Angel 53 (baby-shaped hole)
When Angel woke it was still dark outside and, for a moment, she thought Jaz was coming to get her and she wondered where she was. It was the sounds of the house, the click of the radiator oozing heat, the beat of the curtain against the partly open window that told her she was still in prison, but safe. She cosied in, feeling dopey with the warm of the quilt, before stretching and yawning, sitting up and checking on the twins. Lisa and Adam faced each other in their cot and they were so cute she couldn’t help grinning. Soon they would be squawking, with angry faces, and the great dictatorship of their waking day would begin with them demanding to be fed, to be changed, to be picked up, to be loved.
Angel lay down again and tried to cat-nap, but her mind was too full. Pottering about she sorted through the twin’s washing and heard the drag of slippers sloping along the hall, which got her thinking about breakfast.
She nipped to the toilet and into the kitchen, hoping for a quick cuppa tea. Margo was sitting in a brightly coloured polyester housecoat, breaking the house rules, smoking one of her foul roll-ups. The frying pan was on the ring and she was cooking the full Scottish breakfast. The smell of ham sizzling made Angel salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs and she’d have gladly bitten off one of Margo’s none-too clean hands for a rasher. Her round face had purple rings under her eyes.
Margo looked over at Angel and yawned. ‘The wee yin’s had me up all night,’ she explained. ‘Probably, teething. I’ll, maybe, need to take her to the doctors. She seems to pick up wan thing after another.’
‘Aye, you dae look tired.’ Angel took her mug from the draining board and flicked on the kettle, giving covetous glances at the sparking pan. ‘I wiz just going to make a bit of toast, you want any?’
‘Nah, there’s only brown bread and I don’t like that shite. I like good, old-fashioned, Scottish rolls.’
‘I know whit you mean.’ Angel’s hand hovered over the automatic kettle, waiting for it to boil and click, so she could flick the switch off and save microseconds.
Margo groaned, like an old house settling, as she stood up and ambled across to check on the cooker. She flicked fat from the sausages onto the eggs and stood the potato scones on the side the pan, flapping over. ‘You want any of this?’ she asked.
‘Only if you’ve got enough,’ Angel smiled, apologetically.
‘Loads.’ Meaty forearms, twist of the wrist and she flicked the bacon across and lifted a few mushroom, sausage and an egg and stuck it on a plate for Angel. ‘You want a potato scone?’
Angel sipped at her tea. ‘No, you’ve only got two.’
‘Nah, there’s mair in the fridge.’ She added a potato scone to Angel’s plate.
‘That’s brilliant.’ She grabbed the plate and went to sit at the table before Margo changed her mind. ‘I’ll dae the washing up.’
Margo nodded in agreement. She sat in the seat facing Angel and glanced at the door behind her head, before hooking the ashtray with a finger and dragging it across.
Angel knew she was checking to see if Stacey, or any other of the supervisors, were on duty, before she took another roll-up from behind her ear and lit up.
‘I like to have a smoke wae my breakfast,’ she explained, while chewing on a piece of ham. She jabbed the fag in Angel’s direction. ‘You smoke.’
‘Nah, not much,’ Angel made a face, while she thought about it. ‘In fact, not at all since the babies were born.’
‘Jeez, that’s great,’ Margo ducked her head down a smidgen, as if they were sharing a secret. ‘You’re no an addict then.’
Angel laughed. ‘Nah. Don’t think so.’
Margo picked at her teeth with a thumbnail. ‘If you need to think about it, you urnae,’ she chewed with a smacking sound. ‘How are your wains, anyway? Sleeping?’
‘Aye,’ Angel turned her head, listening. ‘I’ll need to get back.’
Both of them concentrated on eating the remainder of breakfast and made no move to leave.
‘Suppose, you’re lucky,’ Margo concluded. ‘If they sleep, you sleep tae, but if they don’t...’ She bit her bottom lip. ‘All mines were the same. Nane of them slept. They had me up all night, every night. After five of them, you’d think you’d get used to it.’
Angel held up a hand and gestured, ‘Fingers crossed’. She stabbed at the remained of potato scone. ‘They threatened to take Lisa and Adam away when I wasn’t playing ball in the interrogation room.’
‘Bastards,’ spat out Margo. ‘I know whit I’d dae wae them. The thing is when they take your first child away, they’re always waiting to pounce and take the next wan away as well. And the wan after that. And you never get o’er it. Never. Some fill themselves with heroin or booze or both, but there’s always that baby-shaped hole in yer life. And the only way of filling it is huving another baby. When I had this wan, I thought this is it, I’m off, I didn’t know where I was going to, or how I was going to live, but I was sure they werenae taking this wan aff me.’
‘Jesus,’ Angel saw the glisten and felt tears in the corner of her own eyes. ‘I don’t know whit I’d dae if they took Adam and Lisa aff me. I’d probably end up killing myself.’
Margo held a hand over her mouth. She didn’t speak for about thirty seconds. ‘Aye, I thought about that too. Even…smothering the wain.’ Angel shuddered when she said that. ‘But it’s funny…the only thing that kept me going was if I did anything bad or killed myself… they bastards would win and they’d be laughing at me…As long as you’ve got hope they’ll be alright and you’ll see them again. Someday.’
‘I know whit you mean.’ Angel twisted her head. ‘I think I heard them there, the wee monsters.’ She stood up, patting Margo’s forearm and ducking down to give her a quick hug. ‘I’ll dae the washing-up later on.’
‘Fuck the washing-up,’ crowed Margo, with a meaty laugh. ‘There’s mair important things in life.’