Code of Silence

“Congratulations!”  Your best friend leaps at you, wrapping you up in a hug. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

You are six weeks along; both excited and nervous at the changes taking place.

“I think I’m having a miscarriage,” you whisper into the phone.

Silence from your best friend as you start to cry.

“Firstly, was my blood test positive?” You ask your doctor.

“Yes,” he smiles. “Your tests indicate you’re almost seven weeks. You’ll be able to see us for the duration of your pregnancy, if you’re planning on going ahead with it.”

“Yes. Yes, I am but I started bleeding last night.”

“It could be nothing,” he assures you.

“But it’s most likely a miscarriage, right?” You ask calmly. You’ve been crying all morning. You can manage a controlled calm now as you sit in this small, white office facing a doctor who isn’t willing to say the words.

“This happens pretty commonly. It could be fine.” He repeats. He prints off a referral for an ultrasound and you thank him. Walking from the clinic you glance down at the doctor’s notes on the mustard-yellow sheet in your hand. “Inevitable miscarriage” the words glare up at you. Inevitable miscarriage? Inevitable.

“The doctor wrote I’m having an inevitable miscarriage.” You tell the person this affects the most, second only to you.

“Are you ok?” he asks.

“No,” why should you lie? “Will you come to the ultrasound with me?”

“No. I’ve got to work.”


You go away to visit with family for a few days.

“Ella is pregnant, and so is Rita,” your dad announces during dinner.

“How far along are they?” You ask but what you really mean is; are they safe yet? Are they safe? You feel like screaming.

You go to the ultrasound. As you lie down on the bed the technician performing the scan turns the big screen off. They’ve never done that before. Obviously, you’re not supposed to see this scan.

“So, you took a pregnancy test?” The technician asks.

“I was pregnant,” you answer. “I had a positive blood test.”

She begins performing the scan, muttering something under her breath.

“You’ll need to go to your doctor to have it confirmed but it looks as your doctor said.” She tells you quietly.

You go to the doctor.

“Your results were normal,” he stammers. You can’t help but stare. Normal?

“What did you have the scan for? You got a period?”

Who has a scan because they got a period?

“No. I was pregnant. I had a miscarriage.”

“Yes, uh, they, uh, the results show no foetal matter so…” He trails off.



There is a gap between the shelf and wall where she stands bent down low and squinting at the books. She drops to her knees and pries one free, turning it over in her hands and, I assume, reading the blurb without so much as glancing at the cover. Here is a real reader-­‐ interested in the description rather than the cover art. A smile tugs at her mouth as she flips the book open and gazes intently at the open pages. I imagine her getting a feel for the writer’s style, a brief sense of the story from whatever random chapter she has discovered. She closes the book and tucks it under her arm before returning to gaze at the shelf. I have to smile. Her actions are as clear as her turning toward me and declaring “Yes. This book is a definite yes”. I glance down at my own book-­‐ a boring thing on psychology. Stuff studying, I think as I continue to watch Book Girl. She stays for ages intently searching the shelf, even pulling a few more books out and reading them at random, before finally heading toward the main desk to check the first book out. I wait a moment before packing up and leaving the library, to wait for her outside.

I lean against a tree outside the building watching a mother push her child past in a pram. The mother is young, and pretty. I meet her eyes and smile warmly. Startled, she blushes and quickens her pace. I shake my head. Some women are so nervous. I bet Book Girl isn’t like that. She appears before me, her dark hair lighter in the sunlight, and her tan pleasing against the white of her denim shorts. She heads toward the station directly across from the library and I follow. She must be local to the suburb-­‐ if she wasn’t wouldn’t she borrow her books from her local library? So she must be. Where is she going by train then? To visit a friend…or a boyfriend? My heart thumps hard as I imagine her in a boys lap. I imagine her soft kisses, the feel of her skin sliding against…mine.

She pays for a ticket and goes to sit on a seat halfway down platform two. I do the same and wait near an elderly couple arguing over how to use the ticket machine. In a matter of minutes the train heading to Flinders St arrives. The old woman starts screeching at her husband that he

forgot the spare change. I laugh quietly to myself. They’re going to miss this train. I am careful to make sure I saunter down to the same carriage as her. The train is practically empty at this time of day so it is easy to choose a seat directly across from her. I pull out my phone and pretend to be absorbed in it whilst flickering my gaze to her at every chance. Should I take a photo? I feel my pulse quicken and my cheeks burn. How could I do it without her noticing? I could just lift the phone higher and take one and she would never know. She might suspect though. She might shift uncomfortably in her seat, maybe even turn away or get up. She starts rummaging in her bag. This is my chance. I hesitate, my phone shaking in my hands, before quickly opening the camera app and snapping a blurry photo. She pulls out the book from the library and I can read the title easily, Cold Comfort Farm. What’s it about? It sounds like one of those spooky thrillers…cold comfort farm. Maybe an old guy has this sick farm where he has sex slaves or something. I like the idea of Book Girl reading something like that. She smiles as she reads and even laughs quietly to herself. What could possibly be so funny about it? It is a Penguin Classics and I have never liked them. They’re the books were forced to read in school, definitely nothing to do with sex slaves. I like that she reads and that books can make her laugh. She is probably one of those intense, thoughtful girls. Those are the best kind, I think. She bites her lip as she reads and reaches up to run her fingers through her hair dozens of times. She probably does that in bed too, the biting her lip thing. I’d bet anything that she’d bite me too. She tilts her head to one side, shifting her hair out of the way, to expose the delicate skin of her neck. A slice of light cuts across her bare throat.

“Now arriving at Dennis”, the voice announces over the speaker.

Book Girl jumps slightly and stuffs the book back into her bag. She gets up quickly only to stand at the doors to wait as the trains pulls to a slow, shuddering stop. I get off close behind her, close enough to smell her and breathe in her delicious scent as deeply as I can. My mouth waters slightly at the smell of her hair-­‐ coconuts and strawberries. I feel myself harden slightly beneath my jeans as her bag brushes across my arm. Now is not the time for that, I tell myself firmly.

Together we leave the station and walk a short way down a main road. Then she makes my breath quicken by turning into an alley. I follow as close behind her as I can, wondering if she is at all spooked by my presence. She hardly seems to have noticed me apart from a brief, distanced smile as we got off the train. Where is she is heading? She walks with purpose, swinging her hips. She even waves at two punk kids with hair dyed bright blue and pink, carrying guitars. They wave back but don’t stop to talk to her. We walk down two more streets, crossing a road and coming to a highway, passing several more kids. They are all unique in a similar way, with their messy, unnaturally dyed hair and black and torn outfits. Many have piercings and walk staring at the ground with their music blaring faintly from oversized headphones as they pass.

“Hi Paul,” she yelps to a tall guy with a pierced brow as we stop at the lights. She inclines her head in his direction, smiling hopefully at him as he lopes past. I glare at him, happy that he doesn’t seem to hear her. He had better not notice her, ever…

The lights turn green and we stroll across the road. Where are we going? We pass a sign that reads Yarra Bend Rd. it’s much quieter than the main road we’ve left behind. As we walk I notice dozens of other kids around and some much older people. Most of them are carrying papers and bags. I suppose that’s why she didn’t get nervous about being followed. She probably thinks I am a student here too. We pass a red bricked fence emblazoned with a large blue and white NMIT sign making a right turn and entering the campus grounds. So, she is a student.

“Hey,” I say and nod at her as we head down a path toward a small cluster of tables and chairs shaded by large umbrellas. She looks at me quizzically for a moment. I’m afraid she won’t say anything back.

“Hey.” She smiles warmly at me “What are you here for?”

“Oh. I’m…um checking it out. Y’know thinking of enrolling here…you?” I stammer. I cringe inwardly as I feel heat sting my cheeks. Hopefully it doesn’t show.

“I’m here for photography.” She answers, lifting a small camera case I hadn’t noticed tucked into her handbag. “What course were you thinking of doing?”

“Something in Psych,” I answer, praying they do that here.

“I didn’t know they did Psych courses here!’ she exclaims. She seems so excited about it and so happy to be talking to me. If only we were somewhere more private. “That must be one of the Higher Ed courses, yeah?”

“Yeah,” I nod. By now we have entered a small, crowded café “Anyway, I gotta go. I hope to see you around…?”

“Sophie,” she finishes for me. “Don’t you want anything? The coffee here is pretty good”

I grin at her eagerness and begin to turn away. What’s the point in just talking in a crowded café? All I know is her name…Sophie and the smell of her hair, and the way she bites her bottom lip, flicking her tongue out slightly as she reads. Hopefully she is intrigued by me. Maybe she will wonder about me all day, and go to sleep with me on her mind? Who knows? I can wait for her at the station later. I can wait for her outside the school. I can even wait for her at the library. After all, she will have to return that book someday.


My eyes snap open and I moan into my pillow. The room is dark but a gap in the curtains casts a grey light. I stretch my legs out, wincing as pain shoots up my right leg from the knee. I shut my eyes and take inventory of my bruises. I can feel my right shoulder aching. It will probably be the worst. It’s stiff and during the night it had ached. My left thigh is throbbing. I reach my hand under the warm blanket to stroke it. It’s a swollen lump.

It didn’t happen. It didn’t happen.

 Alice stirs in the bed beside me. I roll over to look at her. She is sprawled across the mattress; her head is on my pillow, her feet in his back.

Does he have bruises from that?

 An alarm starts chirping. I roll over to face the window, closing my eyes again.

I am asleep. I am asleep.

 I can hear him getting up, rummaging in his closet next to the bed. I hear a rustling as he pulls his suit out, then the door that adjoins our room to the bathroom slides open and he is gone. I turn my head to look at Alice. She is perfect. Her mouth parted in her sleep, long dark eyelashes sweeping her cheeks. Her plump hands are curled into fists resting near her face. She snores quietly. I can hear the rushing of water from the bathroom, then silence, then dishes clattering in the kitchen. Finally, the front door opens and bangs shut. The echo of the slam rings throughout the house. Alice snorts awake.

“Good morning, bubba.” I say brightly. I scoop her into my arms, kissing her chubby cheeks, and carry her out into the kitchen. The curtains are opened wide and a butter-yellow light pours in through the windows. We have the whole day to ourselves.

I make Alice breakfast. I tidy the kitchen. I do the laundry, taking Alice out to play in her pool whilst I hang out the washing. Sometime after lunch I start preparing dinner. I am careful to not use much capsicum. He hates capsicum, says the flavor overpowers the rest of the food because I always use too much. I glance up at the clock, 4:30 pm stares back at me.

I can hear that door slam again. Bang! And then the silence, his way of

communicating to me. Cautiously I approach the computer and turn it on, the machine whirring as it starts up. One word dominates the screen: password. I type it in, incorrect. His way of communicating to me also, the phones that have been unplugged and the password to the computer reset. I switch off the machine and hurry back to stir the pasta sauce, scared that I even tried.

I keep my own phone close, in my pocket at all times. I am lucky to still have it.

Should I ring again? Should I ring? Should I ring? But, what good would it do? What would I say?

 By five we are sitting around the table, eating the spaghetti. Alice has hers in the high chair. She has thrown her plastic fork aside and is using her hands, scooping handfuls of pasta and shoveling them into her mouth. Pasta sauce stretches from her neck up to her nose. She grins at me, reaching up to run a hand through her hair.

“Oh, Alice.” I sigh as she leaves a trail of sticky noodles. She laughs, picks up her bowl and throws it to the floor.

“All done,” she declares. I haven’t the heart to yell at her.

“Okay, darling.” I say, leaving my own bowl untouched. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”

Water slops over the edge of the bath, soaking into the pile of spaghetti-splattered clothing, as Alice kicks her feet in delight. I pluck some spaghetti from her hair as she bends her head. Wet curls cling to her cheeks as she licks the bubbles foaming on the surface.

“No, Alice. Yucky!” I exclaim, widening my eyes in mock-horror. I scoop some of the bubbles up and cover her in them.

“Yucky bubbles,” she whoops. I scoop some more and, holding them in my hands, show her how to clap and send them flying. I could sit here all night scooping bubbles and clapping- listening to Alice giggling. I turn around to check my phone, hidden behind my makeup bag. No messages, no missed calls. I meet my reflections gaze, worry and fear lurking in my expression. I can see my skin blackening already. I look away, unwilling to look directly. If I pretend it’s not there maybe I can pretend it never happened.

It didn’t happen. It didn’t happen.

 “More, more.” Alice whines, reaching a soapy hand out to me.

“Okay! More bubbles.” I force a smile, cringing at my shrill cheer. Thank god she is too young to notice. I hear a door bang shut and footsteps just as my phone rings. The ringing sounds too loud as Alice stops giggling. The screen shows my parents number. I reach for the phone, hesitating as I hear him outside the bathroom door. Alice stands up reaching out to me.

“Mummy?” she trembles. I silence the phone, throwing it beneath a towel, as the door swings open.

“I’m just giving her a bath.” I explain. “She was covered in her dinner, threw it everywhere…It was even in her hair.” I avoid his eyes.

“Where’s your phone?” he asks. I pause, not knowing what to do.

“I haven’t rung anyone,” I answer.

“Where is your phone?” he repeats, stretching out his hand. I reach down and pull it from beneath the towels. He takes it, looking at it thoughtfully.

“Missed a call from your mum, I see.” He says. “Been trying to ring her, huh?” Paralyzed by my own weakness, I choke back tears. Alice begins to cry.

“I have to get Ally ready for bed.” I squeak. I pick her up, wrapping a towel around her, and kiss her on the forehead.

“It’s okay, darling.” I whisper as I brush past him to the safety of Alice’s room.

It’s okay. It’s okay.

Breakfast Time

It is morning; after breakfast. The sun is up and pouring burning light in through the kitchen window, promising a long and hot summer to come. I am deep in my own head, as I often am. I don’t hear or notice anything around me. I’m worse when my head is in a book. When my head is in a book mum has to yell a dozen times for me to hear her.

“Use your initiative,” she yells. Using my initiative means knowing what she wants and doing it before she has to shout, “or else!” Or else! Is a belt on the leg, cool leather marking my skin, or a slap across the face, the sting of a palm on my cheek. This morning something manages to pull me from my own head. It’s a box of flying cereal. It lands in the kitchen, spilling sugary puffs of grain across the floor. Dad had already stormed out, leaving his empty bowl on the table. There is only my little brothers and I. And mum, standing in the pantry, mumbling to herself. I look from her to the cereal. Am I going to be in trouble? I get up, meaning to clear up the cereal and use my initiative.

“Leave it,” she orders, voice low and dangerous. Then comes a box of biscuits, a packet of noodles, then jars of tomato; crumbs and sauces and shards of glass splattering all over the floor. I feel a tugging on my hand and look down.

“I’m scared,” whispers Timmy. He is six and I am ten. Ben is four and too young to understand. I take Ben’s hand and the three of us run outside into the shining light. None of us have shoes on but together we run up the driveway and cross the road into the bush. It’s quiet here, and still. Green grass, fallen trees and hundreds of wildflowers as far as I can see. No one is throwing food and cups and knives here.

“What should we do?” Timmy asks, picking some blue flowers.

“Let’s pick her flowers,” I suggest “we can take them back and maybe she won’t be angry at us” but what I really mean is maybe she won’t be angry at me.

“You should give mum the flowers,” I tell Timmy as we all pick “she never hits you”

“No, it should be Ben,” he says quickly “he’s the youngest. He’s mum’s favourite”

We start back home, walking slowly. The ground beneath our feet is a dusty red contrast to the blue sky above us. I feel sick with fear as we approach the house. We find mum curled up on a couch. I nudge Ben forward and he goes to her, flowers held out.

“I got you flower”, he says in his baby voice. Mum reaches out and pulls him to her lap, hugging him. Timmy releases my hand from his iron grip and rushes over to give mum his bunch.

“I picked you flowers too,” he says. I am angry and scared now. I don’t have a bunch to give because I had helped to pick theirs and tied them into bunches using stringy grass. They’re cuddled up to her now; safe and happy. I hang back in the doorway but mum looks over at me anyway. Her eyes find mine. Hers are a green and filled with hate. Wanting to cry, I look away.

A taste of Madness

Lisa blinks rapidly against the ache in her throat. She can’t cry. She glances around the room as the sound of the shower stops. Her mother’s handbag is perched on the bed next to the neatly folded nurses’ uniform. Lisa opens it and fumbles with the zip on the little pocket inside, meant for lipsticks and other things, and now home to The Pills. Lisa opens the packet and pops them into her hand; ten of Clozaril and twenty of Zoloft. The Zoloft could be easily pumped from her system if anyone found her but the Clorazil was lethal. She stuffs the empty packets back and slips from the room. Annemarie arrives a second too late, glancing around the room.

“Lisa?” she calls.

She opens her handbag and unzips the same pocket. The packet is there, winking reassuringly up at her. Annemarie closes the bag and slumps on the edge of the bed. If Paul were here I could have taken time off work…

Annemarie pokes her head around the door before leaving.

“Lisa, honey, try to eat something today, ok? And remember you have your blood test this afternoon.”

“Okay Mum.”

“I love you.” Anxious voice, eyes filling.

“I love you too, mum.” Voice flat, eyes downcast.

“Bye, honey.” Annemarie turns from the room, mind drifting to work.


Lisa is alone. She opens her palm and looks at the pills. What do I do?