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Silent Child

By´╝ÜSarah A. Denzil


The day I lost Aiden was the day I realised what it meant to lose control. People talk about losing control of themselves all the time, whether it’s from drink, drugs, passion, or anger. But they don’t know what it’s truly like to lose control, and I’m not talking about my emotions, but about my life. I lost control of my life. Everything around me fell apart while I remained the impotent bystander.

I’ve heard it said that you can only control yourself and how you behave in any given setting. You can never control the circumstances around you. You can’t control how other people react, only how you, yourself, act. That’s the great tragedy of life. One moment everything is perfect and the next it’s all in tatters because of the circumstances happening all around you. And what are you supposed to think when your child is taken from you? That it was fate? God? Bad luck? How are you supposed to move on?

When it comes to the birth lottery, I lucked out. I was born in the kind of bucolic loveliness that lulls you into thinking nothing bad will ever happen to me. Guns and violence may litter the news, but nothing like that ever happens in Bishoptown-on-Ouse. We were nestled in the sweeping landscape of a John Constable painting, with long stretches of rolling green pastures and dry-stone walls. We were safe. At least I thought we were.

On the twenty-first of June, 2006, at two o’clock in the afternoon I donned a great waterproof coat and a pair of Wellington boots, and stepped out into the worst flash flood that Bishoptown-on-Ouse had seen since 1857. The cottage I shared with my parents and my six-year-old son, Aiden, was set slightly back from the quiet street. As I stepped outside that day, the stream of water took me by surprise with its strength. It splashed up my wellies and spattered across my crotch. My heart had already started to quicken, because I was worried about getting to the school. The teachers had rung around all the parents asking them to collect the children because the rain was getting through the roof at school, and there was danger that the banks of the Ouse would burst. We had known about the torrential rain, but no one had predicted this. It fell in a sheet from above, relentlessly soaking my face and battering the hood of my Karimor jacket.

The Ouse twisted through our tiny village like a boa constrictor through a sandbox. It was picturesque and pretty, this too-big river in our tiny town. Bishoptown had two pubs, a B&B, a church, a school, and a population of around 400 people. It was the second smallest village in England, and the smallest village in Yorkshire. No one moved out of Bishoptown and no one moved in. If a house went up for sale it was because someone died.

We all knew each other. We grew up together, lived together, raised our children together. So when the phone rang and Amy Perry—a teacher at the primary school and one of my old school friends—told me to pick up Aiden, I knew the situation was bad. Otherwise, Amy would have walked the children back to each and every house in the village. That was how much we trusted each other.

I’d heard the rain drumming on the windows, but I’d been lost in my own world yet again, looking at photos on Facebook of my school friends who had been to uni and since gone travelling. I was twenty-four. I’d finished my A-levels with Aiden in my belly and watched my friends leave for university with the world at their feet while I remained in my parents’ house. I saw some of them leaving for new pastures as I gazed down at the bus stop from my bedroom window, one hand on my swollen stomach. Since that moment, I had spent more time than was healthy reading about my friends on Facebook, opening pictures of Thailand and Paris while I nursed a baby.

There was no way I could drive in this weather, and I was the closest to the school out of my little family, so I decided to walk there. Rob—Aiden’s father—was working on a construction site outside York. My parents had their own jobs, too. They would be too far away to help, trapped by the weather. I didn’t call any of them right away because I didn’t think I needed to. Bishoptown was a small place, and it would only take me ten minutes to walk to the school. But the school building was also on the other side of the Ouse, which did worry me slightly. If the rain was as bad as the news suggested, the river could burst its banks.

I trudged up the road through the rainwater with my heart beating a rapid tattoo against my ribs. The slanting rain made it difficult to keep my eyes open as I walked against it. I lowered my head and gripped the strap of the bag over my shoulder, with my hands already soaked and cold to the bone.


The voice was only just audible above the hammering of the rain on the tarmac. I turned around to see my friend Josie waving to me as she hurried up the hill in my direction. She was an accountant at the small firm where I was working part-time as a secretary. It jolted me to see her so dishevelled, her hair plastered to her head and make-up running down her face. She had no coat, no umbrella. Her pencil skirt was soaked through.