Margaret sighed. “Could you give him this stuff,” she said, handing over the sandwich and the photos. “And could you ask him to call me?”
Christmas came and went, and Margaret didn’t hear from Dave. When she called his house she always got his machine, and he never called back. She knew he’d abandoned her again, and her anger turned to deep sadness. She remembered when Matthew had still been inside her and she had felt complete—she hadn’t worried about Dave or anyone else, all her energies had gone into caring for the new life growing in her belly. After he was born, too, she hadn’t minded that it was just the two of them—they had felt like a solid pair, and she seemed to have all she needed. It wasn’t until Dave had come back, had smoothed the hair from her forehead, kissed her eyes, and promised they would be a family that she had begun to long for that.
She took to lifting Matthew out of his tank entirely, sometimes, and holding him against her chest as though to nurse him. His supple arms twined around her shoulders and neck—he was getting so big!—and sometimes he would bite her gently along the line of her chin or her collarbone, those little, sting-like bites that jolted her without really hurting. She sang him lullabyes and fed him crayfish from her hand.
At night she lay in bed, the room dark except for the glowing light in Matthew’s tank, and tried to touch herself. She put her hand between her legs and felt the desire there, but she was ashamed of her loneliness and conscious of Matthew in the room. It hadn’t felt wrong making love to Dave when he was over, knowing that they were a family and that this kind of touch was normal between parents. Sometimes she pretended to sleep, and touched herself very softly, trying to be as still as she could so her son wouldn’t see.
Afterwards, she would turn to watch Matthew moving about in the eddy from his filter, playing with a Lego. Matthew was soft and translucent and when he swam he looked like an owl soundlessly flying, or like an angel. When he saw her looking at him he would swim to the wall of the tank and press against it with all his suction cups groping at the glass. He would work his mouth-parts and uncoil his long limbs, straining toward her as though, like salt or tender fish, he could taste the very space between them.