The baby killer is going to strike again. Soon.
Five women sat looking at me, waiting. I was aware of the shuffles from our children next door, the ticking of a clock that was three hours slow and the hiss of the coffee urn in the kitchenette. And of my hand, holding the note I was supposed to read out, beginning to shake.
It was my first time running a mother–baby therapy group—my first session. My supervisors back in Melbourne would have said: ‘See, Isabel? That’s why you need to interview participants before you take them on.’
Interviews hadn’t been an option. We’d only been in town a week, and Yvonne, the child-health nurse, with the long neck and darting eyes that reminded me of a chicken, hadn’t been available until this morning.
‘I run a group sometimes,’ Yvonne told me when I arrived at the small house that was the town’s child health centre, set in the narrow road behind the main street’s three shops. Her look suggested that it was she who ought to be running this one, not some jumped-up junior psychologist. ‘The GP and I put this lot together for you.’
She’d taken me through the files—three minutes for each of four clients and a quick read of the fifth before we’d been interrupted by the first woman, Sophie, arriving with her son Tom. The Sydney law graduate who had married into the Barclay family—sheep and politics. If she was anxious, as Yvonne had indicated, her smile was masking it well. ‘Is it okay if I call you Issy?’ She didn’t wait for an answer.