16. Solitude, part one

This post is the sixteenth and penultimate in a series which starts HERE.

(December 1998)

When I pass out in the treatment room, with my baby strapped to my front, the pharmacist catches me before I hit the ground. I am not a regular fainter; this is the only time I’ve been unconscious in my life.

It’s the pain of the chemist scraping out the infected blisters in my heels; like nothing I’ve experienced before or since.

I had squashed my still-swollen post-pregnancy feet into too-tight shoes then hobbled about for almost two weeks, every step agony, loathe to take antibiotics because I was breastfeeding. I couldn’t sleep, because I had to lie with my feet sticking off the end of the bed; even the touch of the covers against my heels was too much to bear. It wasn’t until infected blisters appeared on my legs and buttocks and I’d passed out that I agree to take antibiotics.

Looking back, I don’t understand why I held out for so long on the medicine. I can only conclude I wasn’t thinking straight. Baby-brain, coupled with paranoia. I was very alone.

Since my return to Tunisia with my three-week old daughter at the start of November, everything had changed.

The freedom from rules and regulations was no longer appealing. I’d asked Samir to buy a car seat for when I arrived back from the UK but he hadn’t got around to it. He had no experience of car seats – nobody in his family had a car so it didn’t register as important.  Likewise with smoking – it didn’t occur to him or other male relatives not to smoke near a baby (women don’t smoke because they are not allowed to – oppression has some plus points I suppose). Cultural differences that had been charming were now irritating; this was not the life I wanted for my child. But it took me five months to face that reality.

While I’d been in the UK having our baby to ensure she’d be entitled to British citizenship (I was away for about 10 weeks), Samir had spent all the cash we’d put aside over the summer to get us through the winter. He was 20; he didn’t care about saving money. He just wanted to have fun and avoid doing his military service for as long as possible. We discussed moving to the UK, but he was adamant he didn’t want to do that; he loved Tunisia. In that respect he was unusual; most young men can’t wait to leave.

He was a gregarious guy who had a strong bond with his brothers and cousins. Running the watersports base with me had made him wealthier than his relatives and this was tricky for him. There was a cultural expectation on him to share his wealth with his family, and even with his friends. But it was my business, and my money and I had my own plans for what I wanted to do with it. What a recipe for marital strife…

So when I returned from the UK and started doing my nut about there being no money left, it was all too much for him (his solution was for me to go and live in the village with his parents). He disappeared for long periods of time, weeks sometimes, and I lived alone with my daughter.

But I didn’t miss him. I’d always wanted a baby and I enjoyed being alone so, as long as I put The Future out of my mind, I was perfectly content (apart from the blister interlude).

I felt as though I’d slipped out the back door of my life and was living in a secret world; just me and Rania, a little team of two, ensconced in a bubble on our own.


The marina petrol station at Port El Kantaoui (random, I know. It was that or a photo of oozing infected blisters). This is where we stocked up on petrol for the boat, and it’s also the scene of the main drama in Daughter, Disappeared, see below.

Next: Solitude, part two.

If you enjoy these blog posts, you might want to consider my debut novel, Daughter, Disappeared, a hard-hitting ‘women in jeopardy’ thriller, set in Tunisia. Please read the reviews on Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2eCnZRf. Or to purchase on Amazon.com, for those in USA/Canada: http://amzn.to/2ozbGe8.Bespoke book cover art example from coverness.com

There’s also my facebook page: Fiona MacBain – Writer – thank you!

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