Michelle had to get up with her now when she had to go. She was so big she bumped into things. Mostly it was four or five times a night but tonight it was more, eight times already and it wasn't light yet. She was stuck on her back and it was tickling down there. It was like someone was sitting on her, it was that heavy. She couldn't breathe lying on her back. Sometimes she felt she was being pushed out of her own body. It was like being killed, she thought, and then said sorry in her head for thinking it.
'Shel,' she whispered. 'I've got to go.'
For a minute there was nothing and then she heard Michelle get up. She saw her looming around in the dark as if she was drunk.
Mind out,' she said and Michelle swore. There was a thud and the sound of gasping. 'What happened?' she said.
Michelle was laughing. She was making gasping sounds and wheezing and Kirsty felt tremors start in her own stomach, the big muscles flapping and rolling upwards in waves and making her lungs hurt.
'Don't, I'll wet myself,' she said.
Michelle was rolling her over on to her side. She was still laughing, her arms were shaking and her hair danced jerkily over Kirsty's face. Kirsty stuck her legs out into the dark and Shel pulled her off the bed. Her feet made contact with the cold floor but her body was in a sort of landslide, things pouring downwards, and she reeled over after them, clutching at Michelle in the darkness so that Michelle staggered backwards. She thought they might just give and give until they went over but Michelle planted herself and pushed back against her. They were both shaking with laughter. She couldn't see a thing.
'I've wet myself,' she said. 'I'm wet -- at the back.'
Michelle got her under the arms.
'Hold it in,' she said.
Water was coming out from between her legs; the spring of her bladder felt busted, the water just came out in a torrent and made a gushing sound on the floor.
'Christ,' said Michelle, 'you sound like a horse pissing.'
'I can't stop. Axe you holding me?'
'Christ,' said Michelle.
'Shel,' said Kirsty, 'I can't stop.'
She smelled salt and half retched.
'It's your waters,' said Michelle. Her nails were digging into the tops of Kirsty's arms. There was pain, of a kind that couldn't be changed. She felt Michelle's hot flat body down her back.
'Sorry,' she said as the warm water flowed over their feet. She started to cry because she knew this meant the baby was coming. Michelle was pulling her back towards the bed. Her feet skidded and skated on the wet floor. She paddled in the air for a minute crying and then Michelle heaved her on to the mattress so that she was lying on her side and. lifted her legs up after her. Her wet things were going cold. She shut her eyes and put her arms around her belly. Somewhere down the corridor she could hear women fighting in one of the cells in the dark. The baby travelled up through the core of her body; she held it, she embraced it inside. A fog of sleep hung in her head and she moved in and out of it. For a while she forgot where she was, and then she forgot that there was a baby, except that she felt more concentrated, denser. She felt more herself than she had for a long time, so that while sleeping she formed the idea that she was at home in her bedroom and that on the other side of her eyelids was her old wallpaper with the pattern of blue flowers; that her mum was downstairs making a cup of tea and that nothing had ever happened, nothing separated her from herself. She lay like this until the wetness around her pushed against her sleep and began to trouble her, so that she had to wake up and find out what it was. And then she saw the small room, bleak and grey in the dawn, and Michelle lying in a heap on the other bed, and her own stomach, which looked like big trouble, which looked like a bad dream. The light was like dirt. Doors were banging and people were shouting in the corridor outside. Shel had put a sheet down on the floor in the dark and it lay there twisted and sodden, seeming to replicate something in Kirsty's head. She closed her eyes again and this time Eke a fright she saw the house burning, with big branches of fire coming out of the top, and Julie and the children standing at die window with red behind them, waving.
'I couldn't hold it in,' she said to the warden, who was now standing in the smudgy light at the end of her bed. She couldn't sit up. Tiredness pressed against her face Eke a boot. The mess of her hair scratched at her forehead and cheeks.
'Clean it up,' said the warden, to her and Michelle both.
She went out and locked the door behind her.
'Have you got pains?' said Michelle. She was standing in the middle of the room. Her face was white and worried Eke a fist.
'No. I'm getting up,'
'I think we should tell them.'
Keys scratched in the door. The warden came back in and put a mop and a bucket down on the floor. Then she went away again.
'I'm not telling till I have to.'
The truth was she felt sick, the way she had at the beginning: it was the salty smell of the waters, a used-up dishwater smell with nothing sharp in it. It turned her stomach. And she felt like she was on the edge of it all, too, with the water gone, like you feel when you've jumped but haven't yet hit the ground ...