At this stage we don't think it is meningitis. At least not yet.
You shudder. It is cold in the hospital. Your little boy is curled up on the bed blotchy and exhausted from vomiting and a temperature so high you could scramble an egg on his tummy. It is a virus they say. That catch all phrase for we have no idea what is wrong but we think he will survive it without our intervention. You can take him home but come straight back if he deteriorates please.
So you wrap him up in a blanket and tuck him into bed, then spend the next seven days watching a violent magenta rash explode over different areas of his body limb by limb. Though it is a truly awful thing to say and perhaps one of those things Mothers are not allowed to feel, you quite like it when he is sick. It seems to call upon your deepest instincts to make his world alright. It reduces the universe to your living room, just you and him and lots of restorative chocolate buttons. But his ordeal isn't over. There are two hours of an occupational therapists observations to endure yet and a blood test at the Coeliac Clinic before the week is out. Your heart aches for him. For his determination when asked to demonstrate his his fine motor skills and the shock on his face when a women in oh so much fake tan jabs a needle into the crook of his arm and sprays his precious blood across the room.
I'm sorry baby, you say. I'm so so sorry. And hope with all your heart that he forgives you. Though you who are obliged to teach him how, struggle to forgive yourself. One day he says "Me and Daddy took flowers to the lady in the red car" and your tummy sinks. You know who the lady in the red car is. That when he took your son to buy flowers for you on Mothers Day, Daddy also bought her some and in an effort to win her back, pulled out his trump card, a little boy so gorgeous he could melt the hardest, snarliest of hearts.
You can't forgive him that. No-one would expect you to. Though had he asked if he could take Finn to meet her, perhaps now you might have said yes. You've seen the hurt on his face and the stupid, relentlessly forgiving part of who you used to be, still wants to make his world alright. To win her back for him. Her with the nasty green eyeshadow. You worry about yourself.
And so the week ticks by. A melody of anger and frustration. You make yourself beautiful. Night after night you apply rose scented cream to your face and rub chamomile balm into the cracked soles of your feet. And for what? For yourself? For the man you will sit next to at the weekend? Another shooting star landing in your lap...
You buy cerise underwear sprayed with frilly lime green lace. Parade around your bedroom in it and feel lovely for a while. You eat sushi till it comes out of your ears and stare at the bruises on your legs. You are always bruised. Your legs speckled like corn beef. You drink tea with this new man and hope that he is what he says he is. Because for sure as hell, you aren't.
The souls of your feet are cracked.