Defiant – Part II

    A routine developed between mother and baby. Feeding time was a good time to relax and think happy thoughts. Naptime for baby meant she had time to clean herself up and help clean the house. During the day, she even stepped out often to breathe fresh air. She was grateful for the shelter she had. The fact that her baby’s father was still keeping his promise and paid for things that the baby needed meant that she didn’t have to burden her family any more than she already felt she was.

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    When her baby cried these days, she found herself able to handle the sound a bit better, rocking him, soothing him, or letting him have a good squall. She walked everywhere, and soon she was thinner than she ever was, the circles under her eyes became pronounced; but even as her clothes grew looser and looser, she put everything she had towards the child who had not chosen to come into the world. At fifteen, she was already seeing the type of responsibility and mindset most people never experience.

    He was eighteen.

    He had spent the last two hours scouring dishes in warm water and his hands were so wrinkly, his fingertips were peeling. He had been given dishwashing duties tonight, instead of waiting on a few assigned tables, so there would be no tips. But that was how it worked sometimes. He had only been doing all kinds of work since he was fourteen. And before that he had been raising his younger siblings, and even now, he continued to do so. That was his dilemma: during the day he worked at the dive shop, and then in the evening he worked at the restaurant. High school was done; while all his friends had gone off to continue, he had to stop spending money on his education and pay for the rest at home. Now he had a child of his own.


    Hearing the news of her pregnancy had left him numb. He was angry. He was happy. He was sad. He was every feeling in the world, but mostly, he was shocked. And he was scared, because she was under-aged, and he was older.

    He really should have known better.

    They had both had lived completely different lives, and he wanted so badly to get out of his, while she lived the kind of life where everything had been given to her. He had to fight his own brothers to keep a pair of shoes or a shirt, and she discarded clothes she had never even worn. There was a huge gap between their lives, and their eventual relationship was a combination of two completely unsuited individuals looking for something different.

    He had made no promises; he had never been faithful. He had found comfort in every willing woman he came across, but something kept him coming back to her. Her naiveté kept her mind at ease; his seedy background meant no-one dared talk. She lived in her own bubble for almost 3 months, until reality hit. Trying to work on some sort of patched-up family, he joined her in pretending for a few months. He lied to himself, giving up the kind of freedom and irresponsibility of the heart that had filled his life until then. That wore thin really fast, and he went back to his ways. He had the grace to tell her that the fairytale ending she wanted was not happening. He made another promise to financial responsibility, but sticking around would not happen. He had never had that example. He couldn’t know how to be the kind of man who stuck around and made things work. He was not a man, despite fathering a child. He was a child himself, forced to raise other children, forced to grow up, but mentally, he was still that child who needed the guidance that would not come around.


    Now he stood at the industrial sink, hunger gnawing at him - even the leftovers on the plates looked appealing, despite being cold and congealed. He had a few more loads to do before he could finally step out and go home. His hands dipped into the sink again, and he scrubbed until the pain in his back and legs went numb. He was a robot.


    At home, he found a little bit of leftovers in the fridge. His mother was a good cook, so leftovers were rare. He warmed it up, ate while sinking into the hard chair at the table. Around him, the sounds of a sleeping family filled the four walls. Fans were on at full blast, and occasionally, someone would turn in bed, bed-springs creaking under their weight.

    He found his way to the single bathroom where he bathed and brushed before heading into the room he shared with his three brothers. Two of the smaller boys shared the top bunk, one slept in the bottom one. He fell into his single bed, exhausted from standing hours on end. In less than a minute, he began snoring.


    The baby would not sleep. He kept waking up, fussing and crying softly. She patted his belly, and it sounded hollow and felt hard. She changed his wet diaper, she cradled him softly and gingerly, shushing him while he kept wriggling and crying. His discomfort was obvious, but she had no idea what was wrong. Her aunt had gone out to church, possibly staying away late with her sisters.

    His wails grew louder and more frantic, until she was forced to pick up the phone and call him. He had a mother who had many children. Maybe she would know what to do.


    The phone rang and rang into the night. He woke up when his mother shook him, disoriented and bleary eyed. It was dark and late, but she was already in her street clothes, ready to go. He took the phone and heard his son crying in the background, while she cried into his ear.


    Two children, one baby.


    She remembered that night while she stocked the shelves of the boutique where she worked. The utter fear of not knowing what to do, not being able to understand what the screaming baby was going through, and having to reach out to his father because it was about them. Because the baby was theirs, and they had to work together to do the best with him.

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