"Let's go, let's go--" the nurse said. "Get into scrubs if you're coming," she said to Eva and George. "Looks like it's going to be a full house."
"I'll be in the waiting room, honey." Jack touched Sara's shoulder awkwardly.
"Daddy--" she said, panicking.
"You'll be fine," he said, but his voice sounded unsure to her. It mad her more panicky. "Daddy--" she repeated, but when she looked up, he was gone.
The nurse handed Eva and George scrubs. She began wheeling the gurney, out of the room, down the hall. Abby was keeping pace, stroking Sara' hair, her shoulders, murmuring something that Sara couldn't hear. Sara heard the nurse's voice, but she couldn't make out what she was saying, either. She heard the Orthodox woman screaming again. How could anyone scream like that and not be torn in two? And then Sara noticed another sound, like a thousand angry bees humming about her head. She felt the air thickening, heating up around her. She looked up and saw two new doors. Abby was beside her again, scooping up one of Sara's hands, holding it tight. "I won't leave you," Abby said. "We'll get through this together," and the bees grew louder, angrier, until they seemed to be screaming, too, and Sara, terrified, jerked her hand from her mother's and screamed, "I just want Eva!" " I'm here, I'm here!" Eva, in green scrubs, was running, catching up with Sara. She waved her hand at George, stopping him in his tracks.
Abby froze. "Honey--" she said. "This is crazy--"
Abby looked like a statue to her, like Lot's wife, who had turned into salt the moment she had looked for something she shouldn't have, so sad and hurt, it made Sara ache. "Mommy?" she said, and then her gurney pushed through the double doors, and the thought disappeared in a bolt of pain, and she flung a hand out and grabbed Eva's, holding on as if her life depended upon it.
Everything in the delivery room seemed to be bathed in blue light. Sara was lifted up onto a table; her feet put in stirrups. Masked faces lowered toward her, peering. Frantic, she searched for Eva. "Right here," Eva said. Sara locked eyes and gripped Eva's hand. "It's okay," Eva breathed to her. "Do like we practiced. Remember?" Sara tried to remember. Tried to put herself back in Eva's sun-splashed house, in Eva's yellow living room where they had sat and talked and planned, in Eva's big backyard where they had lounged on chaises and sipped peppermint tea and measured Sara's belly as it grew.
"Push!" the doctor ordered. She wouldn't look at him, wouldn't look at the students peering down at her. "Good girl," the doctor said, "now push again. A better one this time." Where was her doctor? Why was she the one to get stuck with this stranger?
"Get mad at the baby!" he shouted at her. "Push that baby out! Get mad! Get even!"
Eva leaned down so close to Sara she could whisper in her ear. "You can do it."
"Sara, you're not getting mad enough," the doctor said, "I need you to push."
She pushed, dissolving.
"Push, goddammit!" the doctor said. Something was being torn from her body, and then Sara was suddenly flying away, leaving her body, floating up. She was moving deeper and deeper into a white-hot core. So this is how you do this, she thought, this is how you die. And then she felt something boring out of her, she felt herself spinning back down into her body, and what was pushing out of her was as big as the scream she couldn't contain, and then she pushed and wept and screamed and the baby was born.
Dr. Chasen held the baby up, white and cheesy, dotted with blood. He whisked it away and brought it back, placing it in her arms. "Just for a minute," he said. It didn't look or feel or seem like any of the babies she had ever carried. She was about to stroke the baby's face, to touch its nose, and then Eva bent over her and took the baby from her, bursting into happy tears. "My little one," she breathed.
Copyright Caroline Leavitt 2004. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the author.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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