Someone sang a lullaby.
The world came back slowly. He was hot. He was cold. Something cold was against his forehead. Something warm and salty in his mouth. Chicken soup. He swallowed. Sometimes there was sun and sometimes it was dark. Movement and rustling. Someone was plumping up his pillow.
“Moon…” He began, but he couldn’t see her. “I’m going your way…” He murmured. “Who are you?” It might have been then or it might have been later that he asked., he wasn’t sure. “Where’s Moon?” The words were familiar, had he said them before?
Somewhere a baby cried.
The baby stopped crying. The sun shined and stars twinkled. Cloud blinked. Sun then stars or stars then sun? Time warped around him.
The world continued drifting back.
A baby cried. A baby stopped crying.
Cloud rolled over in bed and watched clinking objects lift from his bedside table.
Glasses. Bowls. Spoons. He remembered their names one by one and grasped onto them.
There were hands lifting the objects— the glasses, the bowls, the spoons— and taking them away. When the hands returned they were attached to a body and came bearing new things, a bowl hot and steaming and a glass of water.
“Who are you?” He asked her, “Where’s Moon?”
She sighed. “I’m Glace.” She said like she’d said it a million times before. “Moon… Moon isn’t with us any longer but you have to eat and drink and get your strength up.”
“Have you been looking after me?” He asked.
“Yes.” She reached out and touched his forehead. “Your temperature seems back to normal, are you back with us? You’ve been delirious for days…”
“I don’t know.” Where had he been but here? “You’ve looked after me?”
“Yes, you and Daisy both.”
“That’s your baby.”
“Daisy that’s my baby.” Cloud repeated. “What happened?”
“We think she must have had some internal bleeding.” Glace said. “She’d come into the kitchen to ring you— your number was the last one dialed. Must have slipped and fallen, we know she hit her head somehow. I’m sorry.”
“She rang me. I— I left my phone…”
“It’s not your fault.” Glace put her hand over his.
“It is, but, isn’t it?”
“Try to get some sleep. You’ll feel better in the morning.”
He didn’t. Nor did he feel any better the next morning or the morning after that.
Mornings turned into days, days into weeks and weeks into months. The pain numbed and cloud numbed with it.
He got up. He ate breakfast. Sometimes he remembered to water a plant or pull a weed.
“You’re still looking after me.” He said to Glace one day.
“You and Daisy both.” She said.
“What about your own home?”
“I lived— I live with my parents, I mean. It’s a bit crowded there to be honest… they can spare me to watch over you.”
“It’s not crowded here.” Cloud said. “Where do you sleep?”
“I put up a small bed next to the nursery, I hope you don’t mind.”
“About the bed.”
Cloud functioned. One day Glace told him the household funds were getting low and he remembered he used to go to the fire station five days a week. He went there and fixed things and put out fires and they gave him money. He remembered. So he walked out and went to work. Stepping into work he felt like a stranger, he didn’t know anybody thee. But they welcomed him back and offered words of support. Perhaps these people had been his friends once upon a time.
Cloud liked putting out fires. He felt there was one thing he could fix.
He got up, he ate breakfast, he went to work, he came home, he tended the garden and he went to bed only to get up and do the same the next day.
Moon cooked and cleaned and when the baby cried she fed or changed it.
Cloud didn’t notice how big she was growing, it hurt to look at her. She looked too much like Moon.
Mostly she just played with her favourite toy until she needed something from Glace.
Sometimes when the pain became too much he’d go outside to where they’d laid Moon to rest and he’d sing to her. Sometimes he just broke down and cried. Glace tried to comfort him but he always pushed her away.
One night though, the pain was hard. The numbness protected him from the pain, but the more involved in the world he became the less numb he felt and that made the pain sharper than ever.
“Moon’s dead.” He said to Glace.”
“I know— you know that, Cloud.”
“I know, but I didn’t know it before.” He said. “I did, but I didn’t…” he couldn’t find the words.
“You knew, but you couldn’t accept it.” Glace said. You must have loved her a lot.”
“It— it wasn’t my fault, was it?” his voice trembled
“No, it wasn’t.” Glace told him soothingly. “It was an accident. In this world we live in, having a baby can be dangerous, things don’t always go right. There was nothing you could have done even if you’d been here by her side, I’m sure of it.”
This time when she put her arms around him he accepted her.
He allowed herself to be comforted.
Later, they comforted each other.
Cloud went to bed, he got up, he had breakfast, he went to work, he came home, he tended the garden and he went to bed. Sometimes Glace helped him get to sleep by singing him a lullaby.
Even when Glace was feeling sick she still helped out.
She cooked and cleaned and tended the garden.
She saw to the baby when it cried.
Sometimes she rested and cloud would see her reading the paper or watching the telly.
“The neighbour across the road lets Moon use his gym equipment.” He said to Glace on day. “Used to… I mean…”
“Cloud.” Glace sighed. “I’ve explained this before.”
Had she? Explained what?
One night there was screaming. Cloud threw his hands over his ears and retreated to bed. Then there was crying. Eventually it stopped.
“Cloud! You can’t withdraw back into yourself! I can’t cope with this again!” Cloud turned over as the world shook. No, just him. Glace was shaking him. He tried to clear his head by blinking his eyes. He couldn’t quite remember last night and there must have been a last night because it was morning now. Maybe he’d been asleep, that would explain it, but the thing was he couldn’t quite put a finger on yesterday either. His mind had run away from something… what was it.
“Please just look at him, he’s your son!” Glace thrust a baby at him and it all came back. The comforting had led to… he and Glace, they’d become lovers, and she’d become pregnant. The fight they’d had… he’d worried that he would loose Glace too. But she was here and he had a son.
He took the baby in his arms, wondering at the small miracle he held.
“Don’t you remember?” Glace sounded tired. “You have a son. We do. You have two children and they both need you. I need you, I can’t look after you all forever.”
“I’m sorry.” He said. “I— I did forget. I won’t again.” Cloud breathed in the scent of the baby— his son.
“I called him Sonny.” Glace said.
“I remember.” He rocked the small bundle. It was so familiar. “I thought about you last night.” He said to Sonny. “I thought I was holding you but I woke and you were gone. I remembered you last night, but I forgot you this morning. I won’t forget again.” His head felt cleared from the fog that has surrounded it since Moon’s passing. How long had it been? Too long, months and many more months of darkness. But now the sun had returned to his life.
He looked into the eyes of his son. He wouldn’t forget again.
“You are my sunshine.” He sang quietly to Sonny. “My only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take the sunshine away…”