The Darkest Evening

Ann Cleeves | 2 mins

Chapter One

LORNA LIFTED THOMAS FROM HIS HIGH chair and held him for a moment on her knee. She still couldn’t quite believe he was real. In the darkest days of her illness, she’d been warned that a child of her own might never be possible. Now here he was, more than a year old, walking a few steps, the centre and the love of her life. She tickled his tummy to make him giggle and held him tight. She would fight for him, with all the weapons she had. She’d fought the illness and come back stronger, done that by herself, and this was far more important.

Outside, the light had almost gone, and in the street light’s beam she saw flakes of snow. In a house further along the street, there was a tree in the window, artificial, strung with gaudy baubles. Soon, it would be midwinter, the longest night of the year. There was a temptation to stay where she was, to turn up the heating and decorate the room for Christmas. She’d bought sticky coloured paper to make old-fashioned paper chains, silver foil to turn into stars. Perhaps she’d invite her parents to come for wine and mince pies. It was the time of year for reconciliation.

She knew, though, that any sense of celebration would have to wait. Still with the boy on her knee, she pulled on his snow suit and his little red wellies, then set him on the floor while she found her own outdoor clothes. She took a set of keys from a hook on the kitchen shelf, looked around the room, distracted for a moment by thoughts of decoration, the presents she still had to buy for her son, then she stepped out into the cold.