The tiny hands were a novelty to her. Pale against the silk black fabric of her sleeve. The storm had brought her a gift, or perhaps, had handed damnation over to this poor and innocent soul. Still, she held the owner of those dainty little hands against her heart, warmed her, fed her. Nursed her back to health. The little one no longer coughed and neither did she writhe in fever at night.
The best time for a bath was now, while the very little sun they got in a day was out, before the winds of the moor began to howl.
She lay on her tiny bed, her blouse on the floor. The little one warmed her and she warmed her in return, their hearts side by side. Dark hair, gray eyes. Like the skies of the storm that had brought her. Taking steady breaths, she closed her eyes and ran the tips of her fingers across her soft and pale little back. Up and down, squares and circles; symbols of luck and love and protection. Her baby scorpion.
Hours passed and she heard a soft little cry. Baby's lungs still were weak. She would mix some special leaves into her milk. They had bought a goat in the nearest village. She would be strong very soon, she promised.
She held her wrapped in her shawl, by the fire, pacing back and forth, humming a melody she had nearly forgotten, those things we keep locked up in the deepest corners of our minds. Something her mother sang to her, although she was at a loss for the words. Mina had always been better with the dolls. With the children, porcelain and real. She's been better with the life she was supposed to have led.
But Vanessa never cared for those things. She was hopeless at sewing, knitting, anything that took time and patience. She shouldn't have been a woman, she sure as hell didn't know how. They'd always expected her to be the image of perfection, the Virgin mother incarnate. The pure little girl, the obedient little wife—God knew she wasn't, yet tortured her with freedom. The devil seduced her into being whomever she wanted, imortal even.
Vanessa had no interest being imortal—no. She could barely stand these thirty-something years. She was too old now to marry, a disgrace to the very Catholic Ives'. Priests taught mercy, forgiveness and generosity at church. The Lord Jesus spoke of it in his preachings. Ironically, she had never received from any of them—church, Christ or family, those things that they shaped her to believe.
And here she received all the love in the world, all the faith in the world, all the forgiveness and mercy and generosity in the world—all from a little person, her little person, who couldn't even preach.
Her heart warmed as she felt the touch of those tiny, soft little hands on her skin. Little hands that were truly her cure.
"Sleep my baby scorpion, sleep." She whispered time and again, rocking the little one until she heaved in a sigh and closed her stormy gray eyes, black lashes against pale cheeks.
"She needs a name." He said quietly, from where he stood watching them, his eyes gentle, meeting hers.
"She already has one—I just need to figure it out." He shook his head with a smirk and approached her, his rough, calloused hands, warm against her touch.
"You sleep, I'll feed her tonight." He said in a whisper. He had a look of pure gentleness about him. A virile cowboy with a gentle heart. A strong woman, among weak men.
"You've been feeding her every night for a week."
"A man's job is to care for his family." She paused, looked down at the peacefully sleeping baby in her arms and then at him, in to his eyes. "Women don't make their babies alone."
"But we didn't make this one."
"Wouldn't make much of a difference if we did." She smiled, she truly smiled of joy. And as he caressed the curls of her hair, he couldn't love her more.
She stared into the fire for a long time, leaning into his touch, goosebumps rising beneath his fingertips and the husky and velvety sound of her singing voice. They were both exhausted. She quieted down.
"Perhaps, Claire?" She attempted, after a while.
"Hmm." He paused, dwelling on it for a moment. "Claire is just fine." He helped her down, onto the makeshift bed on the floor, layers and layers of blankets. The two of them and Claire. Their makeshift little family... And the charms and stars above.