...and beyond.

When she was born, I held her, cradled her in my arms and wept over her twisted limbs, her struggles for breath.

We expected her to be dead before morning.

But against the odds, she continued to breathe. Nurses fed her with a gavage and against all expectations, she began to grow. We watched her, day after day, week after week, expecting every day, every breath to be her last.

But she grew.

We called her Madeline, and she was both treasure and trial for us. Her tiny face was a vision of perfect beauty; golden curls and sapphire blue eyes. But the eyes were flat, unanimated and the tiny, twisted body stayed almost still in the beautifully decorated crib in the corner of our bedroom.

She grew.

She did ... almost nothing else.

I never went back to work. We couldn't afford the cost of a constant carer, and I wanted to spend every precious moment with this amazing creature who we still expected to be taken from us.

We sat for hours together, her cuddled on my lap, warm body against my skin, my tears falling into her golden hair. I talked to her. Sang to her. Shouted, sometimes, demanded she become normal.

Her response never changed from nothing.

She was deaf, our Madeline. And blind. She was crippled, and brain damaged beyond any hope of communication. 

I loved her.

I hated her.

I wished she'd never been born.

I never wanted to be apart from her.

But in the end we couldn't cope anymore with watching her lie motionless and drooling, with her angelic face and her monstrous body both growing and growing.

The night she turned two I spent in weeping.

And in the morning I made the phonecalls.

And after far too long, and not nearly long enough a place was found for her.

Madeline lives in a Constant Care Centre now, looked after 24 hours a day, seven days a week by people who are not exhausted by the emotion of seeing their precious daughter in such a dire position. People who go home to their families, their whole children, their husbands not gone silent and withdrawn and filled with blame, when the guilt leaves a moment's respite.

My daughter will indeed remain chaste until menopause. And beyond. Even unto her grave.
Nodeshell Challenge and Work of Fiction

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