HOW TO HIDE A CHILD
My wife is a madwoman. I used to smile when people told me this, a faint amusement threading through me. They’d wrap their fingers in the flesh of my upper arm and pull me to the side, whisper it in my ear, concerned enough to not be concerned about offending me.
Sometimes they even did this when she was right there, like at her work galas where the other scientists gathered in groups to discuss their research, boring me stunningly and using terms that I found thick and empty. She shone out from all of them, quietly powerful and alarmingly immaculate.
I’d look over at her as they babbled in my ear, smiling to myself as they warned me about how ‘off’ she was. I never mind- ed hearing things like this, I thoroughly agreed with them. I know they wondered how I could live with her, love with her, be so clearly enamoured of her. I lived for her raking stare to pass me, only because she could look at me as if I was just another stranger and I can’t explain it, but something about me loved that. I loved that despite everything we shared and were, she could look at me with the smoothest eyes, not a ripple of feeling in them.
Somehow, I thought this would change when we had our daughter. Not towards me, no, but at least towards the child. It was unfortunate that it took me so long to figure out all the broken pieces of the woman I married and how they had cemented into jagged spikes and edges that not even motherhood could change. And so I found myself in that small damp room, with our daughter curled up on a thin mattress while I begged for us over a crackling phone line.
“Look, just let the child go, and I’ll cooperate.” I tried to balance my voice on my fear, to keep it steady. My wife’s answering laugh was laced with static. I pressed the phone to the side of my head, desperate not to miss her response.
“Darling, I don’t care if you cooperate or not. I know where you are and I’m coming for my daughter. You cannot keep me from my own flesh. If you won’t allow them to study you as well, so be it, but don’t get in my way. I only tell you this because I confess, I am weak. I don’t want to be forced to eliminate you.”
“How much money did they give you to give her up?” I replied, letting the hopeless bitter thing that was fermenting in me worm out through my voice.
“What makes you think they gave me money, my love?” She lies every time she says she can love. It scrapes against me, but she’d only laugh if I asked her to stop. “What else could they have given you? What else could you care about enough to betray us for?” Part of me wants to know, yet I’m afraid to hear what her price was. The doctors had started testing the girl when she was about three, when she began to show small signs like pulling her favourite toys to her from across a room, whispering things to us when we weren’t there. Her mother would watch her with evaluative eyes, but I never imagined that the things she was thinking of extended to this. “You, of all people, know what they do to children like her! How much did you sell her for?”