Sunday Observer - - YOUTH SECTION -


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?”

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