Leona’s naive delusion about her new role as woman of the house has resulted in an incestuous relationship with her father and an unplanned pregnancy. Rather than fearing for the freedom of herself and her baby at the hands of the Catholic Church, Leona maintains her fantastical vision of family life with her father and baby on the farm. The secret is kept safely hidden from the close-knit village community, with Leona being confined to her attic bedroom. However Leona’s dream of motherhood is shattered when it is discovered she has experienced a phantom pregnancy.
Sins of the Son: Camp NaNoWriMo April Project Part 4
Copyright© Kate Kelsen 2019. All Rights Reserved.
The sun was peaking over the horizon. Leona was standing at the stove making porridge. Her father appeared, dark circles embedded in the pale skin under his eyes. He was frightful to look upon. Leona served up the porridge into two bowls and set one in front of her father.
“I’m going into Galway today,” Leona stated.
“Why,” Colm grunted.
“For medical reasons.”
Colm gave his daughter a quick glance between shoveling mouthfuls of porridge.
“Can’t you just see Aidan?”
Leona shook her head.
“Are you alright?”
A few hours after Colm had left for work, Leona stepped out of the house and headed in the direction of town. The walk took around twenty minutes. The morning bus to Galway left from Main Street at 7.15. She would be in town by 8.00.
Leona stood beside the crib, which had been positioned next to the hospital bed. She reached in and lifted the bundle of blue into her arms, gently cooing to the baby boy as she cradled him. She could feel his tiny movements through the confines of his tightly wrapped blanket. His fragility warmed her heart so deeply it was like nothing she had ever experienced before. She turned and left the room, the woman still sleeping in the bed.
Leona followed the steps to the street, stopping, looking frantically around her. It was as if the world was spinning, people coming and going, rushing this way and that. None stopped to take a second look at Leona as they rushed past. The infant in her arms started to grizzle. The clock was ticking. A bus pulled up nearby, and passengers began to embark and disembark. Leona stepped on board and took a seat toward the back. A man sat next to her, and other passengers filled the empty spots nearby.
On the road out of town, the baby was becoming increasingly distressed. Still no-one in the seats around paid much attention, except for the man, who cast a mildly irritable glance at them from time to time.
“Is he alright?” he finally enquired.
“Yes, he’s just hungry,” Leona stammered.
“Do you have a bottle to give him?”
“No. I did have one earlier, but it broke and spilled.”
The man sighed, crossed her arms and looked away.
Gently bouncing the screaming newborn, Leona cooed softly to him in an effort to sooth him, but it was no use. He knew the arms that cradled him were not those of his mother. He could not be fooled. Leona’s heart was racing with panic; his howling was so loud, it went on and on. She didn’t know what to do, how to make him stop. She was trying to comfort him as a mother would, but he did not care about her efforts. He did not want her, and Leona knew it. The anger churned deep in her belly. She was his mother, and he was going to love her as such.
Leona heard the front door open and close, and looked up to see her father at the entrance to her bedroom. He stood there for several seconds before speaking.
“Where did you get that?”
“It’s the baby I was pregnant with,” Leona snapped.
“What do you mean?”
“That’s why I went to the hospital today.”
Leona laid the baby boy down in the bassinette in the corner of her room, collapsing on the bed nearby.
She sat up suddenly to the sharp cry from the other side of the room. Untangling herself from the bedsheets, she stumbled over to the bassinett and carefully lifted the baby boy. She laid him down on the changing table, pinning a fresh cloth nappy into place. She gently stoked his tiny hand with her thumb, and touched her finger to his button nose. She lifted him up, the nappy hanging loosely off his body.
Leona paced the room, gently bouncing Cathal and softly hushing him. His cries were short, sharp and urgent. He had just had a bottle, but he was still fussing. The cries escalated. Leona laid Cathal down in the bassinet, pulling at the drawstrings of her robe. She sat down in her mother’s rocking chair next to the bassinet and lifted Cathal out again, cradling him over her right breast. She pulled her robe aside to expose her bare skin. Cathal latched on to her nipple, suckling peacefully for a few seconds before his squwarking started again. Leona sighed.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. She squeezed her eyes closed and screwed up her face, her own tears trickling down her cheeks.
In the bathroom, Leona plunged her face into the basin full of water, shaking her head from side to side and blowing air out through her nose and mouth. She lifted her head, pushing her wet hair away from her face. She wiped her hand across the condensation on the mirror, looking bleakly at her reflection.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time. The desire for a baby had consumed her; she couldn’t think of anything else. Nothing was going to get in the way of her getting what she wanted, but now that she had it, her new reality was hitting hard. What she had stolen was another living, breathing human being.
She could just drop him on the step of the garda station in town, she thought. She could do it at night; no one would ever know it was her. But then it would mean she had failed, and she would not be the mother she had so desperately longed to be. She would become the failure everyone had thought she was.
No, she would not give up. She would not surrender Cathal; she would keep him, and care for him as best she could.
The crying went on and on; the baby boy refused to accept that he was not going back to the woman in the hospital. After a time his persistent distress eased, and he submitted to the notion that Leona was his mother. She sat with him often in the rocking chair, holding him close to her body, looking into his eyes and talking to him. He was so precious to her.
Slumped on the floor beside her bed in her nightdress, Leona rested her head upon the edge of the mattress. The length of rope was tied one end around the leg of her bed, and the other around her ankle. A food tray was discarded nearby. Cathal’s whimpers started softly, quickly escalating into screeching cries. Leona stood to her feet and approached the bassinet, stopping abruptly as the length of rope pulled taut.
“Daddy!” She looked back at the bassinet. “Daddy!”
She leaned her body forward, reaching her arms out, her fingertips brushing the lace along the edge of the bassinet. The rope pulled on her ankle, stinging as it cut into her skin. She growled in frustration, dropping to the floor and prying at the knot in the rope. But it was no use; it was tied tight. Panting, she sat back, looking around. She scampering back across the floor and snatched up the serrated knife from the food tray, sawing away at her restraint. The string of rope was not very thick, but tough nonetheless, and the small teeth on the knife seemed no match for it. But still she sawed, sawed, sawed as Cathal howled.
Her was hand red raw from grasping the knife’s handle as she discarded the utensil and crossed the floor. She reached into the bassinet, her arms quivering in weakness as she lifted Cathal up. She returned to the food tray and picked up the small cup of milk, tipping it ever so carefully against Cathal’s lips.
Leona sat down on the edge of the bed, looking up to the bedroom door as it opened. Her father stepped into the room, and she lowered her head. He reached down and gently lifted Cathal out of her arms, turning and laying him back down in the bassinet. He turned back to Leona, placing his hand on her shoulder. He nearly took her breath away as he shoved her backwards. She gasped, and he grabbed her, pushing her over onto her stomach, pulling her arms behind her back.
“Daddy, what are you doing?” she shrieked. ‘Daddy!’
He wrapped the length rope around her wrists several times, tightening it firmly. She thrashed her legs as he grappled with her ankles, tying them the same way. Her shrieks reduced to sobs. He passed another length of rope between her feet and wrists behind her back, pulling them together, forcing her knees to bend and her ankles to rise. Hog-tied, he left her in the centre of the bed, leaving the room and closing the door behind him. The room was silent. Leona moved her arms, her legs. Her heart was pounding in her ears, her breath quivering. The past few minutes played over in her mind. What had just happened? Had that really been her father who had come in and tied her up like this? Would he come back? What would he do then?
The strain of her arms and legs intensified by the minute. Her hands and feet were throbbing as the blood struggled to reach them. Leona rocked herself to cause herself to fall to one side, and there she laid, her gaze cast across the way to the bassinet. A feeling of dread festered inside her. If her father had done this to her, what was he willing to do to Cathal?
This could all be over in a second.
The thought loomed through the fog of confusion in her mind. All she had to do was confess to her father the truth about Cathal. It was such a simple solution, yet despite her current predicament, still she hesitated at the thought of giving Cathal up. Through her shock and terror her pride found its way. All she had ever wanted was a baby, and even being imobilised and imprisoned in her own home, she was not about to give him up.