Sunday 18 September 2016


Obviously I did not actually intend to end up with a baby. I’m perfectly happy on my own, thank you very much, and if that man had never come into my vegetable garden and started stealing my rocket none of this would ever have happened.

I could see right away that he was one of those vain types who thought he could use his handsome face to get him out of a sticky situation. There he was, caught red-handed, so to speak, squatting in my vegetable garden with a bunch of rocket in his hand. “I’m so sorry,” he bleated, his pretty big brown eyes filling with tears. “It’s for my wife. She’s pregnant and rocket is the only thing she can keep down.” No matter he could have just come and asked me for some, or better still sent her. I wouldn’t have let another woman suffer. I don’t even like rocket. I can’t imagine why I still grow it. In memory of her, I suppose. Another one of those little routines I can’t quite bear to let go.

So there he was, my neighbour, waiting for me to weaken at the sight of his stunning masculinity and it was just one more irritation to add to all the condescension and suspicion that comes my way every time I’m forced to be around a member of that sex. So I told him to get out of my garden, that I was going to prosecute. I let him take the bunch of rocket though, and each day that followed I picked a new bunch and left it on their doorstep before either of them were up. After all, why should she suffer?

It was probably those early-morning gifts that made him so cocky when the case came before the magistrate. Or maybe he just couldn’t help himself in a room full of men. He walked in there with a swagger, sat down, legs spread, the way a man will do, and he grinned at the magistrate. If the woman had been there, I would never have done it. But she was too swollen to stir so far from the house by then. I’d watched over her all those months, seen her grow stouter, wearier, as she sat on the bench outside her house when her work was done, always with some little garment in her hands.

When the judge found in my favour and asked what reparation I required, even as my demand came out of my mouth, I was certain I wouldn’t ask for payment when the moment came. A baby? What on earth would I do with a baby? The man looked properly chastised which was all I’d been aiming for, so when I walked out of that court building I was perfectly satisfied. It was only as I passed him outside on the steps that I changed my mind. He was standing there, preening before a group of men, positively smirking. “Could have been much worse,” he said. “A fine I couldn’t pay. Hours of work for the old crone. Babies are free. We can always make another one!” And they laughed, every one of them.

He was right. They’ll have another one. And perhaps the loss of this first one will make him value the next as a baby deserves to be valued. Obviously, I feel sorry for the wife. None of this is her fault. I try not to look out of that side of the house too often these days. Perhaps I will have the wall built a little higher. Or maybe it would be best to move away, somewhere a little more isolated before my darling girl starts to want to run about in the garden.

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