She’s just gone off. Her little chest still heaves with the muscle memory of reflex sobs. Her tight colicky stomach gradually softens under my hand as her slumber deepens. I continue to rock her gently in my arms, hoping she hasn’t woken you. I pray you won’t roar out of the bedroom with your hungover violence again this morning.
The sun is rising. Golden rays travel across the living room, softening the pieces of broken furniture. They make the splinters glow like a scattering of fairy lights. But this is far from Christmas. I survey the chaos of upturned chairs, torn upholstery, scratches on the table, and calculate what can be saved. Today will be Boxing Day, in more than one sense.
As I pass the mirror in the hallway, I notice my bruised eye matches the silky strands of our daughter’s hair. Slashes of raven black against alabaster skin. In a moment I will lie her gently down to continue sleeping, as her nocturnal pattern is not yet established.
I don’t want to let her go. Without her in my arms, I feel bare, stripped of my shield, but in her room I finally settle her in the crib. I kiss her velvety brow, and breathe in her milky sweetness. It is time to prepare breakfast.
I know the routine. It has been practised in my head like a school play until the very last line. The kettle will boil and I’ll pour scalding water into the pot. I will listen to it gurgle through the soft paper of the teabags. I will pour a cup quickly, I don’t like it too strong, before swirling a cirrus cloud of milk into the Ceylon brew.
There will be a choice of fruit, a peach or an orange, cream cheese and quince jam.
The newly sharpened bread knife will slice as smoothly through the crusty loaf like butter.
You make your bed and you lie in it.
This morning you deserve only this.