That’s what the book called it.
I had read about this mysterious fish a long time ago, in one of the fishing books I bought entitled, “Fishing for the Dead”. The title had immediately intrigued me, and I spent hours reading it thoroughly to find out all I could about the species. According to the book, the Deathfish could only be found at night in a graveyard, and many a night after that was spent fishing unsuccessfully in the pond at the cemetery. Eventually I just gave up, and moved on to pursuing other less elusive species of fish. Until tonight, that is.
I had read all of my fishing books cover-to-cover. I had caught samples of what I believed to be practically every fish species alive in Bridgeport, and I had gathered a hefty supply of Anglefish, which I had discovered were supposed to be the best bait for catching Deathfish. If I was ever going to catch one, it had to have been tonight. And, as you see, luck seemed to favour me. I caught not one, not three, but five quality Deathfish.
Despite the substantial amount of money each fish was worth, there was no way I was going to sell any of these after the effort it took to catch them. Instead, I kept them safely in a tank at home until I could decide what I actually did want to do with them.
According to James, there were rumours that Deathfish was one of the key ingredients in a very rare dish that was said to have the power to reverse ageing and resurrect the dead. I wasn’t sure I believed it myself, but I thought it would be pretty cool to keep them around anyway.
Besides catching Deathfish, my career as an angler was going pretty well on the whole. One of the perks of pregnancy, for someone like me, was all the free time I had to go fishing due to the amount of ordinary activities I was restricted from doing. In spite of James’ protests, I happily made my way to the shore most days with my fishing gear in tow, and walked home on my own as well.
Now that I was seven months along, however, I was beginning to feel the pressure a bit. I found walking long distances increasingly difficult, and the strain on my back was becoming harder to ignore. Eventually, I conceded that, for the baby’s sake as well as my own, I wouldn’t be able to go on any more fishing trips until after I had given birth.
The last morning that I went fishing was the morning I caught my first perfect piranha in the harbour on the other side of the city. That brought my aquarium to full capacity at 13 fish, a task I had been aiming to fulfil since the building of the new house. The sense of accomplishment that came with it meant that I would probably be much better equipped to last through several more months without so much as picking up a fishing rod.
In the meantime, I had a child to care for.
James, though not exactly family-oriented by nature, was the best father to our children I could ever have hoped for. With the strain the pregnancy was putting on my back, I couldn’t bend over very easily or very often, so James took over the physically more demanding aspects of childcare like teaching Diana to stand and walk.
But despite the fact that I was already pregnant with her younger brother or sister, I wanted to be sure to spend as much time as possible with Diana in those last few months. I didn’t want my daughter to grow up with a mother who wasn’t there half the time, like I had done. I wanted her to feel all the love and care I could give her, both before and after the new baby was born.
But pregnancy combined with the energy I put into raising a toddler was starting to take its toll on my body. I was practically dead on my feet, I was so tired, but I tried not to show it.
I should have known that James would know me better than that. “You look exhausted, Bee,” he commented one afternoon. He had just walked out of the nursery after putting Di down for her nap, and caught me in the middle of an impressively long yawn.
I sighed. “I am,” I admitted. “This pregnancy is really wearing me out. I can’t wait for this baby to be out already.”
“Me neither,” he said, with a grin that dropped from his face the moment he looked back at me. He reached out and touched his hand tenderly to my cheek. “You’re pale,” he said, looking worried. “You need to rest more. Let me look after Di for today.”
I nodded. Much as I wanted to spend time with my daughter, I knew he was right. I needed to rest. “Promise you’ll wake me up if anything happens?”
That afternoon did me more good than I would have believed possible from a single nap. In the end, James convinced me to sleep more at night and take naps whenever I needed it, with the result that the final few months of my pregnancy were a lot easier to bear than I had expected them to be. In fact, Mum and James looked after Diana so well that, had I wanted to, I could have slept 24 hours a day.
Now that I was a little less tired, I was able to start to enjoy being pregnant, as well as spending more time together with my Diana. Though James and Mum were still taking care of the majority of childcare duties, I was still able to spend time playing with my daughter that I simply didn’t have the energy for two months ago.
James fussed over me constantly, taking every opportunity to touch my tummy or talk to the baby, which was supposedly good for its development.
“Hello, little one! I’m your Daddy. Your Mummy and I are so excited for you to come out, we love you so much already!” I laughed – this was certainly a side of James I had never seen before, not even when I was pregnant with Diana. I could only guess that having Di had shown him what he was missing, and that was why he was so excited for the new arrival.
It was mere days before my due date when my water broke. I was in the bathroom at the time, but my shout of surprise brought the other members of the household running.
“Is it time?” James asked anxiously as he dashed through the door.
I nodded, and gritted my teeth as the first contraction shot through my body, immobilising me completely.
“Okay, Bee. Let’s get you to the hospital.”
With James’ encouragement, I managed to slowly make my way to the car waiting outside, and from there James drove me to the hospital in town. He was by my side throughout the whole thing, with an endless stream of encouragement and support. I can’t honestly say that he made it less painful, but he certainly made the pain slightly easier to bear.
A gruelling twelve hours later, Emily Hunter made her way into the world.
A couple of weeks passed before the hospital cleared me for release, during which all of my friends and family came to visit multiple times, and James barely left my side. In spite of all the love and gifts that were being showered on us, I couldn’t help feeling largely relieved when we were finally able to return home.
Emily was beloved of all the family from the first moment they saw her. Whenever James wasn’t in the kitchen or at work, he could consistently be found in the nursery, playing with his two daughters.
His biggest competition for time with the girls was Mum, who seemed to have become double the doting grandparent she had been now that she had two granddaughters to spoil.
Before Emily was born, we had been a little worried about how Diana would cope with no longer being the centre of attention. As it turned out, she adjusted fairly well – tantrums were few and far between, and she was able to amuse herself for hours on end, making up games on her own or playing with the plethora of toys she had collected over the years.
This was a relief for both James and myself, since it made the exhausting work that came with having a newborn in the house just that much easier.
Time passed more quickly than I expected, and before I knew it Emily’s birthday was right around the corner. James had made her a special cake, though she was still too young to enjoy it, and the whole family gathered round to watch as he helped her to blow out the candles.
Emily grew into a practical clone of her older sister. Like Diana, she had inherited her father’s blonde hair, and my own father’s sea-blue eyes. I wouldn’t have had it any other way – she was a perfect angel.
Neither James nor I had really had a chance to see Tyler since she had moved out, so one afternoon a few weeks after Emily’s birthday I called her and arranged a meet up. Since we now had two toddlers to look after, Ty offered to come over to our place and hang out.
As soon as she stepped through the door, I noticed that something was different. Tyler had always naturally had a very thin figure, but now there was a definite round bump over her abdomen. A baby bump.
Noticing my eyes fixed on her belly, she laughed. “You’re pregnant!” I gasped.
She giggled, and nodded in confirmation. “Yep.”
“Oh, Ty, I’m so happy for you!” I reached out and pulled her into a hug, for the first time in years.
“Thanks, Bee. I missed you,” she added as we drew apart.
“I missed you too,” I replied. Then, remembering her condition, I added, “Do you want to go sit down?”
Tyler giggled. “Sure.” We went and sat down on the nearest couch. I made sure she was comfortable before I spoke again.
“So, I guess I can safely say that things are pretty good with Herb?”
She grinned. “Things are great. I can’t believe I’m going to be a Mum.” She sighed happily. “I’m really looking forward to this baby, Bianca.”
“I can tell,” I smiled.
“But…” she hesitated, looking worried. I gave her an encouraging smile, and she continued. “I don’t know that I’m ready,” she admitted.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Herb and I are both really young. I’m only twenty-one. What if I can’t handle having a baby? What if I’m a bad mother?”
She looked so stricken that my heart immediately went out to her. Clearly, this was something that had been on her mind for a while.
“You won’t be a bad mother,” I told her firmly. “You’re kind, and sweet, and you’re a wonderful aunt. Diana already adores you. I promise you’ll be just as great as a mum.”
“You really think so?” she said doubtfully.
I smiled. “I know so.”
Tyler smiled back, looking hopeful. “Well, thanks. I’ll take your word for it. How are things on your end?” she added, clearly in an effort to change the subject.
For the next half hour, we chatted on about various things, and I filled her in on everything that had gone on since she moved out. Before she left, I took Tyler in to see Emily in the nursery. They took to each other immediately.
“Hey, gorgeous girl! I’m your Auntie Tyler. It’s lovely to meet you!”
It was well into the late afternoon by the time Tyler bid us and the girls goodbye. I stood on the porch with Emily and waved to her until her car disappeared down the street.
“Bye-bye, auntie!” Emily called.
I smiled at my youngest daughter, but then immediately sighed. Both of my girls were growing up so fast. Diana would be starting school in a couple of years, and Emily was close behind. Soon, my babies would be all grown up.
I had often wished for a bigger family, and now that the girls were getting older… I knew that James had always wanted a little boy. Much as we loved our girls, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something missing… and the more I thought about the idea, the more I liked it.
I decided I would talk to James in the morning.