For an assignment set in class: write a story on an issue, incorporating a motif. Mine was the song From the Sea by Eskimo Joe.
Falling pregnant out of wedlock was the most shameful thing a woman could do. It would do nothing but bring dishonour upon her family and a name that would stick to her forever, until her death. No eligible young bachelor would even look at her, and so a woman who fell pregnant out of wedlock would most probably be doomed to live her life out, alone, with her bastard of a child, scraping up money as a whore in some brothel, or, if she was extremely lucky enough to have her father lend her funds, then she could work as a seamstress or something else.
Emma stood at the edge of the cliff, staring down at the menacing, dark waters eating and snapping at the wet rock.
She knew all this very well. Mother had drilled it into her head as a child everyday in accompaniment with prodding for perfect posture and the pinches to smile, keep quiet and look beautiful in public or in front of a man. Yes, she knew all this. But, like most other girls her age, slightly tired of etiquette, she only put these teachings to use under the watchful eye of mother, father and the public.
And what a fool I was for thinking that all would be fine, she thought to herself as the rough wind thrashed against her dress and whisked her bonnet right off her head.
"Oh Miss Emma, you shouldn't stand so close to the edge!" cried Emma's new handmaid, Mary – straight from the newest convict ship from Mother England.
Mary ran up to her and took Emma's hand, tugging carefully.
"We don't want any dreadful tumbles happening," she continued with a small smile.
Emma turned and looked at Mary with a smile.
"No, we don't."
Emma followed Mary back to the house and was silent throughout breakfast with father, mother and Johnny. She couldn't look Johnny in the eye; he and Edward were the best of friends.
She only spoke the minimum as well when mother came in while she was changing, shooing Mary away to get some tea.
She gripped the chair tightly and closed her eyes as mother helped her with the corset. Mother was so much rougher than Mary.
"Is there something the matter, Emma?" mother asked curtly.
Emma held her breath as the knot came down, quick and tight. Mother pulled at the strings again firmly, forcing the breath out of Emma.
"No, mother," she answered.
"Good." Again another knot and Emma held her breath. "The Governor and his son will be at mass this morning."
Emma opened her eyes.
"Is that so?"
"Yes, it is."
It was then that Emma refused to let this misfortune ruin her life. No, she would take control and fix herself out of this predicament of hers. A future as the wife of the next Governor would not be missed, not even for Edward's child. His child that he yet knew nothing of.
Before it was time to leave the house for Sunday morning mass, Emma cried because of the pain in her stomach when she walked. There'd be other masses where she'd see the Govenor's sun, but she could not wait a day more. She saw Johnny's last suspicious glance at her as he entered the carriage, but her feigned sickness was enough to fool mother and father.
She bade them farewell at the door and watched the horse-pulled carriage disappear over the hill and far away.
Once they were gone, she made up excuses for everyone else remaining in the house to go somewhere, whether it was down to Mrs Dalloway's for some assistance with needlework, the stables or to town. She then went about locking all of the doors.
When she was sure that everyone was gone or out of hearing range of the occurrences inside the house, she took a 'tumble' down the stairs. Then she locked herself in the smallest room in the house and flung herself at the walls, at the closets, the cupboards and the doors, at anything that would hurt. If the herbal remedies didn't work, then surely this would.
What she was doing was pure insanity, she knew that, but she couldn't stop herself. She thrust her body at the walls repeatedly, at the furniture and the fixtures on the wall, she bruised her body as blue as her eyes and then, crying in fear and pain, she took another tumble down the stairs.
When her body reached the end of the stair case, she didn't get up to run off and do some other brutal thing to herself. Instead she lay there for a few minutes, trying to recover and then, bruised and broken she walked out of the house. That should be enough, and if it wasn't, then she'd do the same next Sunday or maybe even tomorrow.
Slowly, painfully, she made her way to the beach, where her tears were lost in the sea.
In that hour she couldn't imagine that there could ever be a more monstrous person in the world other than herself. Yet deep down she knew that she was not the first woman to do this, nor would she be the last.
There were plenty of other fish, washed up as herself, willing to go through any extremes to get back into the sea.
Ingrid's designated resting time finished and the nurse came back inside the room.
"You can leave if you like, Ingrid," she said warmly with a somewhat sympathetic look on her face.
Ingrid nodded and sat up carefully in the bed, reaching for her shoes. The nurse helped her and reminded her of all the things that the doctor had advised.
"If you like, I can also organise you a meeting with our counsellor. She's very good and easy to talk to and she'll help you through with any problems you may have," she added, before Ingrid left the room.
"No thank you," Ingrid said. There were no problems; there would be nothing to talk about.
The nurse was silent for a few seconds but then allowed her to leave.
Ingrid walked into the reception of the building, where the receptionist answered the phone and other women waited nervously. She hadn't expected to see Craig still there waiting for her, but he was… with a bunch of flowers.
As much of a kind gesture it was, Ingrid couldn't help but think of how pathetic he was. Flowers. Of all things, flowers. What was she supposed to do with flowers?
He sat by himself in the corner and didn't notice that it was her until she walked up to him. He stood up immediately and looked at her before hesitantly putting his arm around her waist in a hug, crushing the flowers between them.
She wanted to stare at him with her cold, dark eyes and say to him, "Craig, you're an idiot." Instead she felt the warmth of his body and remembered that he was as much in this as she was. She took the flowers and let him hug her.
He must have known that she'd find the flowers useless because when he let go he smiled feebly.
"I didn't know what to do," he said softly.
Ingrid nodded and forced the corners of her lips up into a sort of smile.
He nodded and took her hand and they walked out of the clinic.
Outside it was still a dark and dismal day. The sun was hidden behind the mass of dark clouds, the air was damp and the wind was crisp and cool.
"Do you want to eat something?" Craig asked as he helped her into the car. Ingrid hadn't been allowed to eat anything for twenty four hours before, but she wasn't hungry.
"No," she said.
She watched him close her door and walked around the front of the car before getting into his side. He was so tense and nervous. She saw him wipe the palms of his hands on his jeans before starting up the car. Probably wondering what to do with me now, she thought wryly. She didn't blame him; she was thinking the same for herself too.
"Do you want me to take you home or maybe to your sister's house?" he asked.
"No," she said again, watching the protestors down the street making their way to the clinic. They were lucky that they had had their appointment early. "Can we just drive?"
He nodded and they drove off before the protestors could detect them as clients of the clinic.
Ingrid noticed how Craig kept wiping his palm against the fabric of his pants or on the seat. It was probably her that was making his so uncomfortable, but she couldn't care less.
He turned on the CD-player to fill the silence. The sounds of Eskimo Joe's From the Sea and Live's Dolphin's cry blasted through the car.
She wanted to turn down the music and scream at him, slap him, wake him up to the reality of what had just happened to her, to them, in that building only moments before. It wasn't that she wanted sympathy, because she didn't. She only wanted him to recognise her, recognise everything and not ignore it and put his music on loud, pretending that the clinic was only a place that they had read of in the papers and heard of on the T.V.
The rhythm swam through her veins, the beat pounded with her heart. The unique voices of Kav Temperley and Joel Quartermain in harmony and Edward Kowalczyk soaring above electric guitars made her fingers itch to dig into something, perhaps sand, and her stomach fluttery. Sudden shills shivered down her spine. These songs - the outcome of days like today, filled with angst and the sea.
"Drop me off at the beach," she instructed.
Craig nodded and put the indicator on at the next intersection, turning left at the sign saying Beach Road.
The sea roared and rolled upon the sands of Mordialloc beach, and further down snarled and hollered and the cliffs. The harsh ocean breeze battered at the little umbrellas and gazebos of the seaside restaurants and cafés that lined Beach Road. No one dined outside today.
He pulled up at a scenic viewing point, opposite the blue, glass house that looked like a giant fish tank. She undid her seatbelt and went to get out of the car, but stopped as Craig placed a hand on her lap.
"It's cold; do you want me to drive down onto the beach?" he asked.
It took Ingrid a few seconds to realise that he intended to come with her and not drive off and leave her alone like she had wanted.
She closed the door and did up her seatbelt again. Craig started the car, and again her ears were overwhelmed by music. She didn't complain to herself this time.
Slowly he drove down the winding cemented path heading downhill. Cars weren't allowed to drive beyond the cemented area at the bottom of the cliff and onto the dunes, so they stopped there and wound down the windows, letting the cool salty breaths engulf the car and settle on their skin.
Ingrid turned down the music to the minimum level and opened her car door, listening to the ocean and watching the endless tides rolling in, bearing little treasures from the sea of plankton and shells.
There was no one on the beach and the blue was empty of any children in fluorescent bathers with boogie boards. Only one person, who was crazy enough to be riding on his jet ski in this cold, tumbled between the waves.
They sat for a few minutes in silence and again there was the tension, the nervousness between them.
Ingrid couldn't even begin to describe what she was feeling; she really didn't want to think about Craig and his present emotional status.
"I'm going to walk for a bit," she said quietly to Craig.
He nodded and was outside ready to help her out of the car before she had undone her seatbelt and reached for her scarf, folded in the backseat.
Hand in hand they walked along the beach until they had had enough of the wind battering their lonesome forms in the open, empty space. Then they sat on the sand close together, sharing their warmth inside Craig's jacket.
The sea howled mournfully for them.
Ingrid couldn't understand the many feelings that stirred within her. Sadness, anger, hate – yes these were familiar emotions, but she seemed to be feeling something much deeper. She ached. She longed for something she had never really had, something she didn't really want, and had lost. She was suddenly rueful for the things she had done. She felt miserable and guilty. But no, these words couldn't quite explain it either. Ingrid didn't just ache, she throbbed with this excruciating pain that twisted at her emotions and seeped through her body. She ached with every fibre of her being, every inch of skin, muscle and bone, each drop of blood. Blood. Blood…
Craig's arm came around her and held her tightly.
"I think we've done the right thing."
Ingrid was silent for a few seconds.
It was Craig's turn to be silent for a while.
Yes? Yes. Yes, it was the right thing to do. Of course it was the right thing to do! Ingrid was going to be doing her VCE in a few months time. She was going to do her VCE and she was going to do well. She was going to do well and then she would go onto University and study journalism, get a Bachelor or two and have a successful career. This equation of her life at present was fragile and precarious, a crying baby would certainly only undo the purpose of thirteen years of education. There was no room to add another number. Of course this abortion was the right thing to do. Ingrid only ever made well-calculated and thought out decisions in life.
But still… Ingrid ached with every ounce of blood.
"We've killed our child," she whispered.
Craig's body went tense beside her.
"We've killed something so utterly innocent and small… something that can't even defend itself…" she trailed off not knowing how she could explain herself to him.
"It wasn't a baby yet, Ingrid," Craig said quietly.
"It doesn't mean it wasn't any less important," she answered slightly annoyed. Five years and he'd already forgotten everything they had taught him in his Catholic boy's school.
The guy on his jet ski was gone; the sea raged on.
They sat in silence but the emotion inside Ingrid was now surging violently through her. Her chest felt heavy, the muscles of her face hurt from resisting the want to frown, pout and cry. She breathed in deeply the cold, salty, sea air. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale…
Ingrid couldn't imagine herself as a mother, she never really could, but she was certain now that she could never do it, not after this. She was so selfish. She put herself, her wants and her desires, before this innocent child's needs, this child's right to life.
She felt a shiver run through her at this thought. The child's right to life. The child that wasn't even a child yet.
"Do you have regrets?" Craig asked her.
Ingrid breathed in a few times before she could answer him with her choked voice.
She blinked, but the onslaught of tears was too much. Craig's arms tightened around her and she took it as a sign that it was alright to show her emotions. She held him back and allowed herself to cry into his grasp. The sea cried with her.
Her parents would be so ashamed of her if they knew what she had just done.
How could she have done something so stupid? She asked herself the question over and over again, and the answer, much to horror, came to her as easily as the question.
Craig rocked her back and forth in his arms and rubbed her back.
She tried to assure herself that what she had done was for the best. The baby was probably lucky to not have been born a bastard to them, such selfish, inconsiderate, irresponsible people. Yes, that's why she had had the abortion, not only for her sake but for that of her unborn child.
The foetus had probably been washed down the sink and was now swimming somewhere in the very waters metres away from them, dead and alone, but that didn't matter. Wherever it was, it was probably some place better than she could have ever provided. Yes, yes, the abortion was the right thing to do.
Crying violently, Ingrid broke away from Craig's grasp and crawled across the sand to the sea.
"Baby, baby, my baby," she muttered to herself between her tears.
She reached out and clawed at the waters as they rolled, foamy and bubbly over the sands, trying to grab hold of the foetus that wasn't there.
How many other women would have abortions today? How many other foetuses would be emptied out into the sea? Would the other women get on with their lives and pretend it would never happen, or would they think like her, would they try to find some justification to their doings, some solace from the sea that was now the mother of their unwanted children?
"Baby!" she screamed at sea as Craig came up behind her, trying to restrain her.
The sea screamed back at Ingrid, swamping her with icy, cold sea water. She screamed more with the sudden cold encompassing her, trying to breathe and cry at the same time.
"Ingrid!" Craig shouted, grabbing at her and trying to hold her still.
Ingrid turned around and screamed at Craig, hitting at him wildly, but he was much stronger than her and at last she gave up struggling.
Another tide inundated them, and they both collapsed in a wet heap on the beach floor, Ingrid sobbing and Craig trying to comfort her.
As the water lapped about their bodies, Ingrid tried to hear the beautiful, inspirational sounds Kav Temperley and Edward Kowalczyk heard in the sea, the solace to their pain and anger, but she couldn't. All she could feel was the coldness of the water around her like an unwanting womb that would not nourish or sustain her life and the cry of their unborn child, one cry of million belonging to dead foetuses swimming lifelessly, emptily, in the vastness of the sea
And it comes to you, from the sea… hello, hello, oh hello… She knows, she knows, oh she knows.
Behind them, the music from the car continued to echo in unison with the song of the sea. She heard Kav Temperley's voice in some place far off behind them, singing with the waves.
The world repeats itself somehow.