By the time the first pink bouquet arrived at the hospital, Yvonne had taken charge.

"Get it out of here," she'd hissed to the delivery man - the poor delivery man just doing his job and having no idea of the sort of horrible situation he'd walked into. But the flowers had to be collected and so Yvonne did it, throwing them - and the CONGRATULATIONS! balloon - into the closest bin.

From a spot down the corridor - where she could see the door to Tal's room but where she couldn't be overheard - she called Del first. She tried to keep it simple. She tried to be Manc Mother and stay in control. She didn't cry for poor, poor Tal and Jinx, because if she started that she couldn't help them. Any crying was going to have to wait.

Delilah's orders were straight forward - Delilah had to get rid of the baby things around the house. She had to hide them so there was nothing Tal was going to see when she got home.

Then she called the rest of the Mancs, one by one, and told them. The baby's dead. Tal and Jinx aren't okay. We need to look after them.

We need to look after them, was what Yvonne said. I need to look after them, is what Yvonne thought. She needed to look after all the Mancs right now, because they weren't ready to deal with this.

Don't you dare fucking call them, she'd said to one of them. Any questions, talk to me.

Someone needed to field everything for Tal and Jinx who were, understandably and painfully, Not Coping.

"You need to shower," Yvonne said to Jinx one day, four days after the death of his daughter. She'd as good as moved into Tal's place and the four of them - Yvonne, Del, Tal, Jinx - were a walking parade of depression. "Come on," Yvonne said, taking his hand and pulling him up from the seat. He moved sluggishly before shaking her off at the door. "How about you fuck off, Yvonne!"

"You have to-"

"I don't have to do a fucking thing, you fucking bitch!" He shoved his white-clenched fists in her direction with such fury and force that she truly thought he was going to hit her. She didn't slink back from him though and if he had considered hitting her, he didn't go through with it.

(At the kitchen table Delilah rubbed her temples and said, you can't even imagine what it's like, Yvonne.

Yvonne felt bitter that she wasn't allowed to be included in the 'accidently lost babies' club. Her own pregnancies were quickly ended things, purposefully ended mistakes and horrors - one to Sanders, one to Jinx. The things inside her had never become babies, things that were loved. Delilah was right - Yvonne couldn't imagine what it was to lose a baby.)

Jinx showered. He came out of the bathroom and his hair was wet, at least. She'd take the small victories where she could.

Tal was in the house less than any of them - she was with her parents, with her dead baby. Yvonne didn't know how to Manc Mother that. She sort of hoped Tal's real mother would know how to handle it because Yvonne, despite appearances, felt constantly and completely out of her depth.

(Jinx sobbed like a little boy, like she'd never ever heard him cry before. He dug his fingers into her shirts and left tears and snot on her skin. It's not fair, he wept. It's not fair, it's not fair, it's not fair.

It wasn't fair. Yvonne stroked his hair.)

Delilah cooked dinners. Sometimes others came by to see how people were doing. Most of them Jinx didn't see and Yvonne and Delilah were left to promise their love and thoughts would be passed on to him and to Tal. Some of the messages they did pass on. Others they didn't bother.

It was too soon to take things day by day, and so they took them minute by minute.

(Yvonne slept on the floor in Del's room. One night she woke up and heard Del crying quietly. She pretended to hear nothing.)

There was a funeral coming. Yvonne didn't know how small a baby's coffin was. No one should know how small a baby's coffin was.

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Darker London

October 2014

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