Mine by Susi Fox

Someone's stolen your baby. But no one believes you. Read an extract from the gripping psychological thriller, Mine by Susi Fox

Mine by Susi Fox

'Boy? I draw a sharp breath. ‘I thought I was having a girl.’

Ursula flips through the file, sticks her finger on the page.

‘Definitely a boy,’ she says.

It takes me a moment to understand her. Not a daughter, but a son. This is most unexpected. But there’s a small chance the ultrasound – and my maternal intuition – could have been wrong.

‘You’re sure?’

‘Quite sure. It says boy right here.’ Her jaw tightens. ‘Oh,’ she mumbles. ‘Hmmm . . .’

Oh, no. Any baby, any gender is fine, as long as they’re okay. Please, please, let them be okay . . .

Ursula scrambles through the notes, then inspects me again through the lower half of her bifocals.

‘It looks like he’s alright. The files are so difficult to read these days. So many babies. And so many mothers to care for. We’ll get you to him as soon as we can.’

Relief floods my body. My baby is alive. I am a mother. And somewhere in this hospital is my newborn son. My heart is still a drum beating behind my ribs.

‘Can I see him now, please?’

‘Hopefully soon. We’re extremely busy.’ She gives a theatrical sigh. ‘I’m sure you understand.’ She checks the file again. ‘You’re a doctor, am I right?’

I’m not sure if she’s playing some sort of perverse game. Perhaps she’s merely run off her feet. I’ve heard the stories about this place: a constant victim of budget cuts, perpetually short- staffed, doctors and nurses overworked.

I nod. ‘Well, I’m a pathologist . . . But can you at least tell me how he is?’

Again Ursula drags a finger down the page. ‘It’s not immediately clear from these notes.’ She eases the folder shut.

I scrunch the bed sheet into a ball beneath my palms. ‘I need to see him. I need to see him now.’

‘I understand,’ Ursula says, placing the folder on my bedside table. ‘Of course you do. I’ll be back with a wheelchair as soon as I can.’

‘Mark will take me. My husband. Where is he?’

‘He must be with your baby. I’m sure you can see him when we get you upstairs.’ She removes my mobile from the top drawer of the bedside table and hands it to me. ‘You can call him. Tell him to come to the desk for a wheelchair.’

A buzzer screeches from a room nearby. Ursula frowns as she steps into the corridor.

I find Mark’s number and press the phone hard against my ear. It rings out. I call again. This time I leave a message in a voice I barely recognise, begging him to come and get me straight away, to take me upstairs. I tell him I need him. That I need to check on the baby.

I’ve worked in hospitals for years. I know the systems, the faults and flaws. On the face of it, I should be more comfortable here. But being a patient is different to being a doctor. Now I’m the observed rather than the observer; I’m the one being dissected, examined, judged. I can spot incompetence like a watermark. And, worst of all, I know how easy it is to make mistakes.

Nurses titter in the corridor outside my room. Muffled wails of newborn babies filter through the air. My uterus seems to tighten inside me. I’m starting to get some feeling back in my legs as the tingling fades away. My muscles soften with the last of the opioids and I gasp at the sticky, hot air, willing myself to stay here, stay conscious, there’s no time for sleep, but the room tilts beneath me, and I swirl into a vortex as the walls collapse in on themselves and the room disintegrates to black.

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more