Each week I’ve been posting excerpts from Beginnings to introduce you to the main players ahead of the book’s release on 2 November.
This week, I’m giving you the opening chapter. This is Steve.
The house was too quiet. The baby was asleep after a night full of screaming and tears. Steve sat at the kitchen table, baby monitor next to his hands, resting on the table top. He listened to his son’s breathing, feeling his own body relax and his eyes close. Everything ached. He’d never been much for crying. It just wasn’t done in his family. He had shed multiple tears as the midwife had handed a newborn Joe for him to clumsily hold for the first time. He seemed to remember getting a little watery-eyed when Rachel had agreed to marry him. The only other time he could remember crying was when he was small and had fallen off his bike. His dad had picked him up, roughly brushed him down and plonked him back on the saddle. Steve wondered briefly what he would do when Joe fell off his bike.
The emptiness of the house brought him back. The silence itself was a sound, reverberating off the walls. Joe could certainly hear it. He had been such a quiet baby when they’d brought him home. He cried when he was hungry, or needed changing, but otherwise seemed an unnaturally happy, gurgling baby. He hadn’t even woken when Steve’s mates had come round to watch the World Cup, cheering, supping at their beers.
Now Joe cried and cried. He screamed, he sobbed, he hiccupped until he passed into a fretful sleep. Steve knew he should sleep when Joe slept, but he couldn’t.
The amount of tears he had cried these past few months had more than made up for a lifetime of not crying. It wasn’t over yet.
At first, Steve couldn’t sleep because when he closed his eyes, he saw her face. Now he couldn’t sleep because of what might wake him.
Still, his mind grew fuzzy, his heavy, exhausted eyes closing properly, his brain shutting down to sleep.
The baby monitor crackled.
Steve’s eyes opened, staring forward, past the baby monitor on the table and into the hallway. It was real. He hadn’t dreamt it, he hadn’t imagined it. He wasn’t having delusions. He knew in his gut that this was real, this was happening.
Holding his breath, he looked at the monitor and watched the light flicker as the noise grew. It sounded like white noise, the crackling of empty space when an old analogue television couldn’t be tuned in.
A flash of light caught the corner of his eye and Steve looked back up to the hallway. There was only darkness.
Then Joe’s crying broke through and Steve was on his feet, knocking the table, causing the monitor to fall over as he ran up the stairs. The crackling on the monitor quietened until the only sounds in the empty kitchen were the muffled whispers of Steve calming his son.