Monday, September 3, 2007

Thirty Six

July turned to August and the nights grew cooler, the days more golden, brightened by the blazing colors of the aspens. While Will helped Miguel on the grounds, Diana tried to make herself useful in the kitchen or in preparing the classrooms and dormitories for the school semester. Even though the midwife had pronounced her fit to do whatever work she felt capable of, getting around was becoming such a frustrating effort that more and more she preferred to sit on the patio or in Amalia's herb garden, reading a book or knitting. Sometimes Kitta would join her, bringing her books and a slate to practice her writing. Although Diana had little patience for children, she found serious, word-loving Kitta an acceptable companion and would stop what she was working on to help with a big word or to discuss the larger meaning of the Sneeches.

One afternoon Diana came into the garden to find Kitta already there, books abandoned, splashing in the low tank that irrigated the plants. Her dress was soaked, her dark hair plastered to her skull. Diana looked at her in dismay. "What on earth are you doing?"

"It's just water," Kitta said, holding out her arms. "I'm not dirty."

"That's not the point. Water isn't something you waste. There are people and animals in the valleys who are dying because they have no water. Do you understand?" Taking Kitta's wide-eyed stare for an answer, she added. "Water is life. Now let's find you some dry clothes."

If Amalia had any thoughts on the way Diana had taken to Kitta, she kept them to herself, but the midwife was less reticent on the subject of children. "I haven't had any luck finding someone in town who wants a baby," Bridget said as she prodded Diana's belly. "There's already plenty of orphans to go around."

"Well, someone's going to have to take it, because I'm not raising it."

"I understand why you feel the way you do, but you might be surprised. A lot of women don’t think they're interested until they hear their baby cry. That changes everything."

"Hearing a kid scream would make me even more likely to get rid of it," Diana said. "Ouch. What are you doing?"

Bridget frowned in concern. "Just checking how the baby is positioned. It seems a little off."

"It'll turn itself, though," Amalia said from her chair by the window. "Right?"

"It should." She tried to palpitate it with her hands, but Diana squirmed. "Does it move around a lot?"

"Kicks all the time."

"It’s probably just an active one, then." She turned to Amalia. "I'm thinking she's got another three weeks, give or take a few days. Unless she starts having unusual symptoms, you don't need to contact me again until she goes into labor."

"Will that give you enough time? It's a slow trip up the mountain. We'd be happy to put you up when we get near her due date."

"First babies always take awhile. As long as you get word to me promptly via the radio, there'll be plenty of time."

After the midwife left, Diana and Amalia sat staring at each other. "Quit looking at me," Diana finally said. "This is humiliating enough without that."

"I was just thinking," she said. "If you're worried you might have regrets, I could raise your baby here."

Diana shook her head. "You don't like children much more than I do."

"No, at least not until they're walking and talking. But there are plenty of people here who could help."

"Thank you, Auntie, but it would be best to give it away or let it die at birth. It wouldn’t be fair to make you raise a child I didn't want."

Amalia went to the window and gazed out at the summer gardens. "I just wanted you to know that I would do that for you."


"Because I love you. When you raise a child, you'll understand."

"Maybe I won't."

Amalia turned around. "Won't what?"

"Raise a child."

"I don't know how you think you'll avoid it. Will won't let—"

"I won't be having Will's babies."

"What makes you say that?"

Diana hesitated before answering. "I'm leaving. Things aren't working out."

Amalia stared. "But he loves you so much."

"Being his wife feels wrong. No matter how hard I try, I can't. . ."

"It's like being married to your brother," Amalia sighed. "I should've never raised you two like siblings."

"It's too late now, and what difference would it have made?"

"My sister used to think you were destined for each other."

"Destiny?" Diana scoffed. "There's no such thing. There's only what we ourselves do."

"You may be right about that," Amalia said. "So when are you going to tell him?"

"I'm not sure yet."

"The longer you wait, the worse it will be."

"I know. But I need him right now. He’s still my best friend and I don't want to argue with him. I'll tell him when I'm ready, okay?"


Jim Melvin said...

My gawd, what beautiful writing and flowing dialogue. Highly impressive.

Alice Audrey said...

That's going to make it even harder on him.