Excerpt of The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
(Page 1 of 10)
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THE SNOW STARTED TO FALL SEVERAL HOURS BEFORE HER
labor began. A few flakes first, in the dull gray late-afternoon
sky, and then wind-driven swirls and eddies around the edges of
their wide front porch. He stood by her side at the window,
sharp gusts of snow billow, then swirl and drift to the ground.
All around the neighborhood, lights came on, and the naked
branches of the trees turned white.
After dinner he built a fire, venturing out into the weather for
wood he had piled against the garage the previous autumn. The
was bright and cold against his face, and the snow in the
was already halfway to his knees. He gathered logs, shaking off
their soft white caps and carrying them inside. The kindling in
iron grate caught fire immediately, and he sat for a time on the
hearth, cross-legged, adding logs and watching the flames leap,
blue-edged and hypnotic. Outside, snow continued to fall quietly
through the darkness, as bright and thick as static in the cones
light cast by the streetlights. By the time he rose and looked
the window, their car had become a soft white hill on the edge
of the street. Already his footprints in the driveway had filled
He brushed ashes from his hands and sat on the sofa beside his
wife, her feet propped on pillows, her swollen ankles crossed, a
copy of Dr. Spock balanced on her belly. Absorbed, she licked
index finger absently each time she turned a page. Her hands
slender, her fingers short and sturdy, and she bit her bottom
lightly, intently, as she read. Watching her, he felt a surge of
and wonder: that she was his wife, that their baby, due in just
weeks, would soon be born. Their first child, this would be.
had been married just a year.
She looked up, smiling, when he tucked the blanket around her
"You know, I've been wondering what it's like," she said.
we're born, I mean. It's too bad we can't remember." She
opened her robe and pulled up the sweater she wore underneath,
revealing a belly as round and hard as a melon. She ran her hand
across its smooth surface, firelight playing across her skin,
reddish gold onto her hair. "Do you suppose it's like being
great lantern? The book says light permeates my skin, that the
can already see."
"I don't know," he said.
She laughed. "Why not?" she asked. "You're the doctor."
"I'm just an orthopedic surgeon," he reminded her. "I could tell
you the ossification pattern for fetal bones, but that's about
lifted her foot, both delicate and swollen inside the light blue
and began to massage it gently: the powerful tarsal bone of her
the metatarsals and the phalanges, hidden beneath skin and
layered muscles like a fan about to open. Her breathing filled
quiet room, her foot warmed his hands, and he imagined the
secret, symmetry of bones. In pregnancy she seemed to him
beautiful but fragile, fine blue veins faintly visible through
It had been an excellent pregnancy, without medical
Even so, he had not been able to make love to her for several
months. He found himself wanting to protect her instead, to
her up flights of stairs, to wrap her in blankets, to bring her
custard. "I'm not an invalid," she protested each time,
"I'm not some fledgling you discovered on the lawn." Still, she
pleased by his attentions. Sometimes he woke and watched her as
she slept: the flutter of her eyelids, the slow even movement of
chest, her outflung hand, small enough that he could enclose it
completely with his own.
(c) 2005, Kim Edwards. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher, Penguin Group.