It was the day he saw the light through her spine that he started to wonder. It is something of a miracle that it took so long. All those long summer months and then one day, when the sun was low in the sky, when autumn was nudging , he saw it. Refracted light was bursting through her vertebrae and fine skin.
It puzzled him. Surely she’d have been a mass of breaks from infancy if the condition were life-long? She should have been shattered and God knows how she’d mend. He’d have seen the kinks and twists from all that damage.
But maybe she wasn’t born with glass bones. Maybe they turned glassy gradually, from want of nourishment. Maybe she had the full quota of rich, red marrow at birth. He liked to think she did. He liked to imagine her – bonny, chuckling. He liked to hear the foot-falls of her parents in the night, hastening to her cot to scoop her, cradle her sweat-tousled head to a chest – sing her lullabies. Hush little baby. Mockingbird. See them marvelling at her lengthening femurs, spreading feet. All that warm, spongy marrow in the heart of her bones. All that love feeding it.
But maybe one day, one morning when the sun bit the edge of the roller-blind in the kitchen window, when Dave Lee Travis was chuckling and she was spooning her Frosties and sweet, gold milk, there was a bad word. He knows they happen. He knows we say things to children that lodge in their minds and do damage. Maybe this word got to her bones – bled out of her brain and coated her skull. Then it seeped, slow, in a process of heating and cooling, through her skeleton. Turned the living, salt-soaked bones of her into glass. Maybe it took years and no-one could stop it because no-one could see it. But maybe she could feel it – the burning and chilling – creeping down her legs, along her arms.
He doesn’t like to think about it but what else can he do? He’s a rational man. A man who wants answers. This woman has glass bones and he can surely find out why with a little research. He reads on the internet, of course he does. He’s doing it now – as he mops with TCP and cotton wool at his brow. It would be far easier if he could keep the blood out of his eyes. There are blogs and forums thronged with the desperate. Children and lovers, husbands and cousins reeling around in confusion. There are academic articles that give him Freud and Klein and DSM numbers like a magical litany. Glass boned people, he reads, are the stuff of fairy tales. And he wonders if he is in a fairy tale. So he’s stopped reading now and he’s making a cup of tea.
But there’s universal agreement on the correct course of action. He can’t deny that. The thing to do is keep your distance. (He’s having a ginger nut because he might as well.) You see, it’s undeniable, people with glass bones throw stones. And it might be because they don’t want you too close. Understandable. He imagines it would be terrifying – all that potential for sharpness inside if someone just squeezed a little too tight. Still, heaving rocks is a bit out of order, no matter how scared you are. Never mind. He’s splinted that leg now, anyway, and the miraculous thing about bones – the ones he has that are made of collagen and calcium phosphate, apparently – is that they mend. In the warm dark of him, even now, while he’s sipping his tea, he’s mending.