“RONALD, YOU ABSOLUTE BASTARD! I WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR THIS!”
Elizabeth Giles’ words carried and echoed through every room in the house, every wall in their home resonating with her anguish. But words alone could not do justice to the rage that she was feeling; and it wasn’t enough to hear her screeching without seeing the flush of red in her cheeks, the fire in the depths of her dark eyes, or the white-knuckled grip she had on her husband’s tie, pulling so hard that she threatened to cut off his oxygen altogether. It was enough to strike fear into the heart of any man…
And yet, Ronald only laughed and tilted his head forward to press his lips to his wife’s sweat-slick forehead.
“You’re doing beautifully, lovey.” He promised, his voice only slightly strangled by the grip she had on his tie. He pushed, gently, trying to force her to lie back down onto the bed as another contraction made her face screw up in agony.
He didn't like seeing her like this. But he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that this pain would be forgiven the moment she had their son in her arms. They just had to get to that point without any casualties.
The Midwife - someone employed by the Council, for occasions such as these - smiled to herself at Elizabeth’s raging but was back to a careful expression of professionalism by the time she settled back into her seat at the foot of the bed that Elizabeth was lying on.
“I need you to focus on me, Elizabeth. Breathe… and get ready to meet your son, because here he comes.”
Rupert Edmund Giles was born on a Wednesday evening, weighing five pounds and eight ounces, entering this world screaming at a pitch to rival his mother. The umbilical cord was cut, the afterbirth dealt with, and the baby whisked away to be cleaned up and examined.
After what felt like an eternity to Elizabeth, who was on the verge of passing out under the sheer weight of exhaustion , he was finally brought back to her, wrapped in a soft yellow blanket, and pressed into her arms for the first time.
She cried, unabashedly, at her first glimpse of his perfect, little face. His hair, nothing more than a tuft of fuzz on top of his head, as dark as hers but his eyes the same blue-green as his father’s. He blinked up at her, his little face red and scrunched up with displeasure at his introduction to the world, but he didn’t cry anymore, seeming more content now that he was back with his mother than he had been when the midwife was looking him over with all those cold and strange tools.
Elizabeth held him tightly, turning to look at her husband and expecting to find him looking just as completely in love with him - their Rupert - as she was.
But, he wasn’t. He wasn’t looking at him, wasn’t even looking at her. He was standing off to the side, talking with the midwife. Whispering. She’d been so distracted by the presence of her son, finally in a position that wasn’t pressing painfully on her bladder, that she hadn’t realized her husband had been whisked off to the side.
But the second she did realize, the rapturous smile slipped from her face.
“Ronald?” She asked, her voice hoarse after screaming for so long. “What is it?”
He turned to look at her, attempting to school his expression from shocked to calm, but he couldn’t quite manage it and it did little to soothe Elizabeth’s nerves.
“Ronald?” She said, again, with more force.
Rupert stirred in her arms, sensing her distress. And Ronald crossed the room to them both, kissing the top of Elizabeth’s head… but regarding his son with an unreadable expression.
“There’s something… wrong, darling.” Ronald said, gently.
Elizabeth suddenly felt cold all over. Like ice had been injected into her veins.
“Something wrong? With…”
She looked down at her son, unable to say the words. No, there couldn’t be anything wrong with him. He was perfect.
Ronald gently reached down when she seemed incapable of continuing, peeling the blanket back from their son. Rupert fussed and screamed, unhappily, at the cold air and the way his body was tugged. Ronald pulled his arm from where it had been tucked against Rupert’s small body and held it for Elizabeth’s inspection. There, on the inside of his forearm… the skin was blank. Smooth and flawless where there should have been words.
Elizabeth looked up at her husband with fear and horror, pulling Rupert away from him to wrap him back up, securely in his bundle, and hold him close to her body. Her gaze trailed from him to her own arm, where it was marked up with black.
You seem distracted.
Three simple words. Almost meaningless in any other context - but these were the words she’d been born with. Words that were said to her by her husband. Her soulmate. And she knew that, hidden under his sleeve, were the words she’d said in return, marked on Ronald’s skin.
These marks were how they identified each other as their destined soulmate.
These marks were how everyone identified their soulmates.
How could her son not have any?
“I don’t understand.” She said, her throat tight. “How...How can he not have any words?”
The midwife stepped closer, then, wringing her hands nervously.
“...I’ve heard stories. Some people who are born without them. But, they’re never…”
“They’re never normal.” Ronald finished, for the midwife. His voice was as strained as his wife’s. “Psychopaths incapable of feeling love. Or broken fools who drown in their vices. Such a small population this happens to. And our son -”
He stops speaking, abruptly, seeing the tears welling up in his wife’s eyes. No matter how he felt in this moment, or about the future of the child, he couldn’t bring himself to tell his wife that their son was condemned to the same kind of life.
But his silence proved to be a stronger answer than a verbal confirmation could have been and Elizabeth clutched her son closer to her body and shook her head, fiercely.
“No.” She whispered, her lips hardly moving. As though she can hardly stand to form the words. “Our son is not going to be like that. How can you even think… he’s fine. This is a mistake. Maybe they’ll appear?”
The midwife pressed her lips into a tight line, clearly not thinking the chances of that were very high. But Ronald shot her a nasty look as she kept her mouth shut. Silence fell and Ronald took the time to polish his glasses with the hem of his shirt, thinking through the options.
Finally, he put his glasses back on and spoke quietly.
“... We will tell no one about this.” He said, shooting a fierce at the midwife so that there was no doubt that she was included in the pact of speaking about this to no one. “We’ll keep his arm covered around company… and bandage it when he gets older. Many people have to do that for, erm, indecent phrases anyway. We can keep this quiet until we know what, exactly, this means.”
“There’s nothing wrong with him,” Elizabeth said, again, stroking her fingertips over her son’s face; hardly hearing a word her husband said.
They all looked down at the unmarked child, who was beginning to fuss and squirm in search of something to fill his empty stomach. And Elizabeth unlocked herself from her horrified trance long enough to readjust her hold on him and nurse him for the first time. She looked down at him with fierce determination, tears no longer in her eyes.
Whatever would become of her son…
She’d never let him feel broken or lonely. Not as long as she lived.