Getting To Know You | Tender Short Story by Tessa-Jo Stone

sleeping baby on blue cushion


New mum Lucy faces big challenges from her small son in this tender coffee break tale from our archives

by Tessa-Jo Stone

She should never have agreed. She must have been mad. Daniel was so grateful.

“Thanks, love – I really need to go to this conference. I’ll be back before he’s even noticed.”

The baby squirmed in his arms and screamed furiously. Tom was only five weeks old but already had two vertical lines etched between his eyebrows, making him look permanently angry.

“You’ve got a crier there,” the health visitor had commented helpfully. “He’ll grow out of it – eventually.”

Lucy had once prided herself on her management skills. She’d led a small team and kept everything under control.

If she could juggle three projects at once, surely she could cope with one small baby. It was unfortunate that Daniel had to be away, but she would run the house efficiently in his absence. And she’d ask her mother to come.

she’d planned to be a perfect mum

Daniel had just texted to say he’d arrived safely when the landline rang.

“Oh darling, I’m sorry. Granny’s had a fall and broken her hip. I’ll have to stay here and settle her into respite care.”

“I understand, Mum,” said Lucy, heavy-hearted. “We’ll be fine.”

Her mother’s voice was brisk. “I’m sure you will. You always were efficient.”

Efficient? Lucy scanned the room, taking in the piles of baby clothes that never got put away, the dirty dishes on the table, the dust on the window ledge thick enough for a health visitor to write her name in.

Motherhood was quite different from how she’d imagined. She’d planned to be a model mum with a perfect baby who fed and slept to a strict routine and reached all his milestones early.

Daniel had laughed. “He’s a person, Lucy, not a project. Enjoy him as he is.”

could she leave him on the steps of an orphanage?

At that moment, Tom was drawing up his legs and clenching his tiny fists. She had no idea how he could be producing those screams from lungs as small as pigeons’ eggs. Why couldn’t she get him to stop?

Didn’t he like her? She felt like bundling him up and delivering him to Granny’s nursing home for respite care. Or leaving him on the steps of an orphanage…

Feeling guilty, she picked up her baby son and whispered, “I didn’t mean it.”

Still, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get out of the house. The sky was overcast; a sharp wind sent several curled brown leaves skittering across the lawn. Lucy nearly changed her mind, but after a brief struggle, Tom was dressed in his fleecy snowsuit and tucked into the pram.

At the end of the road was a rough track that led along a disused railway line. She’d never attempted the walk – impossible in those killer heels she used to wear.

Lucy tried to steer round the biggest stones but she couldn’t avoid them all. It was a bumpy ride that took all her concentration so it was several minutes before she realised that there was no sound from the pram.

tom loved her and she loved him

With a surge of panic she looked down, fearing that Tom had been catapulted out without her noticing. But, to her amazement, he was asleep. Fast asleep and looking more peaceful than she’d ever seen him.

A robin’s twitter made her jump. There he was, perched on a holly bush, almost near enough to touch. The scarlet berries seemed to blaze as the sun emerged briefly from behind a cloud.

On impulse, Lucy picked the baby up and hugged him tight. She realised her mistake as his eyes fluttered open. But then, suddenly, they focused on her face and he smiled, his little features lighting up in joyful recognition.

Lucy felt her heart give a sudden thump. Tom had smiled at her. He loved her. And she loved him. How could she have doubted it?

Five weeks old and smiling already. Wait till I tell the health visitor, she thought. Then she stopped and gently lowered her son back into his pram.

“A person, not a project,” she reminded herself. Why not take time to learn from him, instead of waiting for the next achievement? She’d found out two things today: he liked being rocked, and he loved her.

That was enough. He was perfect just as he was – her perfect baby.

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Karen Byrom

My coffee mug says "professional bookworm" which sums me up really! As commissioning fiction editor on the magazine, I love sharing my reading experience of the latest books, debut authors and more with you all, and would like to hear from you about your favourite books and authors! Email me