The Maps Between Us- Chapter 23
TW: pregnancy loss, depression
Astrid and Hiccup took no action to avoid pregnancy, but the months passed and nothing changed. Summer on Sark turned into Autumn. The nights grew cold, and Astrid threw herself into raising her children. She worked too, spending hours in the Sark museum poring over the World War II Guernsey Scrapbook. She churned out a PhD thesis that delighted her supervisor in Oslo and brought Astrid no joy at all. She felt numb, going through the motions of island life. There were vegetables to grow, shopping deliveries to collect, neighbours to visit, school plays to attend. Astrid couldn’t shake the feeling that she was stuck. She only laughed when playing with the children, and even that was exhausting. So when Hiccup suggested they go out for dinner, she was less than enthusiastic.
“Why not?” He’d asked. Unable to give him- or herself- a satisfactory answer, Astrid had agreed. So here she was, sat in Little Sark’s only restaurant, staring at a menu that made her head hurt. Les Fouilles was built in one of the old lead mines, with huge arched windows overlooking the chimneys on the hillside. The coastline fell away in a dramatic sweep of cragged rocks. It was beautiful.
Astrid turned her attention back to the menu. It was written entirely in French, a language neither she nor Hiccup spoke. Hiccup had pulled up a French to Norwegian dictionary on his phone and was translating, but Astrid couldn’t find the energy to care. All food was equally unappetising at the moment, so it didn’t really matter what she ordered.
“Hey, this sounds nice.” Said Hiccup. “I think it’s lamb with beetroot.”
Beetroot was normally one of Astrid’s favourites. She forced a smile that felt more like a grimace and tried to summon up some enthusiasm. “Yeah. Yeah, that sounds great.” She cleared her throat. “What are you having?”
Hiccup butchered the pronunciation of one of the dishes. “I think it’s salmon. With vegetables. They might be roasted, maybe?”
“Yum.” Astrid looked down at her lap. She had knotted her napkin, unconsciously wrapping it around her fingers and tearing it to shreds. She quickly shoved the scraps into her pocket.
Once they’d ordered, Hiccup poured water for himself and Astrid. They didn’t drink wine. Mainly out of habit rather than hope. Hiccup looked at Astrid for a moment. Then he sighed. “Astrid, I was hoping we could chat.”
“Really?” Said Astrid. “What about?”
“The future. I’ve got to give the company in London an answer by next week.”
“I’ve already told you; I think you should take the job.”
“That’s… actually what I wanted to talk about.” Said Hiccup. “I want to go home. Back to Norway.”
“There are no cartography jobs in Norway.”
“No. But the medical care is better. Astrid, if we go home you’ll be able to have endometriosis treatment much more quickly. You’ll have a better quality of life.”
Astrid shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. We should give up the idea of having another baby.” She said. “Let’s go to England.”
Hiccup leant forwards against the table. “Astrid, I’m not talking about pregnancy. I’m talking about you. You’re in pain. You need treatment, even if we decide not to try for more kids. You can’t carry on like this.”
“I’m fine.” Said Astrid. “My pain’s not even that bad anymore.” That was true. Kind of. Her symptoms were crippling at times, but it barely registered. She didn’t care. She picked up her glass of water and drank slowly. Hiccup was twisting his watch under the table, staring off into the near distance.
“How long are you going to keep this up, Astrid?” He asked suddenly. “You’re pretending to be okay and failing miserably. The kids have noticed. Zephyr keeps asking me what’s wrong with you.”
“What do you say?” Asked Astrid.
“Nothing. What do you want me to say?”
Astrid sighed. She brushed her fringe out of her eyes. “Look, I’m sorry, Hiccup.”
“Don’t apologise.” Hiccup took a deep breath. “Astrid, I feel like I’m losing you.”
Astrid stared at the dying houseplants on the bar. “Me too.” She admitted. “I feel like I’m losing myself too.”
Hiccup reached across the table and took her hand. He squeezed. “You know I’ll stand by you whilst you figure things out, Astrid. Whatever that means.”
“Okay.” Astrid spent a few moments wondering what to say next. There were no words. She felt like her brain had been switched off. Her thoughts were interrupted by the food arriving. “This looks nice.” She said, indicating the beetroot, goats cheese and lamb tart on her plate. She picked up her fork and began to chew. It tasted like cardboard. She swallowed. “Hiccup, I’m sick to death of feeling like this.”
Hiccup folded his elbows on the table and tilted his head at Astrid. His lips twitched into a suppressed grin. “So;” he said, “what are you going to do about it?”
Astrid kicked him under the table. “Hey! That’s my line!” She said. It had worked, though. He’d made her smile, “I guess I’m going to do what I should have done in the first place.” She said. “I’m going to find proper baby loss support. Not that the one appointment I had with the health visitor was pointless or anything.”
“No, not at all.” Said Hiccup sarcastically. “Astrid, I think that’s another reason we should go back to Norway. I expect there’s better services for-”
“Let me research it.” Said Astrid. “The NHS is one of the best health services in the world, I think if I can figure out how to access the support, we might be better off in England. I’m sure the British Medical Journal has articles on pregnancy loss. And definitely on endometriosis. I’ll contact Dr. Gobber and ask for recommendations. Give me a few days to read, okay, and I’ll figure out where support is- why are you smiling?”
Hiccup’s face had broken into a wide grin. “That’s the Astrid I know.” He said. Astrid rolled her eyes at him, and she’d never seen him look so relieved in her life.