by Nicole Grant
29 May —
It’s late, the moon a silver eyelash on indigo granite. Martin’s back faced me, his shoulders scrunched tight. His tension pulls even in his sleep. Myriad freckles form constellations that I will one day plot.
I slid off the cotton sheets to check on a cry from our daughter’s room. The knob was cold in my hands, and I braced myself for what I would see in the crib: hyacinths, violet and indigo, birds of paradise lighting and taking flight across the walls of her room. Then our dream: the comforter of daisies and carnations, still, on the chest. I see that she is alive: her pinky folded under her ear, a band of brown hair halving her face. I heard her breathing—inhalations of just enough, the sound of a dollop of syrup returning to the bottle. I see her. Alive.
I returned to Martin who has never heard Hya in the night. I reach for the orange stars of his back. He flinches away, unawake.
I remember the day I first saw his back, when he dived off Daddy Bur Oak into the creek at Wabash Park
30 April —
Today we had a picnic at Wabash. You know how I adore the hyacinth there, purple blooms, fragrant and somber, standing at attention while we devour cucumber and rye.
Mom and Dad were quiet on the ride home. There may be trouble.
Martin was there! He swam in the creek, using the branches of Daddy Bur for his springboard, every muscle gleaming.
If only I could get more than glimpses. Sometimes, he comes in dreams clear as light. And I know that there is no one else. Yet, when I wake, there are only my eyes, hazed from being closed so tightly during the night.
My brother knows.
“Sarah, come to the creek. I saw an alligator.”
“No, Gordon. I’m reading, can’t you see that?”
“Ha! You’re eyeing Martin. Give it up. You’re a box of lead.”
Closing the book, “Who says I’m interested, anyway?”
“You do. I see the way you pat your hair when he’s around.”
“Go see your alligator. With any luck, he’ll be hungry.”
“Aw, get bent.”
He kicked me right in the stomach with his brass-tipped boots. For moments, silver light blinded, blood drained. I willed help to come.
Gordon ran off laughing while I doubled over, gasping for life. I looked up to see Martin’s red-topped head ascending godlike from the creek. I think he smiled at me. Just a quick upturn of pink lines, but that was enough. My stomach subdued.
15 June —
Hya didn’t mind my fawning, my playing dress-up with her. She has a belt of orange stars across her nose, like her father. Her father, who now is always working or sleeping.
We celebrated her birthday this morning, after Martin left for work. She and I strung yellow crepe across the dining room walls. She stood on the high backed chair, brass posts level with the hem of her lavender romper. How the flower grows! She stretched her petite fingers to tape the crinkly paper and the chair leaned ever so slightly. My hands grasped for her but found nothing. There was no fall, no misstep. She stood motionless, in place. I wonder if I froze before I reached, seeing her falling to pieces in my mind. I remember hanging wallpaper
16 March —
Today, Mom assigned Gordon the bathroom to paint while I was stuck covering the kitchen. The wallpaper is a dreary affair of pale green background and an endless pattern of bronze candlestick holders. As I stood on the counter, pressing a stubborn corner, Gordon elbowed my knee.
I fell backward, bumping my head on the Jemima cookie jar, scattering it into a million black and red pieces.
Mom appeared, fussing about her broken relic, as I lay bleeding from my eyebrow.
When I have children (with M!), I will cradle them. Always!
4 July —
Martin hasn’t come home. After four o’clock in the morning, and no call.
Doesn’t he care what our daughter will think?
I suppose he has already answered that in one way or another.
He has changed so much.
Our wedding night, we promised
3 February —
It’s a sin to commit this to paper. I can’t possibly express the ecstasy of our nuptials!
“I love you.” A kiss.
“I love you, more.” An elaborate kiss.
He nosed my breasts as I made heart drawings in his hair. “No, you can’t possibly.”
I lifted his head so he could stare into my eyes and know the truth, a truth I could now be secure in telling. “Yes, Martin, I love you more. I knew the first time I saw you biking over the snowy Wabash hills when we were children. From where I stood, you were magical. You floated over snow, Jesus in winter.”
He laughed—from anyone other than my husband (how I love writing that)—it would have been mocking. But he’s here, mine. “Sarah, we had paved a path on the hills. We weren’t riding on snow.”
“Don’t take away my magic. I believe it. Let me believe.”
“Okay, Sarah. Believe in magic.” Our bodies were warm and one.
“Don’t ever leave me, Martin.”
“I won’t.” Kiss.
“Don’t stay out all night like Mary’s husband.”
“Never, dear.” Kiss.
“Be a good father.”
“Of course.” Kiss.
“Be a good husband.”
“I’m trying to be, but you keep talking.” Love.
19 August —
Biscuits and tea with Hya today. Suzy, her favorite, was hostess. I bought a real china service yesterday, although the clerk was rude.
“I’ve wanted to buy this set myself, for my niece,” she said.
“It is lovely. It’s for my daughter.”
“Your daughter?” She stared at me with strange eyes, not looking down as her fingers folded the paper around the bone.
“What an unusual name. How old is she?” Her suspicious eyes never left me.
“She’s still a baby.”
“How old?” She wasn’t wrapping, now, just staring.
“A child is always a baby,” I snapped a little.
Martin still has not called.
If it were not for Hya, I’d fall apart. Her soft hair cushions my pain.
Sometimes, the doctor comes to mind
20 January —
“Sarah, I’m sorry.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry about.”
“I will give you several names of surrogate agencies. They are more expensive, but, you and Martin don’t have financial troubles, do you?” He scribbled on a white piece of paper—gibberish. All of it.
I touched his liver-spotted hand, just as I had touched Dad’s in the coffin. “We will have a baby, Doctor.”
“It is the womb, Sarah. Your body can’t carry.” He faltered. “You can’t go through another loss. You’re not strong enough.”
“We will have a baby, Doctor,” I patted.
8 September —
Hya sat next to me as I sent off the bills, electric, mortgage. I let the car insurance lapse since Martin took the car, and I—Hya and I—walk everywhere. No need for a phone, either. No one calls.
This I explained to unhearing Hya. Her knees knocked together as she swung her shins out-to-in like click-clacks. She wore the princess slippers we bought before she was born. Martin thought it was too soon but
9 December —
“Sarah, honey, that’s excessive.”
“Martin, it is not excessive. They’re beautiful.”
“They aren’t for newborns. We don’t even know if the baby will—”
“She won’t always be a newborn. Children grow faster than expected.”
The beard hid his tender mouth. It’s unlike him to be this unkempt.
“Okay, Sarah. Get the slippers. Get whatever you want.” He kissed me on the forehead, concern peeking from behind his blue eyes.
I don’t know why he worries. I’ve told him exactly what I told the doctor.
Hya was hurt this morning. I had to hold her all day. All day we sat in the rocking chair in her room. A room for her before she was conceived. Before she was conceived? No, there has always been a concept of her. Her hair would be brown like mine. She would have her father’s freckles, sapphire eyes. Generous eyes that reach out to hold fractured souls. I held her all night, until the stars clustered together like the
Hya was silent today, like yesterday and the day before. Time passed with past albums.
I found a picture of him lying on his stomach in Wabash. His eyes warm, his body wet from the creek. No glimmer of the sadness—desperation, is that the word?—I last saw in them as he pleaded with me for a return.
I do not remember.
I remember a promise to always cradle.
I consider constellations, now unseen but known: The upper corner of his back is Scorpius. The Major and Minor Dippers traverse his trapezius. Lepus, right of center. Centrally, Apus, the Bird of Paradise.