The Cost of a Baby – By Yolande Pienaar
Jim walks down the long empty passage, the scent of antiseptics overwhelming in his nostrils. Number eight, number six. He glances down at the small card in his hand. Mrs. Robson is in room two. Three more to go. He walks past an open door and flicks his gaze inside. Four white hospital beds line the wall. A woman sits up, gasping for air while clutching a bundle to her ample chest. He forces his gaze forward. Number three. He is close now.
At the next door he stops, listens. The wheels of a medicine cart screech on the tiled floor behind him. He looks at the card again. Yes, this is the right number. He extends his hand towards the door and pushes. The door swings open.
Mary sits on the bed with her pink nightgown open to the waist, her blond hair a mass of curls. She pouts her lips in concentration. A tiny bundle lies on the bed in front of her. Her eyes are fixed on the movements of the small legs and arms. His entrance goes unnoticed.
Jim’s chest swells. This is his boy. His beautiful, healthy, baby boy. He takes a step forward. Mary lifts her hand from the bed. She clenches a small pocket knife in her fist, the blade stained crimson.
“What have you done? Mary, what have you done to my boy?”
Panic roots him to the spot. Fear clogs his mind. Mary looks up. Confusion and madness dulls her eyes. He rushes forward, grabs hold of her hand. The baby is quiet, his hands and feet still flailing like a fish on dry ground.
Jim stares at the knife again. Blood drips from the edge. He watches as Mary lies back on the bed. A red stain coloring her breast. Tears stream from her eyes.
“What have you done?” he screamed.
“He wouldn’t drink. So I thought it was me. I had to open a piece for him to drink. ”
He pries the knife out of her hand and gropes for the button. Again and again he presses down. Tears drip onto his shirt. Footsteps in the passage. Nurses rush in, shoving him aside, casting dubious looks at the blood on his hand.
He wraps the blanket around his boy and lifts him from the bed, hugging him close. Closing his eyes, he reckons the cost of his baby…madness.