Mrs. Foster's writing was beginning to pall. Her hand-written manuscripts, page after page filled with line after line of neat, flowery script, sat on the shelves of her husband's study, slim volumes, set upright between "Forster", and Mr. Foster's university thesis. A collection of short stories, an anthology of six month's poetry, and a brief novella represented the fruit of the author's latest hobby. But now the fruit was dying, rotting, palling.

Mrs. Foster was seated in her conservatory when her husband returned home from the office. Examining a fleshy rose blossom between carefully manicured fingers, she recalled her passion for raising hothouse flowers, so recently abandoned. The beautiful flowers were tended now by Timothy, the gardener, who also had responsibility for the table groaning with the weight of the bonsai trees his mistress had spent the greater part of the last year cultivating before moving on to yet another pastime, allowing the plants to collapse into their natural, apathetic, limp and unattractive state. Mr. Foster was greeted in the hall by Anna, who hung his coat and hat and scarf and gloves with gentle care, and conducted him to his wife in the vast, glittering glass edifice beyond the drawing room. Helena was sprawled petulantly on a wicker sofa, her knees curled beneath her, her nimble fingers systematically destroying the blossom, sprinkling curling petals across the tiled floor. Her husband was smiling.

As dusk settled over Mrs. Foster's garden, the couple made their way from the chilling conservatory to the warmth and pooled light of the house's interior, to perch on a sofa, animated in their conversation. "We are agreed?" "We are agreed." They were agreed. "I just know you're going to love it. It's a tremendous opportunity. A child." "A child. I will be able to decorate a nursery for her." Mrs. Foster was already fantasising of patching floral chintzes and pink candlewick bedspreads in one of her guest rooms. Of photographs, Madonna- like, of mother and child, dressed in perfectly tailored costumes, seated on the morning room sofa or the garden bench, to be sent out as Christmas cards. Of parties, with jelly and ice-cream, with Helena the centre of attention, the wise and benevolent matriarch, dispensing love and keeping order amongst a swarm of her friends children - dirty little brats who would be no patch on this, the perfect child. Mrs. Foster did not fantasise of mecha-failures, of shattered illusions and years of eternal childhood for her daughter, as she herself aged and decayed, betrayed by her body while her offspring, not her offspring, stayed forever young. She merely giggled over the champagne that she and Thomas had been saving for a special occasion, and denounced the name "Darlene" as "simply too cruel". They would call their child, their prototype, their first, their unique one, Elizabeth.