Mum yelled at me from downstairs that Pickle might be dead. Not waiting to hear the rest I plummeted downstairs to try to save my beloved niece. I reached the landing to find that she wasn't even here (I'd only just woke up from a nap and pickle had been here when I fell asleep). Elise had just called and said that Pickle had fallen down the stairs and that her neck was twisted. Panicked we searched for the car keys so that me and mum could go and lend assistance as soon as possible. Not finding them we soon gave up and set about walking up the hill.
I tried to force myself into the reality of the situation; that a baby couldn't survive a broken neck and that my 'ickle pickle, whom I had only taken shopping that morning to buy a new sippy cup, was dead. That we'd arrive to find a mother in morning, a child crying and an infant lying still and silent.
Half way up the hill is where the pavement of the hill meets the foot path that leads almost directly to their house. We just made to climb it (while skipping parts of the winding path) when a car tooted, urgently behind us. It was Elise, Stav and the kids. Pickle was strapped into her chair and, aside from a few tears that were nearly dry, she was smiling and happy. I kissed her cheek and moved back so mum could do the same and broke down and cried.
Apparently it was not her neck that was twisted into the wrong angle but her leg. And even that seemed to be fine.
Mum and I squeezed into the back, which wasn't comfortable as we're both rather large people and I was wedged in between mum and a baby seat and Bink was on my lap. Bink cheerfully told the tale of what had happened; that his little sister had fallen down the stairs "very fast" and had cried. They didn't take us home (which, at that point, would have been less than an minute away. I assumed they were giving us a lift because of mum's walking disability). It turned out that we were heading to hospital of the next town. I'm still not exactly sure why.
I could barely look at Pickle. She was wearing a white kind of furry coat and a pink summer dress and the sun glistened in her Blond ringlets and her eyes were bluer than they normally seemed (as, for a while, they've been becoming less and less blue). She seemed absolutely perfect.
I broke down into crying again. Both Bink and Pickle found this very funny, particularly Bink (I don't know if pickle was laughing because her brother was or because of the way my face seemed to contorting itself in a way beyond my control or both).
The thing is... I couldn't believe it was real. I had become convinced they my Pickle was dead, killed by negligence.
I don't know what's real and what's not. Was she alive, as my senses told me? Or was my mind creating a situation that I could cope with so that I didn't have to live with the alternative? A hysterical mother, coupled with a bad line would be hard enough to understand and "leg" could easily sound like "neck". But this was something I'd already considered and that could be the fantasy my mind had chosen to enact for me. The people around me were talking and discussing the situation as it 'seemed' but even their words could have been my imagination. Maybe what heard bore no similarity to what was really said, maybe we all sat in silence for the entire journey.
Maybe the whole trip was a lie, maybe we arrived at Elise's house to find police and an ambulance and her little body was taken away.
When we got their Elise didn't want to wait for the elevator and took pickle down the stairs (but this, too, could have been something I made up as I discovered the other day that pickle doesn't like lifts and cries when the doors shut. Apparently she's a little claustrophobic). Stav was parking the car so it was just me, Mum and Bink going down the lift and I told mum what was going through my head).
We went to the ward for children's minor injuries. There was a room with lots of toys at which pickle was particularly excited. She ran in and out with some new, interesting toy she'd found and handed them all to me before running back in to see what else she could find.
I couldn't bear it.
I couldn't face the possibility that the illusion might be shattered at any moment and that I'd have to face a bitter reality.
I went out and lay on the car's bonnet until Stav came out to get something and then continued to lay there until everybody was ready to leave. Mum sat in the front, this time, and Elise sat in the back with me, which was slightly more comfortable. (Well, not for Elise, but I didn't really give a damn about how she felt).
Elise and Stav argued a lot on the way whom, assigning blame for the fall to oneanother; Stav shouting and her for not being attentive enough; that just letting your eyes off a child of that age for a moment (which she had; she was moving laundry from one room to another) was a moment too long. She, in turn, shouted at him for not putting up the baby gates which were strewn across their house and yard (several of which are largely used for keeping their dogs from fucking). Of course the were both right and should both have something bad happen to them. (I'd quite like to be the one to perform said badness). This made him exceedingly angry and he continued to shout and I tried to tune them out. My interest was rekindled when Elise took her turn to rebuke him by telling her about police procedures and how, if anything serious had happened, the police would take the time to question the neighbours about the family and how Stavross constantly shouts and is abusive to both her and the children. He was quieter after this, but according to mum he was still steaming in his shell for the rest of the trip.
As we re-entered the town boundaries we nearly passed their old car, one they were still trying to sell. (A horrible little convertible). It was on a grassy corner on the drive-way to an industrial estate where I'm quite certain parking isn't allowed. Stavross pulled up here and got out, took Bink off my lap and went to the other car.
Elise took Pickle with her, deciding that she was taking her to a larger hospital for further checks as there have been so many cases of unnoticed child injuries in the press, this last couple of years ('Baby P' being the only example they could name, who had a broken spine that the doctors they took him to completely missed, somehow).
I wanted to be alone, so (after taking some painkillers for a headache brought on by travel sickness) I slipped unnoticed into a spare bedroom (one with no available beds, as it's recently become little more than mum's wardrobe, as she has an addiction to eBay she can't contain) where I lay on the floor between clothing wracks.
I lay there for an hour or 2 before anybody found me. Mum turned the light on and asked if I was ok and I told her I wanted to be alone, so she turned it off again and left.
At some point I fell asleep. I don't know what time it was. The painkillers must have knocked me out (the only ones I could find were memtid, which are something of an 'Overkill' for a travel sickness headache) because it was still quite early for me as I'd had a nap in the early afternoon and I was very uncomfortable.
I woke up with some parts of my body in cramp and others were numb. It was about 11.30. Mum and Jeff were already downstairs. Apparently I had a dinner in the oven. It was chips and a burger. Everything was still very unreal to me. I don't know what time Elise arrived but I hadn't quite finished eating at the time. Mum took the baby to bed and I took some milk up, after.
I still didn't want to face Pickle this morning. I realised why, later.
This morning, after feeding her and either before or after I bathed her, she was playing with a pot of sudocrem (cream for babies' bottoms) which I took off her, causing her to bump the back of her head on the table. And she cried, and cried hard and I couldn't bring myself to comfort her.
She got up and cried on her feet and asked to be picked up and leaned on the front of the sofa when I didn't and rubbed her tears away with little fists and came back to me and hugged my legs. I wanted to pick her up and give her all the love she wanted until the pain went away but I knew that if I did and the illusion shattered I'd fall twice as hard and might be irreparably broken when I landed. When I still couldn't pick her up she went to the sofa again and repeated and came back and hugged my legs. It was heart breaking.
I did pick her up this time but I couldn't hug her, which she clearly didn't understand. I took her up to her grandmother. I would have asked her to give pickle the love she needed but she'd stop crying. Apparently, after that long, just being held was enough, even if it wasn't particularly affectionate. I tried to explain to mum what my problem was but I couldn't. It's been very hard to explain to anybody.
I even went to the doctor to try and get referred to a therapist.
He said it was most likely brought on by stress and prescribed me something mild to take the edge off for a few days and said that if I still had the same problem after then that I should come back and he'd make the referral. (Actually I'm not sure if he said he'd definitely make the referral, but he did say that I should come back if the problem persisted).
We went shopping then. What was promised to be 'just a few things for dinner tonight' turned into things for dinner tomorrow, things for dinner tomorrow and things to be eaten over the course of the week. I had prevented mum from getting the deepest size of trolley and was forced to regret that with the amount of things she got.
On the way home we 'called in' to 'check' on pickle, who was promptly strapped into the baby seat. I still couldn't face her. I walked home.
That pretty much brings me up to speed. I've been home for hours but I get distracted easily while writing these things.