File of the Inmate P-236
Evie opened her eyes. She rubbed her still sluggish eyelids and gazed into Newt’s dreamy face against the morning sun. She blinked again briefly to make sure she was no longer asleep, but her husband’s hazel eyes still looked at her. Evie’s gaze wandered over the wrinkles around his eyes, the dark blond strands of hair that fell across his forehead, and the trimmed dark moustache that framed his fine lips. Her whole face was filled with a happy smile, which Newt returned with a mischievous grin. „Good morning, my dear. How did you sleep?“
„Good! But when you look at me like this in the morning, I still feel as if I were still in a fairy-tale dream,“ Evie replied dreamily. „Well, I’ll let you two dream on a little longer!“ Her husband laughed, kissed her on the forehead and got up.
Evie turned on her back so that she could gently stroke her belly with her hand. At first she felt only the silk of her nightgown under her fingers, but then she clearly felt the soft kicks. She knew it would be a beautiful little boy who would make her happiness perfect in a few weeks. Evie stood up, stepped up to the big round mirror and looked at the spherical belly under her long nightgown with delight.
Her present life still seemed so unreal to her, for she had always been a rather reserved woman. The only thing she had ever felt safe in was her work as a midwife. The first time she had assisted in a birth was when she was a young girl giving birth to her sister. An unusual circumstance which had awakened in Evie a passion for obstetrics. Nevertheless, as a midwife assistant to her mother, she developed a real talent for it. This went so far that even after her early death she was accepted in this position by everyone in her neighbourhood. At that time she often thought that as a midwife she could be happy if she found a man at all. But then she met Newt Rogers, a wealthy doctor from London. He was lovable, courteous and a few weeks later her husband. What a feeling of happiness she had been overcome by when she introduced herself for the first time with Misses Rogers. While Evie thought of her time in London, her gaze wandered from the mirror to the window, out over the sun-yellow fields which lay behind her new country house. Blessedly, she continued to stroke her belly and speak to herself.
„Soon you’ll be jumping through the garden, we’ll watch you do it and be the happiest little family here in Hertford. Thank you, my son!“
Days later, however, the fortune seemed to have left Evie.
„WHY? Why are you doing this to me?“ cried Evie as she pounded her husband’s chest with her fists. Newt, however, did not respond to the screams or to the blows of his wife. She sobbed, laid her head on his cold shoulder and began to cry bitterly. It felt like an eternity as Evie stood sobbing next to the body of her husband until Father Cartwright took care of her.
„Come, Mrs Rogers, sit down a moment,“ he tried to calm her down. He led Evie from her husband’s open casket to one of the wooden benches in the chapel. Evie didn’t even notice him, her mind was only on Newt. It had only been a harmless mistake on his part; just a small incision with a scalpel, which he had made himself during a medical treatment. But it had been enough to cause the wound fever from which Newt never recovered. Evie collapsed from exhaustion.
About two weeks must have passed since the funeral. What Evie didn’t know for sure was when she woke up on that cloudy day. Her memory of the last few days was full of holes. Some days it was as if she had skipped the day before. During this time she had dismissed the maid, had rarely left the house and had received no visitors. But although she had not let anyone into the house, it seemed as if she was not alone. So she remembered a morning three days ago: When she entered the dining room, she found a breakfast table set for two people. Just as she had always done for her breakfast with Newt when the maid was not present. Only she could not remember having done this the day before. That morning she collapsed at the sight of the two covers alone. Even now, days later, she was overcome with terrible sadness when she recalled the image of the laid table in her mind.
„Never again will I eat with Newt. Never again will his tender looks await me when I open my eyes. Never again will I hear his voice,“ Evie thought and felt the tears running down her cheeks. But then a violent movement in her stomach tore her from her melancholy. It was the first time since the funeral that Evie consciously felt the kicks of her unborn child, Newt’s child, again. The only thing that remained of him and made her get up in the morning at all. She had to be strong for their child, she couldn’t lose control.
In the days that followed, Evie was able to repress her grief over Newt’s death as much as possible. Also, the memory gaps that she had to struggle with again and again were mostly gone. The birth of her child announced itself all the more strongly. Her belly had already lowered noticeably and slight bleeding had begun. It was a rainy and stormy evening when Evie realized that her water had broken. It was too late for help. So she fetched fresh linen from the dresser, a wash tub with fresh water and dragged herself to her bed. She struggled with labor for several hours. Bathed in sweat and near exhaustion, Evie gave birth to a son in her bed. In the Rogers‘ house, however, there was a dead silence that night.
The storm had cleared and the first faint rays of sunshine squeezed through the grey clouds as the back door of the small cottage on the outskirts of Hertford opened. A woman in a blood-stained nightgown stepped out onto the lawn. In her right hand she held a shovel and under her left arm was a small bloody linen package. Half an hour passed before she entered the house again without the linen package.
She stowed the shovel away, washed the dirt from her arms and legs, put on her black, red lace dress and did her hair. With a searching look she stood in front of the mirror. „Gee, Evie dear, you’re all pale. You’re carrying Newt’s son inside you, you’d better watch out for yourself,“ she said in a reproachful tone to her reflection. „Well, how about cooking you some hearty soup for supper?“
„That’s a marvellous idea,“ she replied to herself. She grabbed a wicker basket and immediately left the house for the Hertford market. After a few yards, she met Father Cartwright’s wife. „Hello, Mrs Rogers. You look a little pale. Are you feeling all right?“
„Oh hello! We must have been a bit affected by yesterday’s storm,“ Evie replied with a smile and stroked her belly tenderly. A little perplexed, Mrs. Cartwright looked at Evie’s stomach. It did not look as if the birth was still pending. However, Mrs. Cartwright was obviously uncomfortable to address her observation, as she wanted to take into account Newt’s death and Evie’s grief. So she politely tried to change the subject.
„Indeed, a terrible storm it was. Should you ever find yourself alone in the big house without Mr Rogers, you know you’re always welcome here, my dear.“
„Thank you very much, that’s very thoughtful of you,“ Evie replied kindly to Mrs Cartwright, but was visibly surprised at her remark. It contained concerns about her husband’s possible absence, so she pushed a bit harshly: „But our Newt will be home for dinner tonight.“
Mrs. Cartwright took a step back but could not hide the slight consternation in her voice: „Excuse my directness, Mrs. Rogers, but her husband recently passed away!“ Evie’s eyes turned to stone. She had everything under control, her life with Newt was perfect, and she certainly wouldn’t let such impudence ruin it. „How dare you? Don’t you find this joke a little macabre? Our Newt is in London on business, not pleasure.“
The padre’s wife became insecure, but didn’t give up. In a deliberately soft voice, she reiterated: „I’m really sorry if I offended you. “ But are you sure you’re all right, Evie? “ Meanwhile, Mrs. Cartwright saw Evie’s face continuing to tense up. But Evie also saw that not only was she forgetting her manners, but she was becoming increasingly suspicious of Mrs. Cartwright. If she continued in this manner, she would never be rid of this curious woman.
„Excuse me, but we really must go and do our errands at the market,“ Evie replied curtly. „Goodbye!“ Without waiting for another reaction, she continued on her way to the marketplace. Mrs. Cartwright, on the other hand, watched Evie perplexed for quite a while.
By the time Evie reached her destination, she had forgotten all about the incident with Mrs. Cartwright. Blessedly, she strolled through the small stalls of the marketplace, looking for the right vegetables for her soup. She did not let the cloudy sky or the muddy ground of the marketplace spoil her mood. Even when the first raindrops fell, she enjoyed feeling every single drop on her face with her eyes closed. The dark cloud cover quickly became thicker, so that individual drops turned into a light shower. She opened her eyes again.
For a moment, the rain obscured her vision, but then Evie immediately recognized the town square. She panicked. How had she got here? The last thing she remembered was her water breaking. Her baby! Evie looked down on herself. But her stomach, that had been growing steadily for nine months, was flat. A thick lump formed in her throat, her heart and her thoughts racing. „My son!“ cried Evie. „What about my son?“
„Calm down, Evie! He’s all right. I’ll take care of him.“ Evie looked around in horror. She was in the middle of the market stalls. But because of the rain, few people were out and no one seemed to really care for her. Her movements became more hectic. Who was the woman who answered her?
„Who are you? Show yourself!“ Looking for the face to the voice, her gaze wandered in panic from one person to another. However, there were only merchants near her, who gave her disparaging looks, and the other few present gave her a wide berth.
„I am your friend, Evie. I’ll take care of you,“ the woman reassured him again in a confident voice. Evie was certain that no one in her immediate surroundings had spoken to her. Slowly, a feeling of fear overcame her. Reluctantly and with two watchful eyes, she walked down the market stalls. „Leave me alone! I just want to know what is going on with my child,“ she begged the stranger.
„Evie, you were standing next to her last night as you have been for the past weeks,“ the voice tried to calm her down. „You needed me and I took care of everything.“
„What have you done with my baby?“ cried Evie desperately. She turned around frantically again, but still could not make out the woman who was answering her. It was unbearable – she had to leave. She grabbed her skirt on both sides, pulled it up a few inches higher and hurried back as fast as she could to her country house on the edge of the small town.
Arriving at the house, Evie tore open the front door and stormed into the bedroom. But the only thing that suggested what happened last night was the bloodstained bedspread on her bed. The memories of last night came to her in fragments: the washtub, the fresh sheets, the pain. Evie suspected evil, but could remember nothing else. Tears ran down her cheeks. Desperately she sank down on the bed and buried her face in her hands. „What happened to my son,“ she whimpered before she heard the voice of the unknown woman again – here in her bedroom.
„Evie. I told you, he’s all right.“
Evie’s head raced. She jumped up and looked around the room. „WHO ARE YOU? Where are you hiding?“ Her eyes wandered the mirror. She expected to look into her panic-stricken face in it, but it was a calm, composed look that looked out at her. Moreover, her reflection spoke at the same moment as the unknown woman. „I am you,“ explained her reflection in a calm voice, „and you are me.“
„No, I’m not. No. It can’t be,“ Evie’s heart was racing, she could hardly breathe. „How can this be? It’s not possible.“ Her head seemed to burst. She tried desperately to squeeze it with her hands. She screamed at her mirror:
„WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY SON?“ But the person opposite in the mirror remained calm. Only her eyes seemed to look at Evie with concern. „Evie, calm down. „You and Newt and your little boy are gonna be one big happy family. „But you have to trust me.“
Evie took a step towards the mirror. Definitely it was not a dream, but this reflection, this other me of her, was not real. It had to be a fantasy. And so she responded snidely, „Trust you? You do not exist! You’re only in my head.“
With a slightly offended look on her face, Evie defended herself in the mirror: „Do I exist. „Without me, your little family would have broken up long ago. You know the truth and deep down you know it too. So do not deny me lightly! I know you’ve felt my presence these past few weeks.“
A feeling of powerlessness was building up in Evie. She couldn’t remember what had happened last night. She was no longer herself, and worse, she went mad! Evie clenched her fist, and shortly afterwards, the mirror shattered into a thousand pieces. At that moment, someone opened the door of the bedroom. „Evie! Evie, are you in here? The door of the house was open… “ Gladys faltered when she saw the broken mirror. „Her face became confused.
“ “ Is it well, Evie? “ She continued. Completely surprised by the interruption, Evie forgot for a moment the mirror and her alter ego. Gladys had been working as a midwife here in the city before Evie came to Hertford. But her appearance here was unusual. „Gladys! What are you doing here?“
„I need your help. The woman from the farm outside town has been in labor for several hours and I don’t know what to do,“ Gladys explained. Her gaze remained fixed on the broken mirror the whole time, but then wandered across the bed to the bloody sheet. With a worried tone, she asked, „What happened here, Evie?“
Evie struggled for an explanation. „Just a moment ago I was inattentive and broke this beautiful mirror through my carelessness. „But all I did was make a small cut.“ With a defensive gesture, Evie pushed Gladys out of the bedroom. She wanted to prevent Gladys from asking any more questions about the bloodstained sheet or the mirror. So she tried to distract them by drawing attention back to the birth of the farmer’s wife.
„What happened, Gladys? How can I help?“, Evie asked as calmly as she could. „I can’t seem to turn the child’s head. With your experience in London, you might be able to deliver the child more safely.“ Evie had no choice; she had to follow her to escape further questions. She also couldn’t shake the feeling that her memories of what happened last night could come back if she was confronted again with the situation of a birth.
Childbirth was a torturous procedure for mother and child. The baby had not turned. It took Evie some time to get the baby into the right position. But the closer the delivery came, the more Evie began to recall her own agonizing hours the night before. The fresh linen sheets, the pain, the blood, every last detail came back. To the point where a beautiful little boy was born. Evie cut the umbilical cord, wrapped the child in clean linen sheets and held the screaming boy in her hands.
Almost at the same moment she heard again the cheerful female voice she had heard in the marketplace and from her reflection in the mirror. „You see, Evie, I told you I’d take good care of him.
„A son. I knew it would be a son,“ whispered Evie excitedly. Gladys didn’t quite understand what Evie was saying, but apparently she spoke to the boy. She turned to the exhausted mother. “ Congratulations. „He’s a healthy and handsome boy. Do you already know his name?“
„Ethan. „I want to name him Ethan,“ Evie replied before the mother could. She looked at the little bundle in her hands, beaming with joy.
„Surely the mother of the child should choose the name. Don’t you think so?“ Gladys asked her in amazement and asked her with a gesture of her hand to give her the child.
„Evie, she is trying to take our son away from us,“ the woman’s voice replied.
Evie replied bewildered, „Why would she do that?“
„Because she does not want us to be happy.“
Gladys took fright. Evie talked to herself, but her voice seemed to change every time. She was still holding the boy close to her chest. Gladys was now trying to take the child right out of her hands.
„NO! YOU WILL NOT TAKE MY SON AWAY FROM ME!“
„Evie, please give me the child. He should go to his mother.“
„He is with its mother,“ Evie replied, grabbing the umbilical scissors with her free hand at the same moment and ramming them into Gladys‘ throat. The boy was still clasped tightly in the other hand. Gladys look was marked by pain and horror, but Evie stabbed her chest again and again with the scissors. Only when she lay motionless on the floor did Evie let go of her.
The mother, still exhausted from the birth, cowered in the last corner of her bed and whimpered pitifully. Evie gently laid the child in the basket with the fresh linen. „Mama will be right back.“ She kissed him on the forehead, turned to the bed and walked towards the sobbing mother with scissors in her hand. One well-aimed thrust, the sheet turned blood-red and now only the crackle of the fire could be heard. Slowly she went to the tub of fresh water, washed her bloody hands and looked at her reflection.
„You see, Evie dear, if we stick together, no one will stand in the way of our happiness!“ Speaking gleefully, Evie left the yard with her son in her arms. „Oh, my little Ethan, Daddy must be so happy to see you tonight! „And then we’ll ask him what he thinks about a little sister. Then you’d have someone to play with.