Â She Dreams of Simon.
Every night, it seems, in January. Conceived in April, after an Easter service, he would have been born in the dark dismal month after Christmas
Her first born son.
Then, when Sophia awakes, Simon is gone. Her husband is stirring, the suffocating darkness surrounding her, so that only by focussing on the glowing numerals of the bedside clock can she stave off the panic.
â€œIâ€™ve been buried alive,â€ her brain sparks. Itâ€™s not a thought, not coherent enough for that, and it takes a fluttering breathâ€™s space for the panic to waft across her and disperse.
Then the alarm goes off and, wordlessly, she rises, as her husband, with a wave of his arm, quiets the noise.
How long has he been awake, she wonders. Has he, too, been staring into the vacuum, seeking to avoid unanswerable questions.
Or has he been dreaming? And what does he dream of? Does Tom Dream of a Son that Never Was? Or does he dream of something else? Of flight, perhaps: of consigning the past and present to another existence?
Sheâ€™s seen it: The look. Is this it?
And now heâ€™s gone, and the girls are upstairs packing for school, their squabbling audible over the noise from the brightly dancing kitchen TV. She rinses the flake-encrusted bowls before placing them in the dishwasher, turning the dial - clickclickclick.
â€œMuuuuummm! Whereâ€™s my Gym kit?â€
â€œWherever you left it. Try the airing cupboard.â€
Is this all there is?
She places the cutlery, each piece consciously put to its pre-designated place; next, the milk and butter go to the fridge, the jam and the cornflakes in the cupboard, and she hears the Beep.
Carolyn and Nancy tumble down the stairs, all gangly limbs and static electricity. They run to the kitchen, Nancy snatches a spare piece of toast, and they flee.
And the room; the house; the world empties out.
Sophia switches off the TV, sits at the barren table in the room â€“ in the house â€“ devoid of purpose; and, as always in January, She Dreams of Simon.