In my mind's eye, I can see them. Two of them, a boy and a girl, play tag in the hills above Alesund, cuddled up to me in a quiet, calm garden, teaching them to read and write. Their hair as pale as ice, their eyes as blue as cornflowers, I can see their faces lit up in wonder as they stare at a Christmas tree, their tiny hands reaching out to touch the lights, pulling their fingers away, giggling, as the warmth takes them by surprise. Their smiles melt my heart. I feel their chubby little fingers entwine with mine as they pull me along, wanting me to creep inside the tiny den they have made at the bottom of the garden. I want to take a photograph, capture a memory of every precious second, as these snapshots of motherhood are all I will ever have.
I have always wanted children. The most important, most amazing title in the world that I could earn is not "doctor", or even "professor". It is simply "mummy". And yet it is the one honour that I doubt I can ever earn. It is all my own choices that have brought me to this, though, not the actions of others. I look back to every junction of my life, trying to figure out where I made the wrong decisions, took the wrong path. I often find myself wondering if I have ever made the right choices. I rarely considered the future when making decisions, believing that I needed to live for the moment, to concentrate on the here and now.
I always knew I would be a mother, though. It has always been much more than just a childish desire, fostered by dreams. It is an instinctive need, an ever-present feeling that grows with me, and threatens to expand my heart with every beat. Each time I hold a baby, or comfort a crying child, or help a confused teenager, I know, deep down, that being a mother is the one thing that would complete me. I was so rash. I didn't feel my body clock ticking, the time slipping away from me as I concentrated on my studies, my qualifications, and my subsequent career as a Watcher and an archaeologist. I had felt invincible, and as though I had all the time in the world to settle down and have a family, create a life for myself.
I chose not to pursue relationships, opting instead for the immediate but fleeting gratification from one night stands and short-term flings. I felt there was plenty of time to create myself a comfortable niche in Manchester, find a man I could fall in love with, and work to create a family and a home with him, a home filled with love and laughter.
Then I met Max, and my happy little dream of a normal life was shattered irrevocably.
I had to change so much after Max, in order to survive te Council's punishment for spending the weekend with him, letting them down. I could have given up his name for a lighter, easier punishment, to allow myself a chance to retain some of my nature, my personality, but my sense of honour would not allow me to hurt him to save myself. Letting go of my dreams, my one true desire, crucified me. I would risk everything now, just to have that one chance, that one tiny shot, at being a mother. But at the time, I couldn't afford to fall in love, to make that commitment. I couldn't throw away everything I had worked for with the Council, so I locked my feelings tightly away, afraid - terrified - that if I gave into my yearning for a child, I would do nothing but cause my baby pain.
A Watcher for a mother... would that ever actually work, anyway? It would be safer to work on the frontline in a warzone than to be a Watcher. If I were ever to have a child, if, somehow, my one wish were ever granted, I would need to give up my calling to take the chance on my dream. But would I even know how to love a child any more? I have bottled things up, locked my emotions away, for so long that I am scared that I would no longer know how to give that love, share those emotions, with my own flesh and blood.
It is the one piece of the jigsaw that is my heart that will remain forever missing, the last clue in the crossword that shall remain unanswered. Not bearing a child, never being able to feel that rush of unending, unbearable love from my child is my real punishment. I do not deserve to feel a love such as this.
I am forever destined to be alone and truly lonely.