The Baby

The first time John met Mary, they were at a club in town. John could never remember

afterwards the details of what happened, he would have taken more care to remember if he

had known she was going to be The One. As it was, he just thought she was a pretty girl.

When he got talking to her, he realised she was a nice girl, funny.

They weren't going to fall in love, of course. John didn't believe in all that nonsense. It was

a bit of fun, for a day, a week, a month… Then John realised: he had gone and fallen in love.

He had it bad. The poetry, the letters with doves and flowers scrawled on the bottom, the

dreams about retiring to the country, buying a little cottage somewhere, like the one his

grandparents had. With an apple tree, a little pond, a striped cat… And Mary.

Then Mary thought she was pregnant. She wasn't quite sure, then she was. John's mother

sulked. You irresponsible fool, she said. You ought to know better.

John didn't care, he liked babies, he didn't see what was wrong with it. "You're not

married," said his mother. "You've barely left school. You don't have a proper job. You've

made nothing of your life. And you never will."

But was this not an opportunity to make something of his life? Something to work for, to get

promoted, to get a flat? To bring up a baby.

But Mary wasn't happy. She wasn't talking to him as much. Sometimes he met her and her

eyes were red and she wouldn't really talk. She just looked uncomfortable, and went home.

After a couple of months, John's mum came home and fixed him with a glare.

"I don't know what you've done to Mary," she said. "I don't know whether you've cheated

on her or what. But she hasn't come out of her room for two days, she's crying and her

mother's rung me furious, saying it must be your fault."

So John went to see Mary.

"What's the matter, love?" he said.

But she didn't answer, she just cried.

John sat next to her, patting her back wondering what on Earth he could do to make her

happy.

"Is it something my fault, love?"

"No."

"Is it something to do with the baby?"

She cried harder, great heaving, choking sobs onto his shoulder, as if they would tear her

apart. "Not exactly."

"Then what is it?" Breathless, agonised sobs. He had never felt so scared or so helpless.

Mary was always so happy, she never broke down and cried like this. The more he kissed

and comforted her, the more she cried.

Eventually she whispered. "I wanted to keep it secret, so you wouldn't know, but I can't."

And then finally the four terrible words. "I cheated on you."

"When?"

"Ages ago. Months ago. Suppose… suppose the baby's not yours?" And she broke down

again and could not be consoled for hours.

John had never really been cheated on before. He had never been properly together with a

girl so she could cheat on him. Before Mary they had just been… girls. In films, this sort of

thing was romantic. In real life, it was just miserable and embarrassing.

He wasn't angry. He loved Mary, truly, madly, deeply. Beyond jealousy, beyond spite,

beyond grudges. It might hurt, but it hurt more to think of living without her. "I still you,"

he said. "I'll always love you."

"So will I," said Mary. "Promise." And she kissed him.

She didn't though.

It was the way it always happened. She got a new job, she met knew men, she got bored of

him and went out with her friends.

Then the polite letter. I need my own space. It's not you, it's me. "You've been a lovely

boy-friend, truly, but the truth is I can't stop thinking about the other fellow. He was so

different, he was from another world. Even though I know I'll never find him." The usual.

He ripped it up and threw it in the fire.

Soon after that the baby was born, a healthy boy with big, happy violet eyes. He was all he

cared about. Sure, he might not be his, but what did it matter? He wanted him. There

seemed no chance of the other fellow turning up and claiming him.

"If you care that much about him," said Mary. "You can have him. I was going to give him

up for adoption anyway."

So John raised the baby, even though he was sure as he grew up that he wasn't his, for who in

his or Mary's families had violet eyes? He called him Matthew, because it began with M.

He was a lovely boy, happy, funny with a laugh like Mary's, so bright. So extraordinarily

bright.

He was moved to the gifted and talented section at school. He received offers from special

courses for incredibly intelligent children. He must have got it from the other fellow.

Neither John nor Mary had been very good at school-work.

He saw Mary around, sometimes. They never spoke, but he pointed her out to Matthew.

"Your wonderful mother."

She seemed to be drifting. She never had another boy-friend. She quit her job because she

was bored. She got involved in bizarre mystical and paranormal groups, then UFO research

societies. Last thing he heard of her she had borrowed some money to move to an Ancient

Astronauts' believers' club in America.

One night, when Matthew was twelve, John was woken by a high whining noise. Light was

coming through the curtains. He went to Matthew's room, but Matthew wasn't there. John

went out to the lawn behind the flats. Then he wondered if he were dreaming. For there on

the lawn was a huge, shining metal sphere, and Mathew, with his violet eyes glowing, was

standing with a group of what John could only call angels.