Wilma's pregnancy went smoothly. Everyone commented on her beautiful complexion: 'You're blooming!' the vicar shook her hand warmly at the end of the Christmas Eve service. Wilma smiled wanly. Her contractions had started during 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing.' As Bill helped her down the icy church path, gulls wheeled in the leaden sky. She gripped his arm.
'It's time, Bill,' she said. Alarm filled his eyes.
That night, he paced the waiting room floor smoking filterless Camels. By the time the nurse came in to break the news, he was well into his second packet.
'Mr Sullivan ...'
'Where is she?' he barged past the nurse into Wilma's room. She smiled weakly. The dawn light made her pale skin seem luminous. 'It's a boy ...' she whispered as he kissed her.
Bill gazed into the cradle at the side of the bed. The boy's open, beautiful face gazed back at his father - his dark eyes filled with what seemed like inifinite wisdom. To Bill it seemed like he was capable of anything, everything. The blankets were tucked tightly up to the baby's chin.
'Wilma,' Bill murmured, holding back tears of relief and joy. 'He's beautiful.'
'They wouldn't let me hold him ...'
'That's crazy,' Bill smiled down at his boy. 'Come on little fella, let's show your Ma how handsome you are ...' The baby gazed quizzically at him. Never again would he face the world with such openness. Overtime the looks of revulsion and fear would beat Clive down. Never again would he be able to look the world in the eye. With infiinite gentleness, Bill peeled back the blankets. 'Gosh you're a wee little fellow aren't you?' he said slowly as he peeled the last sheets away.
'Mr Sullivan ...' the nurse hovered, uncertain what to say. 'You should wait for the doctor.'
Bill's breath caught in his throat as he exposed his son's tiny, disfigured body. The boy's beautiful face gazed at him. 'Oh no, oh god no ...' tears choked him as he recoiled.
'Bill?' Wilma tried to sit up, her face contorting in pain. 'Bill what is it ....