She bears the weight of the child against her breast. He suckles, amber eyes gazing up at her.
When he is sated, she lifts him onto her shoulder, cradling the back of his head with a fragile hand. She feels his puckered breath against her neck. He nuzzles her for more.
‘Shh, greedy boy,’ she whispers, ‘shh, bonny boy.’
She has missed these quiet moments, the world paused, the child’s whole future before him - a myriad of possibilities.
Her back cricks as she lowers herself into the chair. She is careful with him, as only a mother can be. She rocks him, lullaby-slow, until his limbs slacken, and she feels his lashes settle on her cheek.
The frail winter light moves softly into shadow. The room darkens. Her lids grow heavy. She takes a thick woollen blanket from the arm of the chair and tucks it tightly around them both, relishing the swaddled warmth.
My sweet boy, she thinks, I’ve waited so long for you.
She inhales the freshly powdered scent of him.
His chest rises and falls.
Rise and fall
Rise and fall
Sleep finally takes them.
During evening rounds the nurses find her - nightgown pulled low, one breast exposed. A thick woollen blanket has slipped from her lap and lays supine on the tiled floor. Her eyes are closed, as though she’s sleeping.
A worn blue bear rests in her lap, its amber eyes fixed upon her peaceful smile.