This story was originally posted elsewhere during 2007 under the by-line The Wanderer. Sincere thanks go to LadyCibelle and Techsan for their patience, proofreading and editing skills when it came to preparing this short tale for posting.
How had I got myself into this situation, I was asking myself. Why me? What had I done to deserve this? Well, the answer was – if I was being truthful with myself, that is – that it wasn't what I had done; it was more a question of what I hadn't done. Sound confusing to you? Yeah, me, too, but now it was time for me to do something drastic, and bloody quickly as well, before things reached the point of no return.
Let's go back a little and I'll try to explain what happened. What it had started with was a quick roll in the hay after both Veronica and I had drunk too much at a party one night. We were both eighteen at the time and at the beginning of the party we had both been virgins. The following morning neither of us were virgins anymore and Ronnie had an uninvited guest in her womb.
Of course we didn't know that when we woke up in the same bed the next day. Ronnie and I – when sober at least – had never considered each other either attractive or had thoughts of dating each other. So a few choice words were exchanged between us, and I made a hasty strategic withdrawal.
Hey, don't get the idea that neither of us was attractive from what I've just said. But beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder, and until that party Veronica and I had never cast our eyes in each other's direction. Well I don't think we consciously had. You know, it's just how things go; Ronnie was just one of the girls who lived in our town and there were plenty of others who I had my eyes on.
There was a reason for that though. Veronica and her friends were in a little clique who appeared to think that they were god's gift to the world. They walked around totally convinced that their shit didn't stink, and that every other youngster in town held what they said and did in awe.
Me? Well, my friends and I had it figured that chasing after the unobtainable was a complete waste of time, long before. Consequently Ronnie and her little crowd had never been seriously added into the equation. Yeah, they'd been discussed amongst my mates, but we knew how the cookie crumbled and that there's no point in throwing snowballs at the moon.
Well, after that inexplicable night, it didn't take long for Ronnie to lose that quite shapely figure of hers. Funny how I only really noticed that figure of Veronica's, after that unsightly bump appeared in her tummy.
It wasn't very long before pointed questions were being asked. Unfortunately the finger of suspicion was soon pointing in my direction. Well, apparently Veronica - when she told her parents she was in the family way – had informed them that I was the only possible candidate for the newly available position of expectant father.
I'd have loved to have been a fly on the wall during that little exposé; I doubt that Veronica's parents ever figured me as a likely - or welcome - candidate for a son-in-law.
I'm going to tell you now that the first that I officially knew of Ronnie's pregnancy – any previous knowledge I had, was based upon rumour-mill conjecture -- was when I came home from work one evening to find my parents entertaining (if that's the right word) Veronica and her parents in our lounge. Then things really got entertaining (look, I can't help it if I've got a sick sense of humour sometimes) with Veronica's father threatening to ensure, that if I didn't do right by his daughter, I'd be singing soprano, permanently.
Now my mother was devastated by the news; but my father was of the old school and took it all in his stride. "You reap what you sow!" he used to say, and "You stand by your obligations like a man."
The net result was your typical shotgun wedding, with me kind of roped in as an afterthought.
Everything was sorted without any input from me at all: the wedding, the furnished rented cottage that we were going to live in. And the rules of engagement that we were going to live by after the wedding, as spelled out by Veronica. And, most probably, her mother, the Dragon!
My sole contribution to the proceedings – ignoring the rapidly growing bun in Veronica's oven -- was to stand at the altar and say, "I do" when directed to do so.
And then work my effin' fingers to the bone to keep "Veronica" in the style that she had become accustomed.
I say my effing fingers, because that was the only ... er, screwing that I got anywhere near doing for a bleeding long time. God, there were only single beds in that bloody cottage.
Whilst she was pregnant, Ronnie was - to put it mildly – 'one lazy cow!' If I wanted to eat when I got home from work, then I cooked for myself. Ronnie would have been around her mother's house for most of the day and she normally ate there. I assumed; you know, I never asked.
I appeared to be responsible for keeping the house clean and tidy as well; Ronnie was always complaining that she was too ill, or too tired.
Yeah, as you can guess, I didn't figure that the marriage was going to last all that long, and I doubted that Ronnie did either. I thought that once the child had been born 'in wedlock' then divorce wouldn't be long in coming onto the agenda. The sprog wouldn't be born a bastard, and I believed that's all that everyone was worrying about at the time.
But then just as Veronica was nearing full term, things took an unexpected turn, and it snowed.
Yeah, eight bleeding inches of the stuff falling during the night, was to change just about everything.
Ronnie's waters broke at about five that morning, almost two weeks early. The first I knew about it was when she yelled for me to call for an ambulance, and to be bloody quick about it.
I picked up the telephone only to find that it was completely dead. The snow had evidently brought the lines down somewhere. Mobile phones were still in the realms of the rich-yuppie posers, back then.
The next nearest telephone was on the end of the road about half a mile away, so after climbing out of the window -- there was a snowdrift up against the front door -- I battled my way through the last of the blizzard to the phone box. Only to find that ruddy telephone was out of order as well.
Now, that left me with two options. Another -- almost mile -- trek through the snowdrifts to a neighbour's house, where I suspected their telephone could well be out as well. Or, return to a very frightened Veronica, and get out the "Home Doctor" book that I'd remembered seeing on the bookshelf somewhere.
I chose the latter option and, with the book in one hand, I became a very nervous apprentice midwife with the other. I might not have felt confident about what I was doing, but I knew I had to act as if I was, for Ronnie and the baby's sake.
Look, guys, I'm sure that most of you have no idea what a breach baby is, or how to deal with it. Well, neither did I until I read that bloody book. That had the date 1905 printed inside the front cover, by the way.
Alright, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit there, but from what I could make of it the baby's head wasn't engaged and the little bugger didn't appear to me to be lined up properly according to how the book said it should be.
Was I glad that the guy who wrote the damned thing, knew his stuff, and went into the fine detail. Not pleasant reading, I can assure you; but when the need must, a ruddy godsend to me that day.
Anyway, after a bit of delicate pushing and shoving -- and a certain amount of cursing and swearing that I doubted Veronica's mother would have thought that her darling daughter would even know, let alone use, -- I suddenly found myself covered in stuff that I won't bother to describe here (some readers might have weak stomachs) and holding a darling little baby girl in my arms.
Luckily the umbilical cord was just about long enough for me to place Megan in Ronnie's arms so that I could turn the page of the book, to see what I was supposed to do next. Great, those old medical books; they assume that you are going to have little at hand to complete the operation, and make the appropriate suggestions for alternatives.
Modern books tend to say, "Call in the experts NOW!"
Ah, yeah, 'Megan!' You noticed the name, did you? I thought you would. Not my choice I can assure you. I'd always been fascinated with the name 'Ottilie' and had wanted my first female child to bear that name. The Dragon -- Veronica's mother -- was called Megan though, so I'd been outvoted on that before we even knew the sex of the child.
I'd just completed washing the baby and placed her back in her mother's arms when the two policemen climbed through the open front widow and came upstairs to see what the problem was. I'd taken the precaution of pacing out the word "HELP!" in the snow in big letters, before I'd gone back into the cottage to assist Ronnie give birth. A military helicopter-patrolling overhead had eventually spotted it and landed the two officers.
Before I knew what was happening, a doctor had arrived in a second helicopter and they made arrangements for Ronnie and Megan to be flown to hospital. I was staying behind because there was no room in the machine for me. My family, weren't the only passengers on the mercy flight.
I'd passed Megan to one of the helicopter's crew, and they were just about to load Ronnie's stretcher on board as well, when she asked them to stop. Ronnie gestured for me to come close; I actually thought she wanted to whisper something to me. As I bent down to hear what she was going to say, her arms snaked around my neck; then she pulled me down on top of her and clamped her lips on mine.
The next thing I knew her tongue is halfway down my throat and I was about to pass out from lack of oxygen. God, Ronnie took me by surprise and what air that she hadn't managed to squeeze out of my lungs, she sucked out of them.
You might not think that was an unusual thing for a loving wife to do. I don't think any of the guys who witnessed the scene, thought it strange either. But I blooding-well did! That was the first kiss I'd got out of Ronnie, since she'd given a peck on the lips by the altar on our wedding day.
"Thank you," and "I love you!" she said as I staggered back from the stretcher. Within a matter of seconds the helicopter door had slid closed and the machine was in the air.
I went back into the house to repair the damage to Ronnie's bedroom. Yeah, you got it; I did say Veronica's bedroom.
As usual around our way the snow didn't last very long. The following day, quite a lot of it had melted and I had managed to dig the car out of the garage. Getting to work for me was still out of the question though; but I thought I could make it to the hospital to visit my new baby girl.
Oh, yeah, and Veronica, my wife. Mind you, at that time the baby held far more fascination for me than Ronnie ever did. The little show of affection she'd put on by the helicopter for the police and army guys, didn't fool me.
When I entered the room the four proud grandparents were already there, fussing over the baby. It was obvious to me that I wasn't going to get a look in edgeways, although I was challenged as to why I hadn't shown my face at the hospital the previous evening.
Oh, and of course, I should have waited until the experts had arrived, it was my fault that Veronica had ripped her birth canal during the birth, that had required several stitches. The 'Dragon' never missed a chance to attack.
Look, by then all this crap from her was going over my head. I just ignored it, most of the time.
As I got closer to the bed, Ronnie held her hand out towards me. I don't know why I took hold of it; that's the sort of thing people who are in love do, and Ronnie and I weren't in that category.
Ronnie's hand clamped onto mine and she pulled me towards her so forcefully that I almost fell onto the bed on top of her. Then her other hand was behind my head and she pulled our mouths together, trying to suffocate me again.
I remember the thought, "I could get used to this!" passing through my mind, as Ronnie decided to let me breath again.
"Isn't she beautiful? She has your nose!" Ronnie said, as I staggered to my feet, gasping for air.
"I wouldn't know, Ronnie. I was a little busy yesterday running around like a blue-arsed-fly; everything is a bit on the hazy side," I replied.
"Mother! Give Ottilie to her father please, and dad, get your camera out again. I want some pictures of John holding her and of us together." Veronica ordered.
But my mind didn't really hear the instructions that Ronnie was reeling off to her father. Going around in my mind was the question, "Did Veronica just call the baby Ottilie?"
Jogging me from my mental musings, the 'Dragon' forcefully stuffed the baby into my arms. Yeah, I said stuffed! I don't think I could call it anything else; it was lucky that I never dropped the little tyke. But then again, that could have been the bitch's intention, for all I know.
I'm afraid that I really wasn't concentrating on what was going on for a little while, because I found myself inspecting the nametape wrapped around the Baby's little arm.
"Ottilie Christine Veronica Hope" had been squeezed on there in very tiny writing, for all the world to see. Ottilie, the name I'd always wanted for my daughter, but that Ronnie had said "Over my dead body" to; Christine, my mother's name and by chance Ronnie's grandmothers name (I found out later that it was the Dragon's middle name as well); and of course Veronica after her mother.
I looked over at Veronica and saw that she was sitting there smiling at me. She gestured towards her father who by then was snapping away like David Bailey.
"Sit on the bed with Veronica, John," the old fart ordered, so I did as requested. We were then posed like loving parents normally are in those kinds of shots.
Oh, I didn't say that Veronica's father was a professional photographer, did I? He was nothing special or anything, just portraits, weddings and the like. But he knows what he's doing and how to take a bleeding good picture, so you tend to do as you're told, once he gets started.
The little photo-shoot over, Veronica ordered the grandparents out of the room. Yeah, I did say ordered; I should have realised then just how much like her mother Veronica was going to turn out to be.
"I want to speak to my husband in private for a little while," she said. With definite emphasis placed on the words "My Husband."
I'd gotten off the bed again by this time and was sitting in a chair in the room with my daughter in my arms.
"John, would you put Ottilie in the cot and come and sit here on the bed, please!" Ronnie asked in her most charming voice, once we were alone.
Well, it wasn't often that Ronnie was that polite with me, so I did as she requested. As I sat on the edge of the bed Ronnie reached out and pulled me closer, then laid her head against my chest. Then to my utter amazement she started crying.
Now look, actually I was quite ready for all that nonsense. Besides that home doctor book, we had at home, I'd done a lot of reading about women having babies and the ... aftermath. I knew all about how some of them get Postnatal -- or is it Prenatal – Depression -- I was buggered if I could remember at the time. Anyway, I'd read a lot about what can happen around the time of a birth and I was quite prepared for unexplained tears and or tantrums for a while. And I'll add I'd been expecting the worse.