Blood on My Hands
By Sophie Macdonald, for the To the Nines Award (pt 4)
Sam is working late. I’m curled in the armchair, glass of red wine in one hand, photo album on my lap, and Chopin’s Nocturne playing the soundtrack to the fat tears that are falling onto the faded cover of the album.
I can’t hear the whispers tonight. I won’t hear them. When Sam is working late—which seems to be often now—I turn up the music and pretend that nothing scares me.
I flick from page to page of the album. Our old house. Our old life. Sam, standing behind me, arms encircling my pregnant belly. Before Matthew. Before Ninny. The brown envelope slides from the back of the album. Remember me, it says. I was there too.
I take a gulp of wine, and allow my fingertips to creep inside the envelope. Without this evidence it would be easy to pretend it never happened, but there he is in black and white. A fuzzy image, but I can see his fingers and his face, staring straight ahead as if he is looking at Matthew.
I close my eyes and I am back there on the doctor’s table. His words are jumbling in the air and falling down around me without making sense.
“Do you understand, Lisa?” Sam is holding my hand. “It won’t live anyway. If we don’t abort it the other baby will die. We’ll still have one. We don’t have any choice.”
They are both nodding at me, but I am looking at the monitor. How can it be that there is something so wrong with one of them, when they look the same to me? I can hear a strange noise—a low guttural bellow; the kind a cow might make—and I realise it’s coming from me.
I jolt and realise I am tipping wine onto the photo. I wipe at it with my fingers and it smears like claret across the picture of Matthew and his twin. Blood on my hands.
I throw the album to the floor, and drain the rest of my wine. The fire is burning steadily in the hearth. It’s time.
Matthew is asleep, Ninny clutched to his chest. My hands are shaking, and as my fingers close around Ninny’s small stitched body I almost expect him to move.
Matthew groans and rolls over as I pluck Ninny from his grasp. I walk back to the lounge quickly.
The Nocturne is building to its crescendo, and my body floods with fear so fast my breath catches in my throat.
Ninny is still warm. For a brief moment I think I feel a heartbeat twisting and squirming under my fingers, but then I realise it is my own pulse.
I don’t look at him. I throw him into the fire.
Screams from Matthew’s room make me turn and run to him. I burst in, and can’t see Matthew straight away, as he is not in his bed. A silence falls, and then I see him—crouching, palms up next to his shoulders, mouth open—frozen like a little gargoyle on top of his bookcase.
“Matthew, what are you doing?”
Matthew’s eyes are staring into the distance, hazy swirls and specks of light roiling and boiling across their surface.
“Matthew!” he screams, but it’s Ninny’s odd voice I hear, “Matthew!”
I grab him and hug him to me until I feel him relax.
“I had a dream, Mummy,” he starts and then looks to his bed. “Where’s Ninny?”
Before I can stop him, he is running to the lounge, and I chase after him, trying to stop him from seeing what I have done.
He stops dead, and I go to block his view, but I realise he is not looking at the fire. He’s looking at the photo album, open to the pictures of our old house.
“Where’s that?” he says, kneeling by it on the floor.
“Our old house,” I say. “We moved out when you were a baby.”
“It’s snowing.” He turns the pages fast, and I am relieved to see the brown envelope and photo have fallen to the other side of the chair.
“Yes,” I say, “it used to snow in winter there.”
Matthew looks up, and I see a shadow drop over his eyes.
“Ninny!” he runs to the fire before I can stop him, and plunges both arms into the flames.
I scream and tackle him, rolling him on the rug to extinguish the fire. He is silent. I turn him over, and check his arms, small gasps coming out of me like sobs.
“Are you hurt? Matthew? Are you hurt?” I can’t see a mark on him. He is lying stiffly on his back, clutching Ninny. I can’t see a mark on Ninny either. How can this be possible? We stare at each other.
I can hear Matthew’s breathing. He doesn’t move.
“Ninny’s Mummy and Daddy tried to hurt his Ninny once,” he says, in a small flat voice, “but he stopped them.”
Chopin has finished, and the silence sits around us like something I could touch. Matthew is looking at me, and the reflection in his eyes is making me think of how Ninny’s glass eyes look in the moonlight. A certainty passes through me like ice in my veins; Matthew will try to kill us.