Samuel and Sienna celebrate their birthday twice, as they always do these days with divorced parents. Once with Clara who takes them to an amusement park and once with Kent, who despite his very best intentions, has to work late and leaves the twins with Emily.
It doesn’t go splendidly to begin with since the twins aren’t overly fond of their new stepmom, but after a while the tension eases a bit and Emily manages to make a popcorn and movie night out of what ought to have been a birthday bash. Kent returns home with gifts and apologies and everyone goes to bed at least moderately happy with the evening. Emily evens feels it’s been a bit of a breakthrough for them, as a family.
Of the two of them, Sienna is the least angry and the most clever. She figures things out, sorts it through in her head. At times Emily almost finds her a cynic at the tender age of nine.
“Mum is messing things up with her new boyfriend as well,” she tells Emily the night after the twins’ birthday. “He’s sort of moved out.”
“Oh? Do you know why?”
She shrugs. “Grown-ups are weird.”
Emily smiles to herself. “You’re not wrong about that.”
* * *
Simon, Clara’s boyfriend who may or may not be moving out, has a job to do and Ada Cousland is part of it.
That’s how their story begins.
There’s an article he needs to write about an excavation of the northern beaches outside Barchester. One of those articles nobody will actually read, but Simon writes them anyway and he will make a good job because that’s what he does.
He’s thorough. A researcher to the bone. He reads up on laws and regulations, visits the library and archives and learns a lot about the historical Barchester.
And then he interviews people. Scientists. Archaeologists.
And Ada Cousland, marine biologist.
He’s never met her properly before though they’ve ran into each other and been introduced at grocery stores and outside the school. Clara is friends with her, he knows. Way back when she still wanted a suburban life they used to be soccer mums together and he thinks about that now, sitting in Ada’s neat kitchen.
This is the home of someone who enjoys family life. The walls speak of that. He can imagine her doing homework with her kids here, cooking supper and listening to their endless rants about video games and sports and whatever kids are into. He doesn’t know much about that. He doesn’t know much about it but he wants to, rather desperately these days and he catches himself thinking that Ada would get it.
So he tells her. At the end of the interview when nothing remains but a fresh cup of coffee and that sense of having had a very pleasant conversation with someone you like, without even knowing much about them. It all spills out of him.
And she tells him about her family life, about the three children missing their dad and how she misses her husband and the kind of life they used to lead. The kind of life she wants back.
She tells him to come to the grand public opening of the excavation site, says it will be a blast with some champagne and lots of people he should talk to about the article.
And he agrees to come. Even thinks it sounds fun, a break from worrying about his own life, doing something else for a moment.
Then, what follows is another story entirely. Or perhaps not. Perhaps it’s just all part of the same narrative.
It’s a story about loneliness.
* * *
Three weeks after she’s successfully celebrated the birthday of the twins that are now part of her life, Emily finds herself feeling a bit strange. She suspects pregnancy hormones at first, because in her condition, who doesn’t?
Unfortunately, however, the bleeding starts later that night. A drop of blood at first, then a whole rush of it. She cries and she bleeds and when Kent drives her to the hospital around dawn, the solemn-faced OB-GYN staff tell her that she’s had a miscarriage. A rather late one, I’m afraid, one of them adds. As if that’s softening the blow somehow. It isn’t. It makes it even worse to think that she’d be safe if she had only managed to carry the baby for a few more weeks, a few more days. That’s not true, of course, it doesn’t work like that but that’s how it feels.
“I’m okay,” Emily says but she’s crushed.
She had just begun to think of her pregnancy as a fact rather than a big shaky what-if and now there’s just emptiness.
* Oh dear, the DRAMA in this hood right now. I’m so sad for Emily, I don’t get a lot of miscarriages in my hoods and this one felt so unfair. 😦