Chapter One here.
Chapter Two here.
Chapter Three here.
Chapter Four here.
Chapter Five here.
Lucy sat in the corner of the little room, breastfeeding Charlie. The little baby fitfully pulled and tugged at the breast, causing Lucy to sigh deeply. He was so difficult to feed. He had been fretful since he arrived and it took ages for him to settle at her breast. But she soldiered on, knowing how important it was that he get mother's milk for his first six months. Finally Charlie settled at her breast, pulling with a gentle rhythm. Lucy relaxed, and wriggled herself into her chair in an attempt to make herself comfortable.
Lucy was a young mother, barely seventeen when Charlie was born. She was a delicate child, with a slender frame that, when she was pregnant, one could wonder how she carried the extra weight of her child. Since the birth, she had quickly lost weight again and now was slender to the point of skinny. Her elfin face was pointed and beautiful, with high cheekbones and a generous mouth. Her pretty face was framed with hair the colour of ripe corn. Her blue eyes sparkled when she looked at her baby son. He was compensation enough for all the hardship she faced.
She lived in a small house on the edge of a wood, about twenty miles from Smyth. It would have been hard without her husband to do errands and run around after her while she was pregnant. They had a small number of cows and chickens, which helped with the daily meals and also a sow about to farrow. It was so clever of her husband to organise having the sow impregnated. He joked that it was her swollen belly that gave him the idea. Now the pig was about due and they were looking forward to several piglets and, in the fullness of time, their own pork.
As Charlie suckled Lucy looked around the room. It was a cosy room, designed by herself. Warm red curtains hung at the windows and there were comfortable chairs and a settle in front of the large open fire. They had opened up the fireplace, reasoning that a large fire was romantic. Not only that, it was a godsend on wet washing days, when Lucy could hang the clothes in front of a roaring fire and they would dry in half the time. From the fireplace it was a mere step to the desk and chair her husband regularly sat at to do the accounts and write his journal. That was all there was, apart from Lucy's rocking chair - provided by a caring neighbour. It was perfect for nursing Charlie and tucked away nicely in the corner so as not to overpower the little room. Soft dark red cushions adorned the chair and helped Lucy to get comfy while giving Charlie his six feeds a day. This was the main room of the house. Behind this room was the small kitchen that doubled as a dining room for the young couple. Upstairs there was one decent sized bedroom, decorated in cool blue with a large bed and simple wooden wardrobe and dressing table, and a small nursery in bright blues and yellows. Lucy had done all the decorating herself while pregnant. Her husband jokingly told her she was nesting, she thought it maybe not quite such a joke. She had not had anything else to fill her day, other than the farm chores, so she relished the opportunity to paint and sew in order to create a wonderful existence for her new baby. While waiting for her baby to make his appearance she had stitched blankets and cushion covers. She had knitted cardigans, hemmed nappies and hooked a little blue rug for the floor. Being alone in the house so often, with her husband travelling, she had found the craft work helped to keep her busy and focused.
Charlie was six weeks old now. He was a strong boy and looked just like his father. Lucy was so proud of her child; she longed to show him off. But being so divorced from the main town with a small child she rarely saw anyone. Even the neighbours were wary of coming over since her husband had snapped at one inquiring farmer's wife. However, Lucy was a simple person and she was content to care for her child in the peace of her own home. Her husband provided everything they needed and she wanted for nothing for the baby.
Charlie stopped nursing and stared up at his mother. His little face crumpled and he began to whimper.
'You know,' Lucy said gently as she rocked the fretful child. 'For such a big healthy boy, you sure are a whiney child.'
Charlie sniffled a sob and his eyes started to close. His mouth puckered slightly and little milky bubbles formed on his lips. His hand, curled in frustration, uncurled and fell to his side as Charlie fell asleep. Lucy rocked him for a while longer until she was sure he was fully asleep, then she laid him gently in his crib. When he was asleep was the time to do her chores, as he took all her time whilst awake. It would've been better if her husband were at home more often, but his work took him away so much that it left her to run the house and smallholding virtually single-handedly while raising their child. Of course, in her darker moments, Lucy was grateful that her husband was absent so much of the time. Life was certainly more peaceful and easy when her cruelly demanding husband wasn't in the house.
While Charlie slept, Lucy swept the floors and shook out the rugs. The vegetables were pulled from the beds and cleaned ready for cooking. The animals were fed, including the cat with kittens and the dog. While feeding the household animals, Lucy heard Charlie whimper. As ever, she rushed to his side, fearful he might wake and start a non-stop crying jag. Even his mother was no comfort when Charlie began a screaming fit. Lucy dreaded that he would start crying hysterically. Luckily they lived at least a mile from their nearest neighbour and no one heard Charlie cry. But then, no one heard Lucy cry either.
Her husband thought that maybe Charlie was not altogether right in the head. It was nothing physical, they had had the doctor out and he declared the baby fit and thriving. Her husband told Lucy that the human brain was a complicated organ and the littlest problems could surface as behavioural traits. He comforted her that either Charlie would settle eventually, or his parents would hit upon exactly what the boy was crying for. In the meantime, Lucy tried everything. Holding him, not holding him. Sunshine, shade. Cool, warm. Food, dry clothes. Although the variety kept him distracted for small periods, nothing seemed to ease the baby's angst during these crying spats.
Charlie whimpered gently and rocked in his sleep. His little fist curled and uncurled. His forehead creased, then smoothed out, then creased again. Lucy wondered what he was thinking about.