'Um, Darcy?'

'You'll be fine.'

I cleared my throat. 'Darcy?'

'I'm really sorry honey,' she replied briefly, patting my hair. 'I need to go. I'll be back before you know it.'

With that, she picked up her handbag and walked out the door, leaving me holding her two month old infant son. I nervously lowered my gaze to the bundle in my arms and attempted a smile. Ryan smiled back, showing his gums.

I didn't buy Darcy's assurances that she'd be 'back soon'. She's always had a bad habit of nicking off and disappearing when the going got tough, and I was well aware that this was a time of her life where she was really struggling.

More troubling than Darcy merely leaving was the fact that I was now alone with Ryan. Rob had left five minutes ago to visit his mother, believing – and I daresay because Darcy had confirmed it with him – that the two of us wouldn't be going further than the verandah.

I'd come around to visit Darcy at Rob's request. He'd wanted me to talk some sense into Darcy, I'd agreed, because I like Darcy and want things to work out for her. I'd never have come over if I'd known she was going to leave me with her kid. At the very least, I would have made Rob hang around.

I'm not a baby person. I've never spent a lot of time with kids, and to be perfectly honest, children don't really interest me. I don't know how to fix bottles, change diapers, or keep them amused. Basically, I shouldn't be anybody's choice of babysitter.

I carried Ryan over to the couch and tried to keep him amused. There's not a lot a two month old baby can do, but he seemed to be fairly pleased by the stupid faces I pulled and thankfully, within twenty minutes later he was asleep. With a huge sigh of relief, I carried him to Darcy's room, hoping to put him in his cot.

Darcy's room was neat and tidy, but it was also bereft of a cot. I sighed, not entirely surprised, and went to Rob's room. The cot, along with a change table and a box of nappies, were in there, beside his bed. Rob had mentioned that Darcy frequently left the night time caring to him, and judging by the dark shadows under his eyes and his short temper, I'd believed him, but even if I hadn't taken his word for it, here was the proof.

I laid Ryan down and left the room, wondering why the hell nobody was confronting Darcy over what was occurring. I knew she'd wanted a baby, and I accepted that it had been her choice to continue with a pregnancy and have her child, but what she was doing wasn't fair. She needed to make a decision, and quickly, before things progressed any further.

If it had been practical for me to hang around and wait for Darcy in privacy, I would have done it, but I knew that wasn't reasonable. I was lucky that Ryan had fallen asleep, but I couldn't count on him to stay down, so I went and rang Rob on his mobile. Sure, I knew that he was expecting me to talk to Darcy about his baby – it wasn't like anyone else was going to do it - but this was just fucking ridiculous.

'Darcy's gone out,' I told him flatly.

'How long ago?'

'Half an hour ago. She left Ryan here. He's sleeping.'

'Don't worry; you'll be fine. Ryan's not too much trouble and she shouldn't be too far away.'

'Rob, that's a load of shit and both you and I know it.' I paused and reached for my pouch of tobacco. 'She won't be back for hours. Look, I know I said I'd talk to her, and I'm still planning on doing it, but I don't know how to look after this kid. You have to come back before he wakes up.'

'I'm not coming back. You're more than capable of changing a nappy, and the instructions on how to make up formula are on the back of the tin. The tin is in the cupboard. Do you want to go over and make sure you can find it while I'm still on the phone?'

I laid my tobacco down on the kitchen bench. 'No. I don't care where it is, because I'm not looking after him.'

Rob was annoyed. 'If you're not going to look after him, why did you let her leave?'

'I don't know! I don't care either. This isn't my problem. You're the one who keeps putting his head in the sand and pretending everything's alright.'

'It's my fault because I think a mother should be with her child?' Rob replied, sounded outraged.

'Yes. Fuck, yes. This isn't about you; it's about Darcy, and everyone under the fucking son knows she's miserable. If you want to keep Ryan, then ask her if she'd be happy with that arrangement. Personally, I think she'll agree to that, because she doesn't want to lose him entirely. Maybe she could see him on weekends. Don't keep forcing her to do what you want, though, because that's not fair to her or Ryan.'

I finished my spiel and waited for Rob to comment – maybe even yell at me – but he was silent. I couldn't even hear him breathing, and wondered if perhaps he'd hung up on me. Shay would have. Shay won't listen to anyone yell at him down the phoneline.

'Rob?' I prodded cautiously.

'I'll be there in twenty minutes,' he replied shortly. 'Get the formula out in case he wakes up.'

I fiddled with my tobacco. 'Okay,' I agreed. 'I'll make a bottle.'

The bottle was prepared by the time Rob returned and I was outside smoking. He pulled up on his old trail bike, dust on his face and jeans, and removed his riding gear. He threw it all onto a bench and sat alongside me, wiping the sweat off his brow.

'Thanks,' I told him. 'He's still asleep, but I'm really not a baby person. Not a kid person, either.'

Rob nodded. 'Shay's not bad with kids.'

'His sister's breed like there's no tomorrow,' I explained. 'He's used to them. It's a pity he's not here. I would have had to call him if you hadn't come back.'

Rob sighed. He looked exhausted, mentally and physically drained. 'Carmine, you know Darcy better than I do,' he said. 'Why is she like this? Why is it that she can't pull herself together?'

'To be honest, she has pulled herself together,' I replied, remembering Darcy during her darker days, when she drank too much, too often. 'She's cut back on her drinking.'

'She still drinks. Sometimes she takes men home. I've told her not to, but she still does it.'

'I guess she feels trapped,' I suggested. I glanced cautiously over at Rob. 'Rob? I'm going to hang around till she gets back. When she does, I'm going to tell her that she can leave if she wants to. She can live with Shay while Braden is in jail. Maybe she could come and visit you and Ryan on the weekends. That would be good for everyone.'

'I don't know. I can't bring myself to tell her she's not a good mother.'

'She's not a good mother.' I replied bluntly. 'She's caring for him adequately, but she'd be better suited to being…you know, the non-custodial parent. Look, your Mum can mind Ryan during the day. You said she was going to baby-sit when Darcy returned to work, so I'm sure she won't mind starting early. Plus, you're already looking after him at night, so why are you so scared?'

Rob didn't answer. I don't think there were any words to express the way he was feeling, at least not any that were at his disposal.

'I'm going to do this,' I warned him.

My colleague licked his lips. 'She'll agree. You know that, don't you?'


'Christ. Christ that's sad. I will never, ever, understand that woman.'

The difference between Rob and I was that in regards to parenthood, it was I who was more pragmatic. He had too many ideals. I daresay it was part of the reason that he was thirty-two and single, actually.

Darcy arrived at Shay's house that night. Rob and Ryan delivered her and two bags of her possessions, before heading off into the night. Rob would be holding onto the remainder of her stuff until she found herself permanent accommodation.

'God,' she remarked.

'It's okay,' I told her, as Shay stood by awkwardly.

Shay had taken the news that I'd offered Darcy his flatmates' room surprisingly well. Maybe it was because he didn't want to pay the rent for the whole apartment. It wasn't a cheap place to be living, and without Braden's contribution, the rent would take up a good portion of his paycheck.

Darcy started to cry. 'I'm a failure. I wanted so bad to have a baby, but when I finally got one, I realized I couldn't do it. I just want someone to love me.'

'I'm sure you'll find someone. Shay and I did, and have you seen Shay's clothing, and my house?'

'Oh Carmine, you're such a good boy. Your mother would be proud.'

She was slightly drunk, and quite upset, but on the bright side, at least she was making the right decision for everyone involved. Rob was a better father than she was mother, and to be honest, I don't think she actually regretted giving up custody. She was sad to be stepping aside, and to be acknowledging the things hadn't worked out the way she had hoped, but amidst her tears, there was a sense of relief.

Shay hovered around, taking Darcy's bags to Braden's rooms, and putting new sheets on the bed. He was good like that; practical without being too familiar. He wouldn't try and 'understand' Darcy. He'd simply be a housemate, and when the time came for Braden to return, he'd make sure she was out of the apartment and in her own place.

'What am I going to do?' she wailed.

'On Monday you can go back to work,' I suggested. 'We'll give them a call to confirm. I'm sure it will be okay; they're always short of staff. Next weekend we can start looking for a new place for you to live. Don't worry; everything will work itself out.'

Not everyone was happy to see Darcy hand over custody of her son. Some turned their noses up at the thought. Others, some of them our work colleagues, made nasty comments.

For a few days I held my breath, waiting to see how Darcy would react to their disapproval. I knew she was sensitive about her choice, but I also knew she was confident that she'd done the right thing, and I soon came to accept that there was no need to worry. She wasn't going to go running back to motherhood, just to prove a point.

On Friday afternoon Darcy and I found ourselves sitting on the balcony of Shay's apartment, drinking Cokes and smoking. Shay was at the gym, so we were alone. The difference between Friday afternoon, and the preceding Saturday, was that this time, Darcy wasn't running away. She was happy to sit back, have a drink, and talk about how she was coping.

'I miss him so much,' she admitted. 'The poor child. What's he going to think of me, when he gets old enough to understand?'

I decided to be blunt. 'Well, he should be grateful that you did the right thing.'

Darcy took a drag of her cigarette. 'I don't regret having him.'

'That's good.'

'I'm glad Rob's going to be his father,' she added. 'It's better than giving him over to a stranger.'


She pulled her legs up onto the chair and wrapped her arms around them. 'Everyone hates me for giving him away.'

'Who hates you?'

'Justin and Tim at work.'

'They're dickheads. Justin beats up on his girlfriend, too, so he's hardly one to talk about your personal life. Seriously, Darcy, ignore them.'

'I hate the way they look at me. They think I'm scum.' Darcy wrung her hands. 'Geoff said I could live with his brother, but I'm scared of how he'll treat me. I can't do this Carmine, I can't.'

I stubbed my cigarette out. I didn't know who Geoff was trying to get Darcy to live with, but I trusted his judgment. He was good with people, and especially so with Darcy.

'Maybe you could meet him first,' I suggested. 'Work from there.'

'Maybe. Would you come waith me to meet him?'

'Of course.'

Twenty-four hours later, Darcy had met Charles, and decided to move in with him. He may have looked like a scary motherfucker, but he had grown kids of his own, and was too wise to judge. I think Darcy liked him, too. He was a divorced mechanic in his late forties and as well as not judging her, he didn't expect much of her. They'd both be at work during the day, and his only request had been that she do the cleaning and cooking in lieu of paying board.

Shay was pleased with the news. Braden hadn't been particularly happy to hear Darcy was occupying his bed while he was in jail, and had hinted that he wanted her out. Darcy's quick removal from the apartment thus saved Shay from a potentially bad situation.

'You can have my old yellow car, if you want,' he offered Darcy. 'You'll need it, anyway, to get to work and to visit Ryan.'

Darcy thanked him vociferously, before going out to the balcony for a smoke.

Shay took my hand and smiled at me. 'After tomorrow, when she moves out, we'll have privacy again.'

'We have privacy at my place.'

He shrugged. 'That's different.' He leaned in and kissed me. 'I want you to see how good it is living with me. I'm not going to give in until you pack up your bags and move in.'


'Carmine,' he interrupted. 'Why do you have to make everything so hard? You know you'll give in eventually.'

'I won't.'

He gave me another kiss. 'Yes. You. Will.'

I decided it wasn't worth arguing.