Chapter 2

I name this child

They named the child Misery. They may have hated each other but they both agreed upon the name with a sigh. Two days later Jane brought Misery home from the hospital and filed for divorce. Kevin moved out of the house and rarely visited his daughter. In fact he soon chose not to have anything to do with her at all, and simply stopped calling and visiting before the girl was even 1 year old. As long as he paid some money to her mother every month, he didn’t legally have to do anything more, so he didn’t. His parent’s tried for a while to convince him to have some part in his child’s life, but even they gave up within that same year. They didn’t like their daughter-in-law and this was the perfect excuse for them to exit her life for good.

Jane was content for a while, taking on the role of mother with a blatant beige enthusiasm, which was both misleading and oppressive. Outwardly, she was the perfect mother. Attentive, caring, doing all the right things, saying all the right words. It was a good facade. Behind closed doors though, she did the absolute minimum. She drank late into the night to forget the bland TV dinner her life had become. The child was both a blessing and a curse. Misery gave her social standing, but she also came with strings attached. In public she called her Michelle, she knew well enough that people would think it strange, sad even that her child was called Misery.

As for the child herself, Misery rarely cried or looked to her mother for attention. She learnt early on that there was no point in crying out for a mother who resents you and loathes your existence. She quickly became an introverted, quiet and thoughtful child who would play on her own for hours. She had her room, her dolls, her books, her pencils and paints. She didn’t need anyone. Especially not her mother. Well, not for anything more than food or shelter at any rate.

As she grew older, Misery became more of an intrusion into her mother’s life. Her mother was still only in her mid-20s and wanted to go out on dates with men she met at the shops or on the Internet, she wanted to dance with her friends and do all the things she used to do before she had a child. She still accepted her responsibility as a mother, but she hated it, and she hated Kevin all the more for leaving her to deal with this on her own.

Life continued on in a destructive, cyclical kind of dance between reality – baby – and fantasy – the freedom of the childless life. Eventually Jane’s thinking descended into dark territory, and she started planning to get rid of her daughter. She couldn’t kill her. Even Jane was not that horrible a person. But she would feign mental illness, pretend she was an unfit mother, and have Misery fostered out. She didn’t think this would take long, and so she didn’t think Misery would really suffer. Much. Perhaps a little, but it would be worth it if she were free. In fact, she even thought that naming her child Misery in the first place was a bonus in this situation. But how to go about proving her case? Jane would need to contrive a series of situations to get caught being a terrible parent.

It began when Misery was nearly 5 years old. She was about to start Kindergarten, but Jane pulled her out of the school. That should at least start tongues wagging, she thought, little knowing the school just assumed Misery had been placed with another school. Then she began leaving Misery home by herself, locked in her room, while she went out with her friends and partied. When her family or friends asked where ‘Michelle’ was, her mother would say vaguely, ‘Oh, she’s at home’, hoping that someone would at least go and check. No one ever did. They assumed she had a baby sitter, never questioning how Jane could afford one several nights a week.

Growing frustrated, Jane stopped changing the girl’s clothes or giving her a bath. Leaving her in the same filth ridden garments for days. She tied her to the clothesline in the backyard, and didn’t bring her inside when it started raining. Finally people were starting to notice, which was a lucky thing for Misery as her mother was about to step up her campaign by not feeding her! The neighbours began reporting Jane to the Child Health Services on a daily basis, and then the police were brought in. Action was taken. Unfortunately for Jane her little plan backfired, and she was arrested and charged with child neglect. It got nasty for her. She couldn’t admit why she had done what she did as it would only make things much worse, so she had to play along. Her parents sent her away for “treatment” at an expensive hospital, and Misery was placed with her grandparents in the meantime. But that didn’t last long as they couldn’t cope with this special child, who was beginning to show signs of the amazing creature she would become. They struggled. Eventually she was placed with the first foster family of many.