My body aches. The wall against my back grinds into my bones, as does the bench under my bottom; however much I fidget, I can't get comfortable. I guess they don’t build police cells with such considerations in mind. There's no clock and I’ve lost track of how much time I've spent in this place. Two, maybe three hours? I wonder - why, I don’t know - how much longer they'll keep me here. I remind myself it doesn’t matter. I feel strangely disconnected from such things. All I can think about is my son.
The door swings open. I don’t bother to look up, not at first. A pair of black shoes steps in front of me; slim legs encased in pale tights lead up from them. The police officer who arrested me. I register her voice telling me to stand. I glance up, observing the harsh judgement staring back from her eyes. She’s young, probably mid-twenties. No ring on her left hand and I’d bet she doesn’t have children. Her body doesn’t look like it’s ever split itself open forcing out a child. This isn’t a woman who spends her nights attempting to soothe a bawling copy of herself to sleep, whilst trying not to scream with frustration and sheer bloody exhaustion. She’s not a mother. Had she found herself in my place, would she have done what I did? Perhaps not. However, she’s not yet walked a mile in my shoes; if she’s lucky she never will, so what gives her the right to judge me?
It seems she’s taking me somewhere. They must be going to question me. Looks as if the doctor who examined me has decided I’m fit to be interviewed.
It’s not going to do them any good. I won’t be giving out any answers. Even if I talked for a week, a year, forever, I’d never make them understand. They’re police officers; rules and their enforcement are everything to them, all black and white and rigid. According to them, I’ve committed a crime. I believe what I did was right and the only thing possible in the circumstances.
What’s that saying, about the law being an ass? I reckon it’s true. On the one hand, it states we’re supposed to protect children from danger. Love them. Keep them safe. Punish those who hurt them. Yet I’m the one they’ll put on trial. Even though I protected my son, took him away from harm. To my mind, it makes no sense for them to judge me with contempt in their eyes. They’re firing accusations at me that would only apply to somebody who doesn’t love her son in the way I love Daniel. It’s a crazy world we live in.
I hear your voice in my head, Gran, reassuring me, telling me not to worry.
The police officer orders me again to stand up. This time her tone is sharper, and I get to my feet, thankful not to be sitting any longer on that unforgiving bench. It makes no difference where they take me anyway. Here or in a police interview room, I’ll still need strong tea and time alone with my son. Doesn’t seem like I’ll be getting either one anytime soon.
I follow the police officer along the passageway to another room. I take in my surroundings. This room’s not built for comfort either. Magnolia walls, beige carpet. A table and chairs and some sort of recording device. Nothing else.
The police officer yanks out a chair and orders me to sit down. She thrusts a paper cup of water in front of me and I gulp it down in one go. My eyes focus on a chip in the wall. I let them wander over the blemish and idly wonder whether, if I stare at the mark long enough, it counts as meditation. Another part of my brain registers somebody pulling out the chair next to me and sitting down. From my peripheral vision, I see it’s a man, suited in dark grey; I guess this must be some sort of legal representation provided for me. Somebody else is in the room too, a mental health social worker, from the words filtering into my brain, although I’m not paying much attention to what’s being said. Two police officers pull out the chairs opposite me and sit down. One is the young woman. The other is male, considerably older. I continue to stare at the wall. I won’t say anything. They can’t make me.
My thoughts drift away. Your voice, gentle and soothing, is in my head again, Gran, telling me Daniel didn’t mean to be so cruel towards me. I draw comfort from your words. I was always able to talk to you, something that was never possible with Mum, not with her being the way she was. You have to reassure me that everything will be all right with Daniel, Gran. He’s the only one whose opinion I care about; I don’t give a toss what any of the others think.
Ian is included in my indifference. My husband has never truly mattered to me. It sounds cruel to admit it, Gran, but I only married Ian for what he could do for Daniel. To provide my boy with the father figure he desperately needed. I wasn’t interested in myself; finding a man to love was never on the agenda. I had my son for that, and he was all I had ever wanted or needed. Ian – I’ve grown fond of him, even if I can’t love him, but it’s always seemed to be enough. For me, anyway.
I think it’s worked out well, despite my lack of feelings. Who says marriage has to be about love and living happily ever after? I’ve done my best to give Ian what he needs, even if I’ve always been out of reach for him emotionally. He’s never been able to touch the true Laura, the essence within; I suspect it’s been a disappointment to him. You see, Ian really does love me; and there’s no denying he’s been a good husband. He’s given my son and me a home and security, as well as his name. He’s provided me with the family life I craved, even though I never considered having a child with him. I’m not prepared to walk down that road again.
You and Ian would have hated each other if the two of you had ever met, Gran; chalk and cheese doesn’t come close to describing it. He’s Mr Conventional, with the career in financial planning and the golf club membership. The man who can’t see any other way through life except doing what people expect of him. You know, Rotary Club dinners, drinks with business associates, that sort of stuff. All the things you, with your batik skirts from Bali and your silver earrings from India, would have scrambled to get away from as fast as possible.
Anyway, I know you understand. You always did. I’m certain you don’t condemn me, not like the police officer who brought me here.
Not like Daniel, either. Right now, he’s judging me. I’ll change that, though. I have to.
To lose my son for a second time would be unbearable. I won’t lose him. I can’t. I yearn to make things right between us. Since the day – when was it? Probably a few days ago, perhaps as long as a week, I’m not sure. The day when Daniel burst through the door, shouting, thrusting those papers in my face, the ones saying ugly things, making him turn against me. Ever since then, I’ve felt as if a fog has invaded my brain. I can’t think straight and all I want is for Daniel to tell me it’s all right. That he didn’t mean those awful things he screamed at me.
It doesn’t matter if they lock me away, if only Daniel will look at me and tell me he understands. Until he comes to me and tells me the words I crave to hear, then I won’t speak. I can’t talk to him when he has such fury towards me in his eyes; his forgiveness will be the trigger that releases my frozen tongue. Given the chance to be with him, instead of this place, I’d find the words to explain and everything will be all right. He won’t stare at me as if I’m something vile found stuck to the sole of his shoe. There'll be no more yelling or accusations; he won't tear me apart with words loaded with blame and anger. He’ll be my son again, my beautiful Daniel, and the world will be as it should be once more. I don’t care if they lock me up in jail. That won't matter at all, so long as he doesn’t hate me.
He’s angry with me now, but I’ll change that. He’ll remember how I always loved him, even though, as a young child, he’d push me away when I tried to cuddle him. His rejections always pierced me deep inside, every time. I’d remind myself that being a mother is more than hugging your child. It’s being there for them in the night when they wake shouting and desperate from some dreamtime terror. It’s nursing them when they’re feverish and sponging them down when they’re soaking the sheets with sweat. It’s listening to stories of their day at school, plastering skinned knees, pinning their paintings of wobbly houses on the fridge door. I did all those things. I was always a mother to Daniel where it really counted. He’ll realise that eventually.
He’ll tell me he understands. Then everything in my world will be all right again.
I vaguely register words coming at me.
‘…Laura Bateman, you knowingly and wilfully broke into the Cordwells’ flat…’
‘…quite deliberately… without thought for the distress and hurt you would cause…’
‘…for reasons unknown at this stage …’
I don’t deny the breaking and entering part. In that respect, I admit I’m guilty. My mind spins back through the years and I remember my fear as I stood outside that flat, summoning up the courage to carry out what I’d decided to do.
I planned it very carefully. I thought of nothing else since I found they were going to take Daniel away from me. The only question was when to act, and sooner was better than later. My son’s wellbeing was at stake.
More words filter through the fog in my brain.
‘…best in his field…find out why she did it…’
They’re so stupid. I did it to get my son back. What other reason could there be?
Except they say Daniel’s not my son.
They say he has another mother.
There’s that ugly word they keep throwing at me.
They say I kidnapped Daniel.
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