The drive back to London is mostly silent. Drop off the others, then on to her parents’ house. A few words to name the dead, then leave Michèle to fill in the gaps downstairs. He can do the talking. Passing thought – she’d never asked who her mother knew. Which of them Nadia would miss personally, which were more than just names.
Step quietly into the room. It’s dark except for the soft glow of a night-light. Same balloon shape from her own childhood. The posters have gone, the room’s had a paint job. The clean scent of baby powder as she steps over to the crib.
It’s only when she reaches down to take her son’s hand that she realises her heart is still racing. Adrenalin, even hours after the fight’s over. Wound tight, but she’s got to keep holding it in. Maybe once they’re all home and safe she can let it go.
Taking a few breaths, she gently lifts him into her arms, holding him close. He makes soft, sleepy noises as she kisses his forehead.
It’s only when she starts to put him down again that she sees the blood smeared on the front of his pyjamas. Not hers, of course. Probably Kaerlud’s from moving the body. But definitely blood, staining the clean white of his clothes.
He’s not even two months old.