Part 3 of Sophie Macdonald’s Old Ones Serial sees Matthew reveal some disturbing secrets through the eponymous Ninny.
Babies in the Snow
By Sophie Macdonald
“Nice to see you again, Matthew.” Dr Pleasance hesitates briefly. “And you too, Ninny.” I catch myself looking to Ninny for his reaction, and in this sunlit room I could almost laugh. Dr Pleasance catches my eye, and a small smile passes between us. She was doing the same.
We sit. “Matthew, I’d just like to talk to Ninny for a while, if that’s okay?” She raises an eyebrow at him, and he nods, eyes glued to the floor. I see his fingers tighten around Ninny’s middle.
“Ninny, I have some questions about the day at the farm you told me about. You mentioned you had a fight with your parents. Is that correct?”
I held my breath. Matthew didn’t move.
“Ninny? Did you have a fight with your mum and dad that day? Can you tell me how you were feeling?”
Matthew scuffs his foot on the floor. “He doesn’t want to talk to you.” He looks up at Dr Pleasance, fixing her with that endless stare of his. Her mouth drops open slightly, and she looks for a moment as if she might fall into those eyes and never come out.
“Oh,” she says, “and why not?” She sounds distracted. Matthew shrugs.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I should take him home. He might be tired. Maybe we should try again another day.” I feel strangely close to tears. Sam was right. This is ridiculous.
“What’s that?” Matthew points to a picture on the wall.
“It’s Canada, I think.” Dr Pleasance looks closely. “I’m not really sure. It’s very pretty with all the snow, though. Do you like snow, Matthew?”
Matthew’s eyes are blue for a moment and then he moves and they’re green. He nods. “It reminds me of the place with all the babies.”
A sound comes to my lips before I can stop it—somewhere in between a sob and a howl—and I press my hands to my mouth, horrified. My heart is beating too fast.
“What babies, Matthew?” Dr Pleasance’s voice is calm, but she has frozen in position, as if playing a game of Musical Statues by herself. Music stopped, you’re out! A misplaced smile comes to my face. I want to run screaming from the room. Sam should be with me. A flash of anger makes my neck hot and my face red. I shouldn’t have to do everything by myself.
“A mummy and a daddy had lots of babies,” Matthew is playing with his sleeve, Ninny clutched to his chest. “But they didn’t want them. So they put them in the snow and they died.” His finger jabbed the armrest of the sofa. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. Nine babies in the snow.”
“Where did you hear this, Matthew?” I crouch in front of him, my hands on his knees. “Who told you this?”
“I don’t know.” He shrugs me off. “But a lady found the babies, and she cried, because she didn’t have any babies and they were all dead. She was really cross with the mummy and daddy.” He stopped suddenly, and looked at me, eyes wide.
“What is it, Matthew?” Dr Pleasance asked.
“We have to go, Matthew.” I grabbed his arm. “Thank you for your time, doctor. I’ll call your office.”
“Mrs Roberts, I think we should talk for a little longer,” she said. I shook my head, afraid that if I spoke the things that had remained unsaid for years would come pouring out onto the floor and drown us all.
“I can help you,” Dr Pleasance puts her hand on my arm, and I feel the warm touch through my shirt. I hesitate for a moment.
“I want to go home,” Matthew breaks the silence.
“Did Ninny tell you about the babies in the snow?” Dr Pleasance asks. Matthew nods, a cloud passing through his eyes.
“Ninny tells me secrets,” he says, and this time he sounds tired—exhausted. He looks at Ninny and then at us, and moves Ninny behind his back. “He told me not to tell you, but he says I’m one.” He ends in a whisper.
“One what?” Dr Pleasance asks.
“One of nine. Like Ninny.” Matthew almost sounds proud.
Time has stopped, and the room moves out of focus and back in again. I can hear Dr Pleasance talking, but I’m not listening any more. Breathing has become mechanical—a conscious act.
I hear my voice thanking the doctor, and telling Matthew we are leaving. I feel my limbs moving us back towards the car. My thoughts are not with my body, though. My thoughts are focused on destroying Ninny.