Robert was still at work. She had resigned herself to the long hours, days, weeks he worked as a restaurant chef. The baby had been crying for well over ten minutes now, she guessed, the intolerable screeching growing louder and louder with each passing minute. Della had gone into the baby’s room when she heard the first agitating “waaaaah!”

The baby, Alyssa, had her face screwed up as though she had been sucking on a lemon. She picked the child up, awkwardly wrapped her in a soft receiving blanket and held her to her chest.

Why, she wondered were they called receiving blankets? Did one “receive” a child much like one receives a Christmas present? Or was it like one received bad news? She paced across the room, bouncing lightly with each step and making a “shush. shush, shush” noise. Alyssa, at all of two months old, did not respond to any of the soothing techniques that those books described. Eyes tightly shut, she just kept bawling belligerently and now seemed to be turning a strange hue of red.

The crying was driving Della crazy. It felt as though her nerves were on the outside of her body and someone was running a sharp grater up and down her it. She returned Alyssa to her cot and left the room, closing the door behind her. She crossed over the dark, open plan lounge-kitchen, flicked on the switch of the kettle and opened the fridge. She could still her the bloody baby crying. Della ground her teeth, an anxious habit she’d developed since the incident. As she warmed the bottle of breast milk in a bowl filled with boiling water, she laughed quietly to herself. The incident. Even she was calling it that now.

She gazed off into the middle distance and got momentarily lost in a past filled with intense and intricate pain. Her present wasn’t looking that sunshiney either. The baby was still screeching and Della was still clueless as to what the fucking thing wanted. She took the bottle out of the water and tested the temperature of the milk by shaking a few droplets onto her forearm. She took a deep breath and prepared herself for the onslaught that would be Alyssa. As she opened the nursery door, the volume escalated ten-fold. Della felt like the top of her skull was going to come right off. She scooped Alyssa up again and cradled her in her left arm. With her right hand, she attempted to insert the nipple of the bottle into Alyssa’s mouth but she spat it out, precious breast milk dribbling from her pink gums. The baby turned her head away from the vile poison on offer. Della tried shushing her again and then attempted to burp her, positioning the floppy baby over her shoulder and rubbing her small back in a circular motion.

Nothing was working.

“Oh, fuck this!” Della said out loud, through gritted teeth. She returned the irate infant, once again, to her crib and left the room, closing the door with a bang. She had stopped caring now. She just wanted it to stop. She was tremoring now, her hands shaking as she sat on couch in the dark lounge. She reached over to the side table and retrieved a cigarette which she lit, inhaling deep, long puffs. Her legs were shaking now too and she placed her feet flat on the floor to try and stop the quivering. She lit another cigarette with the coal of the first cigarette which she then extinguished in the handmade ashtray on the side table. She had made that ashtray at the clinic about two years before. She didn’t like many of the other groups except for Art Therapy. And all she had to show for that admission was a lopsided red ashtray, two psychiatric diagnoses and a deeply dysfunctional relationship with a raging narcissist.

Like mushrooms in the dark, Della’s thoughts began to grow. She knew It was starting. It always started with the shaking and then the feeling like an ominous shadow was being cast over her brain. She knew It would take over, as It always did when she was overwhelmed beyond capacity. Alyssa was still wailing. Della covered her ears with her hands and shook her head violently from side to side.

It, inevitably, did encroach upon her. All sense of time slipped into the cracks of Della’s frazzled mind. She did not know how she got there; It always took her to horrendous and horrific places. This time, she “woke up” standing in the soft yellow nursery. She looked down and saw that she was holding Robert’s very large kitchen knife in her hand. She did not know how she had gotten there or when she had pulled the kitchen knife off of the magnetic strip in the kitchen. She also did not know if she intended to use the knife to stab herself in the stomach or to slice her baby’s throat.

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