The train lurched to a stop at the Bristol station, the brakes giving their customary screech in protest. It woke me up from the semi-trancelike state that I had been in for the past half hour. I looked out the window at the pillars that held up the roof of the station overhead, my face close enough to the glass that it quickly fogged up, obscuring my view.
“…and so I told him to just leave it to me…” Her lips did not stop moving, even for a breath it seemed.
The middle aged woman sitting before me had not stopped talking since we had left Paddington station. Her hands had remained folded in the lap of deep burgundy traveling dress. This had been disconcerting. Someone who talked that much and with that degree of animation, typically used their hands. I had stared at her, trying not to seem rude, but I had been irritated that I could not think my own thoughts. Fortunately she had not required much beyond the occasional nod or gasp to feel I was engaged.
Excusing myself, I stood to stretch my legs, stepping onto the platform to walk a bit before continuing the journey to Cardiff, in Wales. I could still hear the woman talking to herself behind me on the train car.
I glanced around quickly, looking for recognition on any nearby faces. Fear gripped me, momentarily as I surveyed the crowd.
I was aware of the life growing inside of me, the fullness there. My precious gift. Only I knew the secret that I carried with me.
At any moment, it could be gone, this second chance. Miscarriage. Malformation. Still birth.
My sweet baby Levi.
This could be the same. Please do not let this one be the same. I remembered Levi’s cleft lips searching for something to eat, his intestines peristalsing in my hands outside of his little body. He had wanted to live but he had not been given a chance. All I could do was helplessly love him.
I wanted to pray, to beg, but I was not sure I had the right to make such requests of God at this point… even if I wanted to so desperately. Would God hear me? Would God care? Did he understand my loneliness and my sadness?
Only time would tell.
I wore the brooch with Nathaniel’s hair and words every day. It was almost a superstition now, a belief that this, and somehow he, would somehow protect me and protect the baby I carried. The piece had turned out beautifully. The jeweler had produced quality work, true to his word.
A stranger, a man, nodded at me as I passed. No one else minded me as I walked up and down the covered platform. I recognized no one and so relaxed somewhat, deliberately slowing my pace.
I had selected Cardiff due to its rapid growth. With so much flux in the population, there would be little attention paid to me, I hoped. I would tell everyone that my husband had died of typhus after returning from the war, thus explaining the pregnancy and my loneliness. Once I had delivered, I would move on elsewhere, and then move again, putting as much distance between me and any question of my character as I possibly could.
The enormity of everything was not lost upon me. On some level I was stealing this child. I struggled with the urge to let Nathaniel know, I did not want to do this alone, but in the end what would that accomplish? Only more heartache for everyone. How could he be expected to choose between two families? And what if he tried to take this child from me? I would be destroyed. No, this was a secret I must bear alone.
The train whistle blew, startling me… piercing my thoughts.
Sweeping the stray wisps of hair back under my bonnet, I carefully climbed back into the car and took my seat, steeling myself for the onslaught of words.