by Judy Ross
Edwina was at every meeting of our knitting group. However, she never seemed to be part of the group. She sat silently hunched up with her head down, concentrating on a grey looking garment that she had been knitting for ages. When someone asked her she replied that she was knitting a shawl for her baby. This was a surprising bit of information as we all thought that Edwina was well past the childbearing age, but maybe we had misheard and it was not actually for her own baby.
After our session whilst we were gathering our work together and getting our coats on, Edwina quietly disappeared. We were a friendly lot and there was plenty of laughing and gentle teasing before the group split up and went our separate ways. Sometimes a few of us would suggest coffee or a sandwich and those of us who had no plans for the afternoon would go to a local café and carry on with our nattering. Inevitably the talk would turn to the subject of Edwina. She was such a strange woman and a bit of a mystery to us. We had over the months that our group had been going, become friends and in the way of friends had learnt a bit about each other’s lives. There was Julia who had two troublesome teenagers who we knew were a real worry to her. Those of us whose children had grown up reassured her that her moody teens were presenting normal teenage behaviour and they would eventually turn into perfectly nice young people. Sally’s husband was out of work due to ill health and we knew she was struggling, but she was always cheerful and we did not probe. Serena had just become engaged and was full of talk about her wedding plans. We listened to each other and where asked, gave friendly advice. Therefore Edwina’s strange behaviour was a bit of a puzzle to us. We were mystified as we had never heard her mention a baby before. Some of us felt sure we had heard right and she had said it was for her own baby… We decided to try harder to include her in our circle and find out more about her.
The following week Edwina was once again in her regular place, head down and concentrating on the shawl that never seemed to get any bigger. Sarah asked how she was getting on with it, but Edwina just shrugged her shoulders and grimaced slightly. The talk around the table was about annoying husbands and we tried to draw Edwina in. She looked up briefly and said in a quiet voice that she was not married. This was a bit of a surprise as when she had first come she mentioned that she had to leave early to make her husband’s lunch. We changed the subject and Chrissie in our group mentioned that she and her husband were trying for a baby. I happened to glance up at Edwina and saw her shoulders go stiff and with such a strange look on her face. It was difficult to describe, a bit like sneer but also suffering at the same time. I looked around but no-one else had seemed to have noticed.
I carried on going to the group but did not enjoy it so much, Edwina had spooked me and I found myself studying her. Once she looked up and caught me looking and the look she gave me made my stomach churn. Who was this woman and why did she affect me so?
One week Edwina turned up pushing a very old fashioned pram. We were all very surprised, but when we asked to see her baby, she told us not to wake her. Her tone of voice made us all go quiet and she gave a small shrill laugh and said it was so difficult to get her off again if she woke. The following week Edwina once more came in with her pram. Her baby must have been asleep again as there was no sound from the pram. Chrissie suddenly stood up and said I just can’t resist a peep at this baby and before Edwina could stop her she lifted up the covers in the pram and looked. There was a lock of horror on her face as grabbed her coat and without a word and rushed from the room bumping into one of the chairs as she went, sending it flying. We sat there stunned, what was going on? Within minutes Edwina was pushing her pram towards the entrance. The group broke up, but there was no cheerful chatter this time, only an embarrassed silence as everyone hurried into their coats and left the building.
The next morning I opened the paper to read over my cup of coffee and there was Edwina’s face on the front page, with the headlines “LOCAL WOMAN STABBED ABUSIVE HUSBAND TO DEATH”. I sat shocked and trembling, the cup of coffee going cold and forming a skin at my elbow. So that was the mystery that poor woman had been hiding. Her one escape seemed to be the knitting group once a week. Over the coming weeks the full story came out, how she had been abused by her violent husband over the years, and how he had kicked her in the stomach and she lost the baby she was carrying. Later Chrissie told us that as she lifted the covers in the old pram she could see, instead of a baby, an old doll with china blue eyes staring out. This made me cry and the story of the doll never reached the papers. Soon after the knitting group disbanded and we all lost touch with each other. The story of the doll in the pram never came to public notice.