by Leanne Baston
Lilly slowly pulled her knees up and rolled onto her side, dropping her legs off the edge of the bed, and pushed herself to a sitting position. I jumped out of bed and stood before her with my hands out to help her up. She shook her head, just sitting there, shoulders slumped, hands on her extended belly, staring at the crescent shaped scar on the back of her hand. I retreated to the shower. It was disturbing to see her retreating into her own mental world, constantly contemplating our future. The Sorting would determine the rest of our lives. I watched her from the bathroom mirror. With a resigned sigh she stood, slowly put her hand in the small of her back for support.
She sighed, leaning on the doorframe for physical support.
“You know Lilly, it’s only natural to feel anxious about Junior,” I offered, dressing quickly.
“Jumaine, what if he’s not normal?” Silent tears escaped her dark rimmed eyes down her pale, smooth cheeks.
“Even if he’s not, we’ll still love him and provide for him as best we can.” I said.
“I don’t understand why you would consider moving to the Precinct,” she said, shaking her head.
She rubbed her swollen belly as she shuffled towards the kitchen, pausing at the baby’s room. The tiny shoes on the dresser, not yet worn. The baby clothes – waiting for a body. Her belly moved with a life of its own. Junior, we affectionately called him, was very strong, wiggling and kicking a lot these last few weeks.
She rested on a kitchen chair. Lilly gasped suddenly, put one hand on her belly and grabbed the edge of the table with the other, holding on through a spasm of pain. I looked in her eyes, raising my eyebrows questioningly.
She nodded. “It’s time,” she whispered.
So the time had arrived. Our immediate destiny would be chosen within three days.
“Jumaine, what will we do if— …”
“Enough!” I yelled more to distract than hurt. “Stay focused. We’ll just have to see what happens,” I ended softly.
She breathed deeply. The tears stopped temporarily as she held out her hands for me to help her up. Putting her carefully into the car, we drove silently to the hospital.
As we walked through the automatic doors a nurse took over, moving swiftly to monitor both Lilly and the baby. The baby’s heartbeat had a strong rhythmic base – thud thud, thud thud, thud thud, but Lilly was tiring fast. This baby was large and Lilly was fragile. The pregnancy had been a struggle physically and emotionally. I could not bear the thought of losing her. What would I do if I lost Lilly and our baby was abnormal? Could I really cope on my own without support in the Precinct? Or would I have to acknowledge defeat and let him go there on his own? My chest tightened at the thought.
She was silent, tears trickling down her face once again.
“Is this your first?” asked the nurse.
“Understandably you are both quite anxious. You will need to make a decision if your baby is not normal. Do you wish to keep it?” she asked quietly.
“What are the consequences of our choice?” I asked. I knew the answer.
“The Law of the Authority says…” She sighed, took a breath reciting from memory. “If the baby is abnormal and you decide not to keep it, you will not see the baby again. If you decide to keep it you will be resettled in the abnormal precinct to live until your child is of age. You will then be asked to make the decision to stay there or to return to your current life, leaving your child behind.”
“How can any parent be asked to make such a choice?” Lilly asked, sobbing. She looked at me, the thought of giving up our baby or our existing comfortable lives and moving to the poor precinct did not sit well with me either. The Precinct was a place of abject poverty and desperation where the sole aim was survival.
“It’s a hard decision, but the Authority’s actions have resulted in the abnormal gene becoming scarce,” she added. I looked at Lilly.
Later in the cafeteria, mindlessly pushing my scrambled eggs around my plate, a luxury you never got in the Precinct, I closed my eyes and remembered my mother, large with child. I was a young boy, no more than five years old, when she was taken to the hospital. Not once did I see a baby. Mum and Dad didn’t look at each other or talk to each other for weeks. The baby was a taboo topic. Later, when my mother was dying she admitted giving up my brother to the Precinct. I tried to find him, once. The stench, poverty and desperation of those that lived there was unbelievable, I never returned to search for him. I feared the thought of the place.
During the night Lilly went into the final stages of labour. She squeezed my hand and cried in fear. I whispered encouragement, while I silently prayed for our freedom.
Her final push delivered a baby boy. The nurse quickly grabbed him. She counted his toes – ten, fingers – ten.
I breathed out, not realising I had been holding my breath. It was a good start. He cried a little at first, then made little contented baby noises. He seemed happy as the nurse handed him over.
Lilly held him lovingly. He raised his hand and gently touched Lilly’s cheek and the tear.
He looked over at me, looking deep into my soul, searching for the link that would connect us as father and son. My heart melted. I sighed. Only time would tell if he was really normal. He would only be allowed three days. The baby would be watched 24 hours a day by a Sorting Nurse until he proved he was normal.
The next day Lilly’s mother and her sister Sarah visited. Her mother peered at me sideways with a questioning look.
“They don’t know yet. We haven’t seen anything” I said.
“Don’t worry, sometimes it takes a little longer” Sarah tried to reassure us. Lilly’s mother looked away. Time was running out.
No one here had seen an abnormal child for a long time. There were legends, and I remembered my own brother. Perhaps I carried the abnormal gene. My heart missed a beat.
When I was holding him he touched the crescent shaped scar on my hand and looked deep into my eyes, trying again to connect. I opened my heart a little. I couldn’t keep him out, someone so small and vulnerable.
He tightly closed his fist. Suddenly there was a nurse at my elbow. She touched my son’s fingers and he slowly unfurled his tiny fingers. A small glowing globe formed in his palm. The ceiling light suddenly dimmed. The globe showed a constellation of lights firing off, each brighter than the last.
He turned his hand over and the globe rolled over the edges of his tiny fingers to the back of his hand. He offered it to me. I took the sphere and visions appeared on the walls of the room. It was the galaxy of planets revolving slowly around the central planet, Earth, the glow intensified.
Lilly and I gasped. My heart skipped. Her mother let out a yelp.
My son raised his arm with his first finger pointing to the vision and it changed colours, rotating through the colours of the rainbow. He waved his hands, causing the stars to rotate faster.
I clutched my son to my chest, blinking back tears. The nurse stepped forward to take him and disappeared quickly. She would have forcefully taken him if I had not handed him over. Our visitors left just as quickly, feeling the anxiety in the air. I held Lilly’s hands, both of us crying silent tears.
Taking a deep breath I went to find my son. I slowly walked the length of the corridor. Standing in front of the closed double swing doors, I straightened my back and inhaled deeply. Breathing out slowly I calmed my nerves. With a solemn look on my face I pushed the door open and entered looking for the sorting nurse and the final decision. I had an idea, but the Official Decision was final and binding.
Having been given his fate, I retreated from the room, stopped and turned. I read the sign on the door: “The Sorting.” A proud smile slowly crept over my face. I turned in the direction of Lilly’s room to give her the good news. He was just like us, and would be given his own crescent shaped scar.