I was almost finished packing. I laid my bag on the bed. The house was empty. The kids were at school, my wife was at work. So was Harry. Maria was in the kitchen, I could hear her footsteps through the ceiling.
She was standing at the sink, doing something with the syringes. The baby was in its cot, under the window, wrapped in a blanket. It was sleeping.
‘Maria,’ I said. ‘We need to talk.’
‘Oh?’ she said.
‘It’s about the baby,’ I said.
‘What about it?’ she said. She looked at the cot. The blanket didn’t move.
I took a deep breath and held it. The yard was silent. It was just the two of us. And the baby. The three of us. ‘Is it mine?’ I said.
Her eyes narrowed. She crossed the floor and clicked the door shut behind me. I don’t know why she did that. Then she resumed her position next to the drying board, leaning on it. There was a damp patch on her blouse, at the bottom of her left breast. She folded her arms. ‘Are you stupid?’ she said. ‘We agreed never to mention…’
‘I know,’ I said, ‘but…’
‘What do you mean, is it yours?’ she said.
‘You know…’ I said.
Something was playing around the corners of her eyes. The beginnings of a smile. ‘But you’re…you can’t…how could it be yours?’ she said.
‘Yes, okay,’ I said, ‘but the dates…’
She laughed in my face. ‘It’s not yours,’ she said. ‘I only let you do it because you’re…’
The baby screamed in its sleep.