The water in the pond next to the house I can not live in moves under the wind like billowing silk, with light glimmering at the crests of its ripples so bright they leave stippled patterns of blurred white spots on my eyes. The windows that face the pond all have sills wide enough to sit on, their large panes framed only by wispy sheets of organdy and crinoline, brushed lightly to the side to allow more sunlight to flood the halls. In the later days of my pregnancy, the height of summer, when my body had grown larger and my skin taken on the soft glow of maternity, I would watch the water, still and clear as a mirror in the absence of a breeze, and envision some future summer where the head of my sleeping daughter rests on my knees as we sit, cool, at the water's edge, sleeping in the shade of the sprawling ash tree. Standing in the kitchen on a rainy evening, stirring a pot of stew, I imagined the feel of small hands tugging on my apron strings, felt clearly the strong surge of love I will get from watching my little girl dump handfuls of unevenly chopped vegetables into the simmering pot, hoped fiercely that she, too, would love to cook.
After she was born they took her away. The doctor came back to my bedside, his mask pulled away from his mouth and his gloves removed, and laid his hand on my shoulder when he told me. In the instant of my understanding my chest felt torn apart and bleeding, and my mouth screamed with guttural, animal wails, filling the air with the fury of my body as it cried out desperately in protest against what I was told. I felt the hands of my husband pushing my shoulders back, begging me to lay back, not to exert myself so soon after labor, but I fought against them with the force of my grief like a rushing train, pushed myself to sitting, clawed away the hands pulling me back, bent onto myself, my whole body churning. Everything I held inside of myself was pushed into my throat, organs and blood and soul, all trying in vain to let my anguish strangle me.
She was given to me in the hospital wrapped as all babies are, swaddled in a white blanket like a womb, the fabric parting around her face. Her hair was blond as mine, as I had always known it would be. I wondered but could not see if her eyes were the dusky green of her father's because the doctor closed them when they lost her. She looked as though she could have been sleeping. They took her away from me when they saw that my body had begun to quiver again, fearing that I might fall into a convulsing fit of anguish once more. They worried that I might break her.
I am moving away to a town where there are no ponds, no windowsills overlooking them, no rainy kitchen windows foggy with steam like mine. Here the rooms are filled with shadows of my daughter as I had dreamed she would be, quietly coloring at the kitchen table, hanging from the branches of the trees in the yard, sleeping in her nursery with the peaceful face of the baby I held in my hospital bed. In my new home there will be no holes in the walls from where photographs were hung and taken down in a nursery, no unopened boxes of diapers in the closet, no baby blankets that have never been unfolded draped across the walls of a crib. Where I once had these things, I will now have emptiness.