Friday, September 7, 2007


At lunchtime Diana made a brief appearance at the kitchen table, complaining of her aching back and swearing she wasn't hungry because she had eaten her breakfast so late. Since the plate Amalia retrieved from the bedroom was empty, she was reassured. She rubbed some liniment into Diana's back and went to the school.

She returned home as the sun was going down, her mind full of lesson plans and worries over books, supplies, and dormitory assignments. She met Will and Miguel coming up the path from the barn. "You're only just now getting back?"

"We could ask the same of you."

"At least we had the excuse of being farther away," Will said. "We cleared the trail almost to the halfway cairn."

"We'll put the sign up tomorrow. They should have no trouble getting here." At Amalia's nervous smile, Miguel added, "Are you excited?"

"Scared to death is more like it." They entered the kitchen and Amalia paused and looked around. No lamps had been lit, no fires built against the cool evening air. "Don't tell me Diana spent all day in her bedroom."

"It's not like her," Will said. He went to their room and flung open the door. Diana was leaning against a chair, breathing in deep, ragged gasps. Her hair was plastered with sweat and the hem of her shift was wet for reasons Will couldn't immediately grasp. Kitta was sitting on the bed reading aloud, and she set down her book with a look of relief in her eyes.

"Keep reading, Kitta," Diana gasped.

Will realized she hadn't noticed him. "Diana?"

She turned around. "Don't tell! Please don't tell!"

"Don't be stupid. You need the midwife."

"No!" When Will looked at her in confusion, she added, "It's better this way. No one wants it. This way I can suffocate it before it even breathes. That's not the same as killing it, is it?"

He stared at her for a long moment, then shouted down the hall. "Mother!" When he heard Amalia’s footsteps, he grabbed Diana by the arm and tried to lead her to bed.

Amalia needed only an instant to understand. She picked up Kitta and ran with her to the kitchen, where she dumped the child at Miguel's feet. "Radio the midwife. Tell her to come now. Diana's been in labor since at least earlier today, maybe even last night."

Miguel picked Kitta up and soothed her. "Why didn't she tell us?"

"God alone knows what goes through that girl's mind." A sudden thought occurred to her. "Can Bridget get here in the dark? Should I send Will to lead her up?"

"I'll go after I get the message to my operator in Estrella. Let Will help Diana."

"No, he should go. He can't bear to see her in pain, and I don't want them feeding off each others’ fears. This is going to be hard enough for her without that."

1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

It'll make him feel good to be doing something he can consider productive.