It’s time for another Sunday night short story. If you missed my post last Sunday, I am trying to hone in my fiction writing skills and improve my writing by publishing a short story here on my blog every Sunday. Thank you everyone who read last weeks post, I really appreciate all your feedback and all your positive comments made me so happy. This weeks writing prompt was to write about what you see out of your window. I used the prompt but put a spin on it, this story is all about new Mum Clemmie and what she sees and feels when she looks out of her bedroom window. I hope you enjoy and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Short stories for mums – The other side of the window
Clemmie can’t remember the last time she left the house after dark. The latest she goes out now is 5pm and if she’s not home by six anxiety begins to knot in her stomach and she panics without really understanding why.
She wasn’t always this way, her nights out with friends wouldn’t begin until nine at the earliest. Lucy, Emma and Katie would bang on her door, hands full of bottles of cheap wine and sparking dresses covering their bodies and shimmering shadow painted on their eyelids; once they had drank the bottles empty they’d walk out into the darkness and not rerun home until a sunrise threatened on the horizon. Those days are long gone now and Clemmie mourns them like a much loved family member who died too young.
Clemmie rocks from side to side and tries to remember what that life was like, the life where her days didn’t end at seven and her nights were for fun and not for trying to scavenge as many hours of sleep together as she possibly could. As she stares out of her bedroom window, looking out at the dimly lit street below, Clemmie feels like she’s in a hotel room studying a road in a city she visited a long time ago. She recognises the street of course, she walks up and down it every single day and has lived here for over five years. However, when the sun goes down and everyone locks themselves in for the night with box sets and take aways to pass the time, Clemmie’s street transforms to a place she hasn’t visited for a very long time.
Despite the black sky overhead and the streetlights casting a ghostly white glow on the ground, creating shadows that loom ominously over the parked cars, Clemmie longs to run down the stairs, throw open her front door and suck in the air that feels so different in her lungs when it’s night. She doesn’t do any of those things, instead she sways from side to side and continues to study the view below.
It’s 3.40am, she has been awake for two hours now and she’s been staring out of her window for at least one of those. Her street is nothing special, terrace houses are squashed together like commuters on the underground, every house has the same small gate leading straight from the pavement, there’s a foot or two of concrete paving stones before you reach the front door. Clemmie painted her door pink two weeks after she and Joe moved in, desperate to add some character to their new home that was, until then, an exact replica to those that surrounded it; other residents on the street have since slicked red, blue, green or yellow gloss over theirs.
If it were not for the doors creating a disjointed and muddled rainbow across the houses, this road would be identical to the ones that run parallel to its left and its right and the streets that split off at the cross roads that bookend it.
Clemmie pushes her face closer to the glass, her tired eyes searching for signs of life on the other side of the pane. She wonders if anyone else is awake, is anyone else swaying from side to side? Does anyone else miss the way walking in the cold air and darkness can make you feel more alive than at any other time of a twenty four hour day? Is there anyone else on this street who feels how she feels right now?
It’s a Tuesday night, there’s no reason for anyone to be trudging along the pavement at this time. She squints her tired eyes and scans the small gaps between the bottom of cars and the road, looking for a stray cat but there are none, not even the underweight tabby that likes to hiss at anyone who crosses its path. Not falling out of rhythm with her swaying, Clemmie steps closer still to the window, her nose now kissing the cold glass. She wants to see a fox stalking in the shadows or a family of rats scurrying around looking for food scraps on the ground. She’d settle for a hedgehog slowly creeping through the small front garden of the house opposite or even a bat flying in solitude across the black space above the roofs. Any sign of life outside of this bedroom, that’s all Clemmie wants to see.
Eventually she peels her eyes away from the window and, still swaying, she peers down into her arms. Her baby is finally asleep, her eyes closed tight and small snuffle sounds are coming from her nose. Clemmie walks across the bedroom and places her daughter down into her cot, her movements as stealthy as a ninja but she can feel her heart pounding in her chest. This could easily go wrong, she could have mistimed the move, the cold sheet could startle her baby awake, it’s happened many times before. Clemmie can’t cope with any more swaying tonight. When the baby’s back touches the cot mattress the universe is on Clemmie’s side and she stays asleep, turning her head away from the pool of light that is creeping through the open curtains.
Clemmie walks back to source of the light, looks around for any other open windows, any other new mums staring outside, searching for solidarity in the form of a swaying face behind the glass. There’s no one. Clemmie pulls the striped curtains together, as they touch and close off the lifeless world outside an upstairs light in one of the houses further down the street clicks on. A young single Mum lives there, she’s recently had twins. With one baby in each arm she clumsily pulls open her bedroom curtains and searches for a friend in the night too.
Perhaps one day the two women will meet. For tonight, they both sway and stare out of their windows and search the darkness outside for something, anything, to help them make it through another night. Just another night in this new life that began the day theirs babies were born.
The nights can be lonely when you are awake with a baby. During the newborn days, what did you use to do and think about to help you get through those long hours in the night?