The Underground

The Underground

I am invited to Rita’s for tea. I am wearing earrings I designed myself: a dead crow with a worm in its mouth. As I pull off my jacket, Rita says “You’re carrying round a Valentine’s day card”, and I say “Yes, it’s from some guy.” It’s actually from my dad. I think I can see him, leaning against the fridge, but it’s just magnets holding drawings and recipes.                  

Rita’s mum fusses around wiping the windowsill and a black cockerel ornament, with chamois leather she brought back from the factory. I love the leather smell. She has prepared salad for us and hands it to me to put in the fridge. Later Rita’s mum goes to put the food on the table, but the bowl has completely disappeared. No matter how much we search we don’t find it, and I am certain a poltergeist has moved it.

We take the pregnancy test to the park, and after I’ve peed on it, Rita pours a bottle of water on the little stick, because there is no running water. When we see it is positive we still don’t believe it, and I say it’s a false result, because we didn’t rinse off the stick properly. The smell of a bonfire makes me sick, and so does thinking about butter and cheese together on a slice of bread.

We buy a crib from a boot sale for £10, and find pram wheels in a skip, that almost fit, though the crib slides backwards and forwards a bit. I imagine what it would be like living with Rita, and fantasise that this will be our child. The only thing I want to eat is Twister lollies and the only thing I can wear are granddad’s long johns The bump grows like an egg, but concealed under a big knitted turquoise jumper, no one notices it.                                                 When he comes to meet me on his bike, Neil asks why I won’t sit on the handlebars, so I tell him I am pregnant. It doesn’t occur to him that it’s his baby, because we only had sex once. I find it impossible to tell him he is going to be a father.

I am walking up the steps at the tube station, with my new-born in my arms. I fall, and can’t use my hands to save myself. My knees slam against the steps and a woman takes the baby from my arms as I stagger to my feet. I follow her down the tube tunnel. I want my baby back, but she is ahead of me, and I think “Am I mad? Is that even my baby?” We reach the tracks and I go up to her with my arms out, and she just steps into a tube carriage.