The start would be when Davey Hertz was born. This was how Amy Frish, the Hertz’s next door neighbour, recalls the first time she met baby Hertz.
I didn’t know straight away that the baby had arrived. John knew where pubicity wasn’t needed and, even though he usually ignored this, he’d decided to leave the press at the hospital when Lucy came home. It was strange without the cameras outside the house, but nice. The silence was nice too, for a while at least. They had been home an hour or so when it finally clicked. I had known there was something wrong, but it had taken a long time to work it out. The silence…
I liked Lucy, and we talked a lot, so I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be flapped away from the baby. When she opened the door, Lucy looked relieved to see me. She looked tired, but what could be expected this soon after she’d given birth. It hadn’t been a complicated birth, as far as I was awear, but there was definatly something wrong.
The house was in pristien condition. John had always liked things neat and tidy and I didn’t expect the baby would change that. When I came in, he was sat on the old arm chair in the corner, staring out of the window at nothing. Lucy past me, not looking at John, and sat on the sofa. The tension was so thick I don’t think a knife could have cut it. I would have to make do with my voice, John’s personal weapon of choice.
“Well then,” I smiled, rubbing my hands together, “Where is he then?”
Lucy looked up t me and glanced at John. He didn’t even move. Niether of them said a word.
She jumped up with a forced smile when I called her name. She laughed weakly and pulled me with her to the baby basket behind John.
“Here he is then,” she said, picking him up. The way she held him was strange. All new parents are cautious, I could understand that, but Lucy was hiding him. She glanced nervously between me and John, and then eventually handed him to me.
“He’s so clever,” Lucy boasted, “He opened his eyes. They said he wouldn’t do that for a while, but he did!”
“They also said he wouldn’t breath by himself but he did that and all,” John grunted from his chair, “But then, most kids can breath by themselves.”
I had thought he was asleep. I had never heard a baby so quiet when it was awake, so I hadn’t expected huge, blue-grey eyes staring up at me. I ignored John, because I hadn’t understood what he meant, and smiled at the baby’s grinning face.
“What’s his name?” I asked quietly.
“Davey,” Lucy answered, “It means ‘beloved’.”
“That’s lovely,” I said, because I felt I had to. Lucy was clearly so proud of the baby. John couldn’t be more uninterested. I passed Davey back to Lucy, and she went back to her protective pose, holding him close. We sat back down and, by this time, John had looked away from the window.
“Go on then,” he snapped, “Ask the question. I know you want to.”
“John I don’t know…” And I didn’t. I looked at Lucy, but she was watching Davey and wouldn’t look up. The baby’s face screwed up, and I readied myself for the screaming, but it didn’t come. There was a gasp for breath, and tears, but no shouts. Lucy was crying, and I assumed it was something to do with the ‘question’, but I knew how to handle John.
“Go on then,” I said, “I can see you’re so desperate to tell me.”
But it was Lucy who, in a shaky, tear chocked voice, told me.
“He’s different,” she whispered, “Special.”
“It’s a freak!” John burst in, “He’s a freak, Lucy.”
“He’s just different, John,” Lucy cried.
“He’s got no voice box, Lucy,” John snapped, “That’s different alright! Freaky different.”
Lucy cradled the baby. He calmed down, yawning and closing his huge eyes. Lucy smiled, sadly. John glared at him.
“No voice box?” I asked, quietly, “What does that mean?”
“There is no voice box.” John said, bluntly, “It’s as simple as that. It can’t make a noise. It’s a freak.”
“John.” Lucy snapped, “He’s not a freak.”
It hurt her, that word, but if ‘freak’ had been as bad as it got, then it probably wouldn’t have ended up quite the same way…