"Baby's name?" someone said.
"Roseann," Sara said, the name popping into her mind. Little Roseann. Sara remembered sitting on Eva's couch, making up lists with her and George. Each of them would take a turn. Alice Clarisse. Names so beautiful they hurt you just to hear them. "Here we are," Eva whispered, "Anne Cheryl Rivers," and for a moment Sara thought, Whose name is that? Where had those names come from and when had that been decided? Wait, she tried to say, but her lips were too heavy to move even into a sigh.
"Thank you," Eva breathed.
"Thank you, Sara." And then Sara closed her eyes.
Sara woke: Something is wrong. For a moment, she thought she was with her boyfriend Danny, in his basement, lying on the red plaid pullout couch, tense and awkward and naked, dizzy with need and desire, waiting for Danny to come downstairs to her. He liked finding her naked. "Surprise me," he used to say. She used to kiss the tip of his nose because she didn't know what else to kiss, because she was so shy.
"Danny," she said. Her voice sounded strange and hoarse in the room. She blinked and the room turned white. Danny was gone. She heard coughing and laughter and she twisted her head and there was another woman in a fussy white nightgown in the bed next to her, surrounded by flowers and wrapped gifts and two other women, whose faces were bright with excitement. "We saw your Tom. He's so thrilled!"
"He wants five more," Sara's roommate said, and everyone laughed.
"Everyone at work misses you like crazy," one of the women said.
Sara felt herself growing smaller and smaller. She used to have friends, too. And then the bigger she had become, the more she had withdrawn and the less often her friends had called her, the less they had to say to her, too. And now, they didn't call at all. "Come on, Mom. Let's take a walk so you can show us off to your daughter," one of the women said.
"Mom!" the other woman said, tickled. The women all stood up. One of them looked over at Sara, and then quickly looked away. She knew that look. She had seen it on the faces of the nurses. They glanced and then looked briskly away. Only a candy striper had dared to ask, "What are you doing here?" as if it were a mistake. "How old are you?"
"Sixteen," Sara said and the girl looked shocked.
"Quit your kidding," she said. "Get out of here."
Sara lay in bed, her hands on her belly. It was big and pouchy, as if she were still full of baby, but she felt this strange, terrible loss. "Soon it'll be over Abby had said. And some of it had been. "How can I be anyone's father?" Danny had asked her when she had dared to tell him she was pregnant.
A nurse carrying two yellow plastic pitchers came into the room. She came closer to Sara. "There weren't any private rooms. I'm sorry," she said. She patted Sara's arm and Sara looked up at her, confused.
"You're doing a brave thing," the nurse told her, reassuringly. "I have two adopted kids of my own.
"Where's my baby?" Sara said and the nurse gave her a long, careful look.
"Are you sure that's what you want, honey? Most birth mothers find--"
"I can see my baby," Sara interrupted, her voice rising. "It's an open adoption."
The nurse put the pitchers down. She started to say something and then her mouth closed, and she left the room. Sara slunk down in bed, turning her face to the window, but moments later; there was the sound of wheels skittering along the floor. "Here she is," said the nurse, and Sara got out of bed. "I'll be back for her in a while," the nurse said.
She stared hard at the baby, her toes curling on the cold of the floor. The baby was as small as a minute, swaddled in a striped rainbow blanket just like a surprise package, her head half covered with a tiny knit cap with "I got my first hug at St. Elizabeth's" embroidered across the brim, making Sara think wistfully: Who else has hugged Anne? Sara bent lower toward the baby, who smelled of powder and soap and something Sara couldn't recognize. Anne's eyes were open and slate grey and they held a strange, mischievous expression, as if she knew something no one else did. Sara had read that new mothers studied their babies to make sure they had all ten fingers and toes, that every limb was in place, but Sara studied Anne looking not for perfection but for Danny's green eyes, for his strong nose and full mouth, but this baby didn't look anything like him, or anything like Sara, either, for that matter, and a wave of sadness coursed through her.
Copyright Caroline Leavitt 2004. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the author.
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Southern Gothic fantasy with a contemporary flare set in Savannah
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