Hallile leaned back in her chair with a heavy sigh, one which she just couldn't hold in any longer. She was exhausted; so tired that she could have easily fallen asleep where she had sat, but her mind had forced her not to, no matter how much her body longed for rest. She had been sat in the same position for hours now, and her lower body was starting to feel numb from the lack of movement, causing a ripple of pins and needles on her thighs when she did shift her the chair. Still, the blatent uncomfort was keeping her awake, and so she couldn't bring herself to move. She knew that, once she had, her mind would wander onto something else, and with a situation this bad on her mind, she couldn't afford that kind of distraction.
Her eyes were fixed firmly on the other side of the room. It was a child's bedroom that she sat in, not her own, where she should have been at such a late hour. The walls were a pale yellow colour, blending with the pine furniture and matching the soft carpet, bedsheets and curtains. The small bed was across the room from her, tucked up against the corner and spread out along the side of the wall. However, it wasn't the small embroidered ducks on the duvet spread that held her gaze, as they had done when she had first brought them three years ago, but rather, the small child that lay curled up beneath it.
Her mind was racing as she did nothing more than stare; her mind compensating for the lack of life shown in her limbs. Although, whilst she knew that nothing was going to come of the staring, and that simply looking wasn't going to present her with an answer, she didn't know what else she could do. The scenarios playing inside of her head mixed with the exhaustion was making it hard to seperate her maternal worries from real life, yet after that afternoon, she wasn't sure whether she was a firm believer in reality anymore. Whenever she thought of a 'what if', a way to work around it and assure herself that her mind was playing tricks, she was always compromised with the classic though of; why hadn't she been prepared for this? Why had she never realised that this could have been a possibility before?
The child in the bed, a small girl with an adorable smile and eyes that shined like diamonds, was giving her more to think about now than she had done before she was born. Jessica hadn't been planned, true enough, and that was shown most clearly by the fact that Hallie wasn't sure for certain who the father was. It wasn't that she had slept around, but rather the fact that Jessica's conception had occured in a short space of time in between her breaking up with one boyfriend, sleeping with someone to get over him, and then getting together with someone else for a short while. However, she knew all three men well, so it had been easier to shut them all out, rather than going ahead with the complications of paternity tests. She'd not even been sure, at that time, whether she could go through with having a baby, let alone complicating the lives of three men, so she had found it easier to take a step back from them all.
It wasn't until that afternoon that she'd ever had a problem with that. When Jessica was born, Hallie had her sister at her side, and her beloved elder sister Cassie had helped her to learn how to raise her children, having raised three of her own already. Hallie worked part time, and whilst she was working Jessica stayed with Cassie. She never needed anyone else, and she never wanted them either.
Now, she was afraid, and it scared her even more to know what it wasn't the situation she was afraid of. It was her daughter.
She was afraid of her own daughter.
That was the reason she didn't want to move, and the reason why she needed her mind focused on a singular topic, despite the exhaustion causing her eyelids to droop for longer and longer each time she blinked. She was afraid of her daughter, and she couldn't go to sleep until she knew what she was going to do about that.
The scene before her was one that she wasn't used to; or at least, she wasn't used to witnessing it for so long. The last time she had sat and watched Jessica sleeping this intently was after she was born, when they were still in the hospital together. However, this time, she wasn't standing on the other side of the glass, looking down at her in the nursery amongst all the other babies lined up in display to the visitors. No, this time she was simple otn the other side of the room, seperated by four feet of carpet with a few abandoned toys scattered atop it, and it was only her fear that kept her on the other side from her daughter.
What kind of mother is afraid to go near their child?
Jessica was always runnning around. Hallie had never remembered having this much energy when she was a child, and Cassie had assured her that all children were hyperactive from time to time. Jessica was never still; always laughing, jumping, buzzing around full of energy, and, most of the time, driving Hallie crazy with worry. She hadn't quite developed a sense of fear yet, and was always trying things that Hallie was sure that three year olds weren't supposed to do. But now, she was still. She wasn't running around, because she was lying down. She wasn't jumping, because she wasn't moving, save for the gradual rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. She wasn't laughing, because she wasn't awake. She wasn't buzzing around, full of energy, because she'd left all of her energy at the park that afternoon, and now she was as exhausted as Hallie felt.
As much as a worn-out child, in bed earlier than usual, and sleeping heavily is probably every parent's dream after a long day, there would be none more relieved than Hallie at this moment in time.
She'd been through a phase, when Jessica had first learnt to walk, when she'd become extremely protective, even though she was right to be so considering that Jessica seemed to be a walking accident waiting to happen. She hated Jessica running around the house, because she was afraid that she'd trip over something, or run into something, and hurt herself. She never liked to see her jumping in the beds, because they didn't have the money for a new one if she'd break it, and she'd already broken three since she was old enough to have a bed by jumping on them; and that was ignoring the fact that she hated the thought of her jumping as high as she did (which was always impressively high for the springs in the second hand beds), and falling off and hurting herself.
A hand on her shoulder startled her back into the here and now, and, much to her immediate distate, took her away from her thoughts. However, once she shook herself, and looked back at Jessica once more, she was glad to have those thoughts out of her mind. A mother shouldn't be thinking that about her child. A mother shouldn't be scared of her child. She looked up, following the hand on her shoulder up to the face looking down at her with the soft, reassuring smile that she had always lived under.
"How are you doing?" Cassie asked her in a gentle voice, just above a whisper as not to wake the sleeping child.
Hallie nodded firmly. "I'm fine." She said, her voice equally as low as her sister's, as her eyes fell back onto the tiny lump beneath the yellow blankets that was her daughter.
Cassie nodded alongside of her, but her was much weaker as she saw directly through her sister's facade. "You're goign to wake her up if you stay here any longer." She pointed out, not bothering prying into her sister's feelings because she knew that Hallie wouldn't tell her anything.
She simply shrugged. "I'm not making any noise. I won't wake her." She told her sister. Or at least, she hadn't been making any noise, until she'd started speaking with Cassie's appearance. However, she still wasn't able to take her eyes off her Jessica in her bed. "I'm a bad mother." She muttered, shaking her head.
Cassie gently squeezed the hand that remained on her shoulder. "No, you're not." She said with a determination that her younger sister longed to share.
Hallie, however, shook her head more quickly. "If you knew what was going on inside of my head, you wouldn't be saying that, Cass..." She sighed, bringing her face into her hands and rubbing it wearily. "I should have expected this to happen-"
"You couldn't have known, Hal." Cassie pointed out.
"I should have been prepared."
"How?" Cassie asked her, but she continued when she got no answer. "You knever knew for sure that she was his."
"I think it's pretty clear now, though." Hallie half laughed.
Cassie smiled softly. "It won't happen again." She tried to assure her.
"It was probably just a fluke, just a jump in her system or something-"
"You don't believe that." Hallie told her, and Cassie fell silent. It was, after all, just a simple hope that it wouldn't happen again. "You know as well as I do that this wasn't some kind of fluke."
"Everything's going to work out, you'll see." She said, trying to sound optimistic, but with each passing second, she was losing the faith that she was holding onto for the both of them. This wasn't a one off, this was only the start of something bigger. But still, she needed to try. "She's fine, and everything will be fine."
Hallie shook her head again. "I don't think 'fine' is a very good word to use." She said. "'Disasterous' is probably a better one."
"She's a kid, Hal, things happen." Cassie pointed out.
"Not these sort of things."
"She's always been running around with the boys, getting scrapes and bruises..." She broke off, sighing. "I guess she does get that from her father, after all." She realised, casting her memory back to what she remembered of the young man.
"Yeah, and this wasn't just something she got from running around with the boys either." Hallie pointed out. "This is something she got from her father, and this is all his fault."
"This is nobody's fault, Hal-"
"Don't take his side, Cass. You're my sister, not his."
Hallie's sudden warning tone caused Cass to step back from her, releasing her hand from her sisters shoulder and letting it fall to her side. "She's going to be fine." She murmered again, more to herself than anything else, but her voice was listened to, and ignored, regardless.
"Don't tell me she's going to be fine." Hallie said, finally looking up from Jessica's sleeping form. "She's not fine. I'm not fine. Nothing about this situation is fine-"
"Let's go into the kitchen." Cassie interrupted, casting a wary gaze at her neice to check that her mothers rising voice hadn't caused her to wake. "You don't want to wake her up."
Cassie led her through to the kitchen, even though she knew the way easily herself. She was forever standing at the counter, making Jessica and her cousins sandwiches for lunch or drinks of juice. It was easily the room she spent the most time in, and definately the most time thinking in, save for that evening. Cassie leaned with her back against the counter, her arms holding herself up against it as Hallie sat down at the small wooden table, facing up at her sister.
"So." Cassie said simply, her voice at it's usual level now. "What happens now?"
Hallie shurgged. "I can't deal with it." She said.
"She's all messed up, and I can't deal with this."
Cassie bit her lip, shaking her head. "Jess is a lot of things." She told her. "She's happy, she's intelligent, she's funny...but she is certainly not messed up." She said.
Hallie looked up at Cassie. "Are you telling me that regular three year olds do this?" She asked sarcastically.
Cassie ignored the use of the word 'regular'. "This is not your fault."
"Oh, I know it's not my fault." She said confidently. "It's his. This is all his fault. My daughter would be normal if it wasn't for him."
"She is normal--"
"She burst into flames and didn't get hurt. How is that normal?" Cassie couldn't answer her on that one. It wasn't normal, and they knew it. Although, considering who this meant her father was, it was probably very normal, and definately something that they should have been prepared for surfacing, even if there was nothing they could do about it. "Yeah, that's what I thought." Hallie finished.
"So, what are you going to do?" Cassie challenged.
However, this was one question that Hallie no longer needed to think about. She already knew. She'd known for a few hours now, ever since she had tucked Jessica into bed and said her goodnights before settling in the chair across from the room. It had been an easy decision, but it was the afterthought that had left her sat across the room for hours, tugging at her conscience. She knew what she had to do, and she knew how hard it was, but it was the only logical decision.
"He can have her." She said simply.
Cassie looked at her, and the look on her face told her that she couldn't have said anything more horrifying to her. "Are you saying-?"
"I can't handle this, Cass. He lives with it everyday, and I'm pretty sure it's about time that he's the responsible one here." Hallie justified.
"And you think this is a responsible decision?" Cassie protested, glad that she no longer needed to keep her voice down.
"It's what's best for her."
"It's what's best for you!" She corrected, and was met with a silence. She shook her head. "You can't do this." She said quietly.
"Yeah, I can." Hallie said calmly. "I can, and I will."
Cassie looked at her for the longest time, biting her lip as she looked down at the woman she was now shamed to call her sister. Her eyes wandered, falling upon the refridgerator, where some plastic fridge magnets held up a childish crayon drawing of 'me and mommy - by Jessica-Skye', dated on May 4th of that year. Three days ago.
"So, that's it?" She asked quietly.
"That's it." Hallie confirmed.
"You're just going to give your daughter away?"
Hallie shook her head, and Cassie felt hopeful that she had misunderstood the whole conversation, and hoping that she was about to be told that Hallie wasn't giving her daughter away, but instead, her sister followed her gaze to the drawing she was staring at, and she had to look away from it quickly.
"That's not my daughter anymore." She said calmly.