Mrs. Winifred Kite couldn’t help but think that the clock was mocking her with its steady red glow. It seemed so happy, content in its constancy. It was warm and bright. She glared at it, trying to make it falter. An inanimate object shouldn’t seem so happy when she couldn’t understand how she ever could be again.
Oh, god...A wave of grief hit her once again, and she rolled over in bed. A hot tear fell onto the cold spot where the rest of her sobbing had hit the pillow. Her child, her baby, the one she had carried for nine months, had died. Her little girl. Gone forever. She would have to go to its funeral and gaze at the wooden box that contained her child, then watch as it was buried forever. It shouldn’t be this way! It should always have been the other way around, the children outliving the parents and then burying them. She shouldn’t have had to bury her child.
She had woken up a little while again, and stared at the ceiling, feeling that something was wrong and scrambling to remember what it was. After a little while, she understood that it had to do with the fact that most of the bulk she had gained on her stomach during her pregnancy was gone, that she could see the door from her bed again. Then she remembered.
Mrs. Winifred Kite rolled over again, trying to find some comfort from the warm bed, such a safe haven against the dark outside, against the struggles of the day. The sheets were tangled and wrinkled, which would have bothered her before this. Now, she couldn’t imagine taking issue with such a small thing. Her baby would never get to experience a warm bed, clean sheets, the bliss of falling asleep surrounded by softness, nor any of the things that everyone should have in her life. Her baby would never make a friend, go to school, experience the sadness and happiness that came with a family. Her baby would never open a birthday present or go on a date or get to have anything that made a person. Because the third child of Mrs. Winifred Kite was dead three minutes after having been born.
She shuddered as she considered what had happened. The obstetrician had told her in her first trimester that there were some problems with the pregnancy. Winifred Kite had listened intently, keeping a tight grip on her husband’s hand. The obstetrician had recommended vitamins, a specific exercise regimen. She had followed all of the orders. She had avoided things that caused her stress. She had gotten more sleep and more nutrients. But still, everything had gone wrong.
“Unforeseeable complications,” the doctor had said. “No one could have seen this coming. It was an awful calamity” here he paused to take a deep, shuddering breath, “but it was not your fault in any way. I’m so sorry.”
Mrs. Winifred Kite kept weeping. At the moment, nothing could have stopped her. She had gone through the pain of childbirth, and then felt so happy when she heard her baby begin to wail. Her child was here, finally in the world. But three minutes later, the baby girl was gone forever.
Mrs. Winifred Kite rolled over again, cocooning herself in the sheets, making a straightjacket, making a suit of armor. A question was gnawing at her mind. Had the child been named on the records? Would it have been put down as Baby Girl Kite, dead at birth, or as Ailia Kite, the name she and her husband had decided on? The gravestone--she convulsed at the thought--would have Ailia Kite on it, but what about the birth certificate?
Mrs. Winifred Kite pulled the covers over her head, hiding herself from the small light filtering in with the morning. Her sons would be awake soon, needing things. They would need her. Their father was gone, and couldn’t help her. She would have to get up. In a way, she looked forward to it, being needed and distracted, and in a way she dreaded leaving the warm sanctuary of the sheets. She felt so alone! She needed her husband with her.
“Winnie, I should stay here,” Jacob Kite insisted. “I know you don’t like to admit it, but you need the help. I want to be here for you! We’ll get through this, together.”
Winifred sighed. “Jake, I know that you want to stay here. I want it too, on some level. But this is the job offer of a lifetime! You need to take this. You can fly up to Philadelphia and stay there for the next few months--that when they want you teaching, right? Then, once I have the baby, you can come back and take care of me all you want to. I promise I won’t object.”
“No buts,” Winifred insisted. “I want you to be happy. It’ll be okay.”
Had it really been just two months ago that she had let her husband take a job in Philadelphia, hundreds of miles and four states away from their home in St. Louis? She regretted making that decision. She needed Jake here, with her, helping her, comforting her. It would be easier to bear this with him by her side.
Mrs. Winifred Kite heard a light switch on in one of the other rooms. Probably her son Leo waking up. The light in his room was an old, loud switch capable of waking up anyone in the house. Not to mention that Leo was anything but subtle.
She pushed herself deeper into her sheets.
She didn’t want to leave, to wake up, to accept what had happened! At the moment, all that Winifred Kite wanted was to lock herself in a bundle of sheets and blankets like a caterpillar in a chrysalis. She wanted to hibernate there, numb and without a care in the world, slumbering away, for as long as possible. And when she was good and ready, she wanted to emerge, renewed, something beautiful and alive and vivid made out of something full of grief and anger and pain. Restored. Starting a new life, with yes, the memories of Baby-Girl-Ailia-Kite behind her, but stronger and better. She’s let her newfound wings dry off and then fly away, happy, buffeted by the winds but really the-winds-of-life-push-us-around-as-humans-so-what’s-the-difference?
But was that even enough? Maybe all she wanted was to let everything burn, burn down around her, and take her with it. To die in the flames, completely consumed by everything. And then to rise from the ashes as a completely new being, ready to live a new life. Dying and living again, bright and beautiful, at the edge of the hearth.
She wanted to be a snake, ripping out of an old layer of skin just to emerge anew, shining and better and more protected, a thing to be in awe of. Colorful and interesting and lithe and moving like water, but dangerous. Willing to bite anyone that came and bothered her. Which is how Mrs. Winifred Kite felt at the moment.
She wanted to be buried too, along with her child. She wanted to wrap herself around the casket and be laid in the ground with little Ailia. She would be there forever, along with the original Ailia, Winifred Kite’s older sister. Along with all of her hopes and dreams and pains and fears but content, finally. Content to exist in the soothing void of death, in the quiet oblivion that meant no longer existing in this harsh world.
Winifred pulled up the sheets around her again and sobbed. She lay there for what seemed like minutes, hours, days, years, centuries. Her grief continued to pour out of her. Quenching any thought of flames. Flooding the house with her strife and emotions. Flooding the world! An ocean, salty and wet, but with miles more feeling in it than the ocean could ever manage. Why not? Her child, Ailia, her light, was gone. Mrs. Winifred Kite wanted to be one with the ocean, become part of its push and pull, the ebb and flow of life. She would have given anything to never feel anything again.
Soon the boys would be up, demanding and confused about the fate of their sister. Leo, eight years old, might cry with her. He had never wanted a sister, but Winifred knew that he would be unhappy with her. She knew that he knew he would have learned to love her. Lucas, only four years old, might not have understood what happened. He didn’t understand the concept of death, of removal from the planet. He might assume that his little sister being gone just meant that she had gone to the other city with Daddy. He might get jealous of her and throw a tantrum. And soon, Jake would come back. They could all be unhappy together. Winifred Kite’s parents would come and comfort her. So would Jake’s. They might even eventually get over it. All wounds become scars at some point.
She considered this for what seemed like the longest time.
Mrs. Winifred Kite looked at the clock again.
6:59 AM.Time to start the day.
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