The problem is that once you get that diagnosis you’re screwed, no one wants to employ you after that. James made me think that was okay. It was alright to be disabled and spend your days pottering about the house because you can’t face going out: cleaning and drawing and preparing dinner. There’s a picture from before in the office where I draw and never produce anything that sells. It’s me collecting an award at school for organising an auction of art to support a charity. I forget which one, I think it was probably cancer research or something because that’s what schools always seem to push you towards.
I’d finished preparing dinner now, and moved in to my study, fuelled by nostalgia after thinking about my career. The study was my room. The only thing in the house that James didn’t share, the only part of me that wasn’t intrinsically linked to him. There was only one photo of him in there, sitting atop the dark mahogany desk by the window. He was kissing me on the cheek and I was laughing again, eyes closed in glee. Contentment. I was always content when he was around. When he was at work my life felt a little empty. Each sound a little too loud. Each footstep bringing a tiny ray of hope that he’d walk through the door in his crisp grey suit, cheeks flushed from the walk home, dark hair fluffy from rushing.
I picked up a pencil and began to sketch a face. Eyes closed, laughing. Gums on display as a giggle escaped from the mouth. In my head the picture was in colour, but I couldn’t remember where I’d put the coloured pencils. In my mind the baby was in hysterics over a face James had pulled, his tongue out, blue eyes crossed the way you would to make your daughter laugh. I’d be beside them, smiling, eyes open to watch the two people I love most in the world feeling happy. I’d finish this picture and frame it, compare it with the face of my little baby when she entered the world, a screaming bundle of baby fat and blankets. I’d probably got it entirely wrong, but I used a little artistic license. It was my baby after all.
At this time my heart is open, not yet closed by the events of the day. That is because they hadn’t happened yet. Until now, my heart is full of longing to meet the child inside me, and to see my husband after a long day at work. Later it will be empty. Devoid of feeling, it would become a chasm within me, ready to swallow me like a black hole.