Ava wants him to go away, wants to be well and truly done with him. Her head sinks into the bathwater, swirling patterns dancing behind her eyelids, before her body shakes as she exhales all of her air, sitting up with a gasp. And he is gone. The space between the bathroom sink and the door is now just that- an empty space. The faint beige hues staying still like they’re supposed to. No one else here. Nobody disturbing her but the bubbles coating her body, the occasional flicker of candles burning almost too close to her skin and the drip, drip, drip of faulty bathroom taps. No other people, and that is the important part. The fear is gone, her heart-rate can begin to slow.
He isn’t a ghost, but sometimes Ava feels like he is. She sees him in places you might expect to see a ghost- at the foot of her bed or at the bottom of the stairs late at night. She feels him around whenever she’s alone. The guilt is exhausting. She gets ghost pains. Not just in her womb but in her stomach and her ribs. She feels them now, exposing herself to the cold air and wrapping herself in a towel. It’s like her muscles are getting ready to spread apart, organs close up towards her chest. But he is not inside her, not in her house.
It’s hard to say whether or not she can describe him as an intruder. He has a right to be here, if he even can still be here after the act of sin she had so heartlessly committed. (Ava likes to remind herself that he has no rights if he is not really there). She pads her feet over the carpet, through the hallway.
The flat is empty now, the bed centred in her room, too huge for her frame. The men in her life had a way of abandoning her, or maybe she had a way of getting rid of them. Ava had never been able to tell which. Her mother always said she hated men, that she was scared of them. She would cry when her father would hold her as a child, would shrink back in the streets if one passed her. Her mother had also commented that if Ava believed that he would have been a girl, maybe she wouldn’t have been so hasty in her decision. On nights like this, Ava wonders if she’s right. She presses down on her stomach, as if keeping pressure there will force her whole body to hold itself together. As she looks at herself, she feels him on the other side of the room.
She knows by now not to look, knowing is so much worse than the unknown. He won’t hurt her, not like she hurt him. He’s in the corner of the bedroom near the window, where he probably would have slept if she’d let him get that far. She feels the bed begin to shake, sees the covers moving like the tide against her legs. The window shutters bang, desk drawers slam and then open and slam again. She doesn’t know how long she clings on there, staring, until she notices the tears on her cheeks. A weight is lifted and the room is empty once more. Her own trembling rocks the bed long after he is gone, long into the night as she pulls the covers over her head, almost suffocating in the enclosure they provide.
Ava is not a cold person. She knows one is meant to love one’s children.
But her child is not real.
And she wants him to go away.
Image credits: Steinar Engeland – https://unsplash.com/photos/SNiOntJ62ws