The baby was crying. Joanna’s eyes flew open when she heard the first mewls and she extracted herself from the bed as slowly as possible so she wouldn’t wake Jeffrey, her husband. He didn’t get much sleep these days, she knew, and he needed his rest whenever he did manage to come home from his duties in the Emergency Department at Cornwall Regional Hospital.
The clock on the bedside table read 2:15AM when she padded quietly to the baby’s room, directly opposite their own. She crossed the floor quickly to scoop her daughter our of the crib and press her to her chest.
“There there, Josephine,” she murmured softly, smoothing the downy hair atop the baby’s head. She bounced Josephine lightly in her arms but the infant continued to cry. Worse, she was building up steam. Joanna felt a pang of panic as Josephine’s screams grew louder. She shifted the tiny body in her arms and began to pace the room, searching her tired brain for a soothing lullaby.
But Josephine would not be calmed. She scrunched up her tiny face, clenched her little hands into fists and bawled. Joanna was at her wits end, torn by concern for her baby and fear that the screams would rouse Jeffrey.
The baby was crying. Jeffrey heard the sound pierce his dreamless sleep with vengeful clarity, and his mood immediately soured. He had been on his feet for twenty hours straight on his last shift and Joanna couldn’t even let him get some rest when he came home? Bitch. She was always going out of her way to make him feel bad. Now she probably wanted to guilt him into helping her with the baby.
Instead of getting up he rolled over, using the second pillow to cover his head. The screams were muffled now but still audible enough to prevent him from falling back asleep. Jeffrey felt undiluted anger bubble up inside him. Bubble until it reached a breaking point where he threw the pillow aside and stalked into the hallway. The baby’s door was closed but he wrenched it open and stormed into the room.
“Can’t you keep her quiet?” he demanded.
“I’m trying, Jeffrey,” his pitiful wife pleaded, “I think she might have colic or something. If you would just look -”
“I’M TIRED!” Jeffrey roared. “And I’m not a blasted paediatrician!”
Josephine’s screams increased to match her father’s thunderous tone. Joanna tried futilely to calm her.
“You make her shut up,” Jeffrey threatened, “or else.”
“Please, Jeffrey, no. She’s just a baby,” Joanna begged, backing away. “She can’t help it.”
“And you’re a grown woman,” Jeffrey said nastily, advancing on his wife. “I didn’t expect you to be this useless.” When he had cornered her against the wall, he raised his hand.
And another set of cries soon filled the air.