Sixteen. Sixteen years since she was the size of a deflated lung beneath her mothers ribcage- now she has her own mass beneath her ribcage. Thumping sometimes to the outside, treating the skin of Laylla's stomach like a door. It will open in 3 months, it will be sliced open because her flesh is meat and they'll bring Sophie to air and she'll swallow until all she tastes is that dull white of the hospital. And then she'll cry and the music will drone in Laylla's ears until she tastes vomit and she is numb in all the aching places.
She doesn't know the father. She thinks Michael but she tells herself it is Louis. She repeats his name over and over in her head until it simply can't be anyone else's. But baby Sophie will have Michael's milk skin and his amber eyes and then she'll feel her heart sink all over again.
They fucked in a Garden. Wire fencing ripped open her calve like it was a gift and left a scar souvenir. He lifted her dress -sun yellow- and brought her underwear to meet her knees. She could taste his sweat or her sweat or both and she could feel that rush, rush, rush of adrenalin or maybe it was alcohol. She forgot loud wasn't something she could be in Queens Street at 3:40am. She felt him heave and shiver and sigh and then she opened her eyes and pressed out against his chest. Pushed him until he was lying beside her and she was smoothing her dress and mouthing oh shit and fuck and dear god.
At school the next Monday she was no longer Laylla she was slut, whore and skank. She skipped lessons and cried pools. Her father bought a new knife set so she bought a new scar across her thigh. This one was deeper.
She sucked in and filled the gaps inside with smoke, smoke is all she ever wanted to fill gaps. Cement gray smoke and not babies. But now she was. And she knew it. Before she knew it she could feel it and she couldn't keep the toast down, she couldn't keep the cereal down and she craved vinegar. She passed out on the bus and then she didn't have to worry about telling her Father anymore because the Doctor did.
He didn't hit her this time. He sat down for a long time staring at the living room wall and thinking. She pretended she felt the waves and wondered if by force of will she could pass out once more. But then the husk of his voice broke the silence and he said it, he contemplated the A word and she felt the tears, the tantrum.
Three broken plates later and she was drowning in the hot fog of the shower cradling her stomach and rocking. Had the doctor told Father to make her kill the baby? She promised she'd never see a doctor again. She loathed the thing inside her, but she loved it. It was her; it was her all over and one day it would breathe. It would breathe and it would love her and depend on her, fall asleep on her chest and play with her hair.
Her hands resided on her stomach and some nights she drank until she passed out. She knew she shouldn't, she didn't want to but she had to. It was all too much. She was constantly holding her breath, tucking in away somewhere and just waiting.
Her stomach began to swell. One morning she was so massive she could hardly pull herself out of bed. She was weak and fragile- no, she was soft and warm but she felt like glass. And she felt if Sophie moved anymore she'd crack and splinter and shards of her would fall at her feet and then Sophie would, blood soaken and screaming for life. She couldn't do it, she lost her breath and she fell once more and awoke to bright lights, white walls and clean sheets.
She's a soul in a carcass, her skeleton is simply a collection of branches- bending, aching but never breaking. She's using and losing her breath, finding strength and losing it again. Push, push, breathe, push. But she forgets; she fucking forgets how to breathe and doesn't want to push because her body is recoiling and she's falling and she can feel it all one moment and is utterly numb the second. God where are her fingers? She wants to claw through her stomach to her womb and rip through her skin with long fingernails. She wouldn't feel it. Someone speaks far away and she doesn't care, she doesn't fucking care because she wants Sophie out and they can slice her from head to toe and play with her organs, finger her heart and bounce her kidneys from the walls if they like. They have to cut into her and time is racing but it still takes so long an- blackout.
Lights on. And there she is bawling. Laylla can see right through to her tonsils and her eyes are closed creases, carved into pink-purple stained skin. God she's ugly, she thinks, but god she is beautiful. And now she truly knows she didn't understand. There's a hand engulfing hers and one, faint, on her chest. Now she knows she didn't understand love when she murmured, moaned it to Louis too many Thursdays ago. But back then those butterflies and that racing heartbeat was love. No, love was the suffering, it was the dark hand at her throat that threatened and motioned but she pushed away. Not because she didn't want it to steal the life from her breath but because she wanted that breath for Sophie, because she loved her and because she was her life now.
And as her daughter exhaled for the first time, so did she.