Her world is black and white as though she sees through monochrome eyes. Colour is a thing of the recent past and already feels alien to her. She can discern light from dark, but no colour; they are only varying shades of grey. The world seems emptier than before despite the growing ball within.
She clutches it now, repulsed at its solidity and hugeness. Is this what all women must go through? She thinks. This ugly transformation where you don’t even recognise yourself anymore?
The ball continues to grow at an alarming rate; even the flowers, hedgerows and trees cannot compete, their shoots and leaves still in a state of hibernation while the ball swells, swells, swells.
It’s a wonder my stomach doesn’t burst. Actually that might work. At least I’d be rid of this parasite but –
She cannot do anything now – it is far too late for her and the baby. If only she had done something sooner. The baby wouldn’t have known anything; it was just a foetus.
She maintains her stance, her hands carefully clutching her swollen belly, her head turned to the side. She mustn’t cry, not here, not now, not amongst the people who walk freely here, weaving their way through the gardens bursting with knee-high flowers, following the crazy paving pathways which coil this way and that like tempestuous snakes.
There is always a flourish of activity here, the meeting of mankind and nature; the fusion of flesh and petals. They are greeted by orchids, lilies, japonicas and dahlias – their feathered heads like silk ruffles sweeping their sight with bursts of colour. But they soon grow restless, seeing beyond this multicoloured glamour and crave something different.
She is always a sight to behold, attracting the wandering eyes of men, women and children almost as soon as they step into the garden. Visitors flock around her like hungry kittens to a saucer of milk. She is a rare and precious thing. A succession of photos follow and Nymphette yearns to move, to change her position, to relieve the mounting pressure in her swollen belly. Her back aches terribly as though a sledgehammer has been repeatedly brought down on her coccyx and her legs are numb with pins and needles. It isn’t easy maintaining this pose, especially now more than ever, and she is thankful that she doesn’t recognise a face in the crowd.
She wasn’t pregnant last time I saw her, et cetera, et cetera.
There is one saving grace though: Nymphette can say goodbye to all the visitors once the garden is locked up for the night.
Now, beneath the moon’s ghostly light, she is free to wander around the garden as she pleases, taking a dip in the pond, walking beneath the fountain and smelling the sweet honeysuckle scent of the roses. She takes her time measuring the garden and then comparing it to her small frame, except she doesn’t feel small at the moment, she feels huge. She waddles back over to her plinth and waits for the garden to re-open again.
Sometimes though, there is one visitor whose visits are sporadic, coming just after dawn or at sunset when the light is extinguished by the never-ending horizon – Nymphette’s owner.
And here she is – a desperate woman whose skinny frame and ragged hair denotes the hardships she has endured. Nymphette watches her approach through fixed eyes – a despondent and pitiable figure with a constant flat stomach. As she approaches, she digs her belly hard, gouging the nails deep into her flesh as though this will somehow provide her with the miraculous gift she craves. Nymphette’s heart sinks. She does not want to see Naomi today for she has been growing at an alarming rate and knows Naomi’s secret suspicions have been confirmed.
It has been some years now since Naomi and Greg have given up on their dream of having a family together, and it has been but six months since Greg upped and left without a single look back as he left. Nymphette fancied she heard the slamming of the front door but in reality Greg had closed it quietly, avoiding another scene.
The first thing Naomi had done was speak to Nymphette telling her about their incompatibility and his suspected infidelity. There were tears in Naomi’s hazel eyes making them liquid chocolate. She couldn’t go on, she said. She couldn’t continue. Not without Greg in her life. Her words came pouring out – a flood of pathetic cries dousing her eardrums. It was her fault he had gone, she should have acted sooner, she should have made him felt loved.
Now, Naomi wipes her eyes carefully and brings her face close to Nymphette’s so that they are practically touching. Nymphette can smell the sharp salt in her tears, the sour tang to her breath.
The two women face each other; they are together and apart, separate entities joined by one man. If Nymphette could go back she would, she would reverse time and undo that moment which made such a mess of everything.
Naomi leans in close. ‘But you know different, don’t you?’ she asks the unblinking statue.
The words reach Nymphette’s ears like pickaxes digging away for clues, desperately attempting to access her secrets. Naomi wills her to speak – she knows she can because she has done far worse things.
‘Speak, damn you, speak!’
Here is a plain and simple woman who believed her partner loved her, possibly even cherished her, and yet she faces the brazen harlot who broke her heart and snatched Greg away from her. Naomi believed her to be just another garden ornament, something to boost the otherwise floral panoply she glimpses from her kitchen window. She didn’t know that beneath her concrete exterior, there raged a fiery and ravenous heart.
Naomi’s hands are still driven into her flat stomach like a rake in soil. She wills it to fatten and swell, ripening with life, a mini-me she can call her own; although she knows this is impossible for the child she should have had is inside another. A thought takes her then – what if she could get the child from Nymphette? She considers more than a dozen ideas, each one more sadistic than the last. If she harms the mother, will she harm the child?
Nymphette maintains her graceful pose despite feeling more grotesque than ever. She accepts Naomi’s hateful looks and sharp words – it is no more than she deserves. Many times she has considered slitting herself open and pulling the blasted thing out, if only to relieve the aches and pains gnawing away at her body. The pain is unbearable and Nymphette does not know how she will cope in these last few weeks.
Naomi does though and smiles at the flicker of fear she notices in Nymphette’s eyes.
She’s only a slight thing and judging by the size of her that baby is going to be a monster. It might, quite possibly, kill her. If it doesn’t, it’ll be sure to leave an ever-lasting impression on this deceptive whore.
Naomi sits back on the dry grass, triumphant. She knows Nymphette hasn’t got long to go now and someone in her state cannot go far. She has no-one and knows nothing. Except Naomi. Both women know who will deliver it and who will name and take it, raising it as their own, and who will argue for fairness and justice?
No-one at all, for Nymphette is just a garden ornament, a decorative piece in an otherwise viridian jungle. She has no heart, no mind, and no voice. She just is.
Photography by Ryan Licata