Another nightmare, she thought. She’d awakened in a cold sweat for the sixth time this month. This was really getting serious; since the night they first moved in with Uncle Mel, she’d wake up panting hard with her bangs stuck to her forehead with sweat. These nightmares all mostly featured Chyll attacking her; others she couldn’t quite remember what it was that scared her. She just wanted it to end.
She climbed out of bed and went over to the dresser mirror. In the moonlight, she could see the dark circles under her eyes, the sweat and tears trickling down her cheeks, and the whites of her eyes patterned in tiny red veins. She looked like some creature from a horror film.
She turned to the side and raised her shirt, placing a hand on her bare belly. Only a little distended, but not enough to start feeling kicks. She’d found out about her pregnancy after she missed her period. She had her father buy her a pregnancy test (having to tell him about that horrible night), and it came back positive.
This was something she was afraid would happen if she did that terrible thing; she still punched herself for doing it. Now that she thought about it, there were probably other things she could’ve done to convince him. Considering that Chyll was the most gullible person she’d ever met, some simple fibs of love and devotion would probably have cut it. Nope; only that thought popped into her mind and she went with it. Biggest mistake ever. Now she was left with a baby forming inside of her. What if it grew up to be just like its father? What if he came back through it?
She rubbed her temples with the tips of her forefingers. Calm down, she told herself. You’re only one month along. No need to get so worked up after only one month. She exited her room and headed upstairs for a glass of water. Uncle Mel’s place didn’t have a whole lot of room, so her bedroom was in the basement. Not that she minded: it was pretty spacious.
It was good to get some water in her; her throat was dry. She didn’t feel like going back downstairs, and simply curled up on the couch and turned on the TV. The only thing that came on at this hour was paid programming. She didn’t care; just watched the ad about a new kind of blender until her eyes felt heavy and she slipped back into sleep.
That’s when the vomiting started. Every now and then, she’d get that terrible feeling, rush to the bathroom, and throw up her breakfast, lunch, or dinner. No matter how much she brushed her teeth, the awful taste of bile lingered. She considered giving up eating entirely, but what would that help. It’d only be a matter of time before she starved to death. Who would that help? Herself? Her family would be devastated; the look of horror on her father’s face before she disappeared into the tree with Chyll was terrible enough. What would he look like if he came upon her dead body?
There were times when she considered abortion; that would make this torture stop. But what of the baby? It was conceived by the man she hated, but what if it grew up to be a better person than him? If she raised it right, would it be a good person or eventually take after its father?
She decided to get a job. Just her luck: she got a job as a librarian. It was a slow job, but nothing she couldn’t handle. It was nice seeing the children’s’ faces light up with excitement when she scanned their books. Most times, she’d comment on peoples’ choices of literature; they’d smile and thank her, then be on their way.
During her free time at home, she’d practice playing the leaflute some more, trying to learn more songs than just Oracion. She’d learned the song Alone from Naruto and the Madoka song from Rozen Maiden, but that was all. The Kapre didn’t seem to mind; it enjoyed listening to the tunes regardless, sometimes humming along to them once memorized.
She was surprised that it followed her out of the Philippines; she was aware that a Kapre would follow its beloved, but never imagined that it’d go so far. Nevertheless, she was happy; she enjoyed its company.
Other times, she’d continue learning Spanish. Very few people spoke English, so she deemed it better to learn so as to communicate with customers at the library. She was getting better.
Now that her belly was getting bigger, she started receiving more weird looks from customers than usual; some would comment that she was much too young to be having a baby and that she should’ve been more careful. If only, she’d think.
The customers’ comments were the least of her problems; the fatigue and achy breasts hurt much worse than anyone’s assumptions. And of course, there was the cravings. She was craving the most unusual foods, from carrots dipped in jelly to donuts covered in bacon. That’s right, BACON! She was starting to crave meat. She didn’t like that she was craving meat, but couldn’t help herself.
Sometimes at work, she’d become extremely exhausted and start dozing off before jerking herself awake. It was the best she could do for the time being. She was only three months along; there was no reason to be put on leave this soon. She’d simply push herself to get through the day, smiling for the children and such. Then when she got home, she’d head down to her bedroom, collapse on the bed, and fall asleep. Then suffer from more nightmares and wake up in a rush. This was starting to get really unbearable.
Sometimes, her mind would drift to the knives in the kitchen. She could imagine just sinking the blade into the flesh of her belly, then reaching in and pulling out the bloody ball of not-yet-formed meat. Then she’d pull herself back to reality, shaking herself from this morbid thought. It’s only the stress, she’d think. You can get through this. After a moment of thinking this, the thought of that knife was at the back of her mind.
Most times, she’d pet Charlie to help relieve stress. She’d rub his belly and scratch him behind his ears. Sometimes, she’d brush him. That really helped sometimes. Other times, she’d simply play those three songs on the leaflute. The stress was really getting to her.
“So how’s the pregnancy?” Joan asked. She was probably the most supportive in all of this. Their father, while proud of the lengths she’d gone to protect them, wasn’t too happy about her being pregnant. Joan, on the other hand, had taken up crochet and had made the baby a few beanies, booties, and blankets.
“It’s stressful,” Joy groaned, running her hand over her distended belly. The baby wasn’t kicking just yet. It probably would soon.
“I bet,” Joan said, putting the finishing touches on another beanie she was working on. “Sometimes, I can hear you puking.”
“Yeah,” Joy moaned. “Let’s just hope the baby doesn’t end up like its father.” Joan glanced up for a moment, then focused back on the beanie in her hands. Joy saw the worry in her eyes.
“I still can’t believe you got pregnant from him,” she commented. “I mean, I thought he would’ve used…you know, protection.” Joy shook her head.
“Nope, he didn’t,” she breathed. Joan finished with the beanie and handed it to Joy. It looked like the top of a fox’s head, with the ears.
“Like Tails from those Sonic the Hedgehog games,” Joan chimed with a smile. Joy smiled back at her.
“It’s adorable,” she said.
The rest of the day, she spent most of her time in bed, reading. She was reading an interesting story called The Green Mile, another book by Stephen King. His books were really interesting. She thought of moving to the U.S. one day, maybe see what it was like. So far, the only ideas she got of the U.S. was from these books by Stephen King. It sounded kinda racist for the most part, but also very intriguing. Maybe she’d fit in a bit more than she did here; after all, she had about the same skin tone. Not completely, but just enough to probably pass as a white.
She got her first ultrasound. She saw her baby for the first time; it was beautiful. And according to the doctors, the baby was going to be a girl. Cool, she knew her baby’s gender. Now she had to pick out her baby daughter’s name. That might be hard; this was going to be her daughter’s one and only name. She had to choose carefully.
For the most part, she was looking through her favorite books to try and find a good heroine’s name. She eventually settled on Laura, the main female protagonist from Florante at Laura. She enjoyed the book when she was assigned to read it by Miss Reyes and eventually bought it so she could continue reading it at any given opportunity. Yes, the name fit. Little baby Laura.
That day, their father and Uncle Mel went to work building a cradle. Sure, she was only on month five, but better to get it done sooner than later. Joan created the cushioning for the crib, sewing a little square and then stuffing it with feathers and cotton. The little knitted quilts she made would be Laura’s blankets.
Sometimes, she’d lay awake at night, wanting to avoid the nightmares and daydreaming about Laura’s little sleeping face in that cradle. What if she looked like Chyll? She could be born with blonde hair and green eyes, just like he had. We’ll see, she thought. She didn’t like it when he popped up in her thoughts, and she pushed him away and tried to think about something else.
That was when she felt Laura kick for the first time. It came as a shock; happened right in the middle of work. She was debating on whether to ask to be put on leave or just wait until they offered it. According to her father, they only gave you so much time off, before and after childbirth. She eventually opted for waiting until they offered it, despite how crappy the fatigue made her feel.
Just three more months, she thought as she spilled her lunch into the toilet. Just three more. She flushed it. She was surprised she hadn’t lost any weight with how much she was vomiting. She hoped it wouldn’t last much longer. After all, this was month six; only three more months and she’d have her baby. Then the thought of how painful childbirth was; she was going to experience it. How much would it hurt? Would the painkillers the doctors gave be effective enough? They had to be, otherwise they wouldn’t give them.
She started avoiding sleep, not wanting to suffer anymore nightmares. They always consisted of a bloody Chyll waking her up from a sound sleep. The tip of the knife was always protruding from his stomach, and his eyes were always clouded over. He would wake her up by grabbing her neck, gurgling things like “You bitch” and “Let’s see how you like it”.
Sometimes, he’d rape her. Other times, he’d pull the knife blade through his stomach and force it into her belly. Sometimes when she woke up, she thought she could smell blood, then would run to the bathroom and check her panties to see if she miscarried; never happened. Baby Laura was safe.
Getting closer, she thought. Only two more months. She was sitting on her bed, staring at the open window. It was evening now; the bright light was gone and was replaced by a rich shade of orange and pink. Her hand rested on her stomach, feeling Laura moving around in there. Most times, it looked like she was moving furniture around. She smiled at the thought of an unborn baby having tiny furniture and needing to move it around.
She’d finally gained the courage to ask her bosses if she could be put on leave; they agreed. Thank God. She was glad that she could relax, but it made her feel lazy. There were a lot of things she wanted to do that her pregnancy and fatigue were preventing: take a walk, read, play leaflute, etc. All she really did was lay in her bed and daydream. Then she’d get up and eat. Then back to daydreaming. She wanted to sleep; she knew the sleep deprivation would affect Laura as well. But those dreams—those nightmares—scared her half to death.
Eventually, she risked a nap. No dreams. Good. She’d rather dream of nothing than dream about Chyll. When she woke up, it was nighttime already, and the house was quiet. She looked at her alarm clock; it was 11:00 at night. How could she have slept for so long? Usually, Joan or Uncle Mel would come in and alert her of when it was time to eat.
Something caught her eye on her dresser: a plate of food. She forced herself up off the bed. Yup, a plate of food, but the food was wrapped in tin foil. She felt it; it was cold. She took the plate upstairs to the kitchen and placed it in the microwave.
Once the timer beeped, she removed the plate, unwrapped her food, and started eating. A baked potato, some veggies, and a little bowl of soup. She sighed a little; she wanted some bacon. Damn these cravings! She ate the food.
At this time, Joan took up sleeping with Joy in her bed; she didn’t want her twin to have to scream if her water broke. She figured that this would’ve been simpler. Joy didn’t mind much. Her bed wasn’t that small, so there was room for the two of them. Although sometimes when she woke up from any nightmares about Chyll and saw the sleeping person in bed with her, she’d freeze up in shock until she remembered that it was only her beloved twin.
Sometimes, she’d get an occasional letter from Jake or Jen; Joan would get one from either Ciara or Dina. Sure, they could email or text or something (Dina called Joan a lot), but writing letters was more fun. Well, it was in Joy’s opinion. She liked seeing Jen’s little child scribble writing.
They went shopping for baby clothes. People were giving Joy weird looks, the kind that told her she was too young to be pregnant. She hated these looks. Joan shot looks back at them, telling them it wasn’t their business to be judging her and that she was under enough stress already. Then the people would face forward again and be on their way.
“Don’t mind them,” Joan reassured, then shook her head and smiled. “I just remembered that that’s not the right thing to say to someone who suffers from anxiety.” Joy shook her head.
“It’s okay,” she said softly. “It doesn’t matter. Laura will be here soon and then…we’ll see.” Joan smiled and gently tapped Joy’s arm with her fist.
“That’s my twin,” she cheered quietly. “Stick it to the man!” Joy managed a chuckle at that. Same old cheery Joan.
They ended up choosing many onesies and socks of various pastel colors. A little pricey, but they didn’t give it much mind. Once they returned home, Joy returned to her bedroom and lay down on the bed, running her hand over her belly. Laura was kicking again. It wouldn’t be much longer until she arrived.
It happened. In the middle of a nightmare about Chyll (one of the ones where he raped her), she felt a wetness in her panties. This woke her up in a rush. She was sure that he was here and he was actually raping her. No one in the room except her, Charlie, and Joan. The wetness remained. Did I pee myself? She reached down and felt her panties. Then she felt a sharp cramp. It happened, she thought. This is happening. She grabbed Joan’s shoulder and shook her awake.
“Wha-What is it?” she asked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“I think my water just broke,” she said. Joan’s eyes widened, then she jumped up from the bed (tripping on the sheets) and bolted upstairs. Joy heard her voice, frantic and panicky. “Dad, her water broke!” There was the sound of fast footsteps and shouting. Charlie jumped down from the bed and started trotting around, yipping in excitement and confusion. She forced herself off the bed and to her closet, slipping on her cardigan and sneakers. She checked the time on the clock. It was midnight.
Her father came rushing downstairs. He had his jacket on over his pajamas.
“Come on,” he exclaimed, scooping her up in his arms and carrying her up the stairs. Charlie followed them up and watched them leave through the front door. She imagined him heading outside and meeting with the Kapre. Hopefully, he’d look after Charlie while they were gone. That was what he usually did when the whole family went out somewhere.
The hospital was some little ways outside of town. Her father didn’t even bother with asking for a wheelchair; he just carried her inside and announced that she was in labor. She was placed on a wheelchair and wheeled off to another room; there, she was changed into a hospital gown and laid down on a bed.
The doctors said that Laura wasn’t crowning yet; she’d only been in labor for a short time. So they had to wait.
By then, she was suffering from bad cramps. It felt like a hacksaw was sawing away at the lower part of her back. They gave her some pain killers; they helped a lot, but the pain was still slightly evident.
They checked again every hour or so, checking to see if Laura was crowning yet. She felt really uncomfortable about them constantly looking under the blankets. It didn’t matter if they were doctors; it still weirded her out.
Her father, Joan, and Uncle Mel were waiting outside; she wanted Joan by her side.
“I want my sister,” she whispered. The doctors agreed, went out for a moment, then came back with Joan. She was dressed in scrubs and her hair up one of those hair net cap things. She chuckled a little when she saw Joan dressed like that.
“How’re you doing, sis?” she asked. Joy shook her head, looking straight up at the ceiling.
“It hurts,” she groaned. “How much longer?” Joan shrugged her shoulders.
“They said that Laura has to crown before you can start pushing,” she explained. “Don’t worry, you’ll get through this.” Joy nodded, glanced at her sister, and gave her a smile.
“Yeah,” she said. “I’m gonna get through this.”
After a long, long while, they finally said that Laura was crowning. And at this time, the pain was reaching its pinnacle. This hurt worse than that night with Chyll. At that time, it felt like something ripped; this was like more things were ripping. The doctors kept urging her to push. She held Joan’s hand, digging her fingers into the spaces between Joan’s knuckles.
She kept pushing, trying to get through this. To make the pain stop. To see her baby. Kept pushing. It hurt. A lot. Kept pushing. She kept sucking in breaths and letting them out in shaky exhales. Come on, not much longer now.
A moment passed, and the room was alive with the screams of an infant. She managed a sigh of relief. She heard Joan laughing exasperatedly, relieved. Joy, herself, managed a smile. Laura was here, and she sounded healthy. Joan cut the cord and little Laura was placed on her stomach, dried, and wrapped in a towel with a beanie placed on her head. She held her baby for the first time.
Laura was a pale little thing, no paler than Joy. Her hair was actually blonde, almost like her father’s but lighter. When her eyes opened, Joy saw they were actually pink. That came as a shock, but she didn’t care. Her precious baby was here, little Laura. That’d probably be her nickname until she was old enough to hate it.
The doctors eventually brought in her father and Uncle Mel. They adored little baby Laura, cooing at her and letting her hold their fingers with her tiny, chubby hands. Her father said he was her grandpa, Uncle Mel said he was her granduncle, and Joan said she was her aunt.
The Kapre took an instant liking to Laura when Joy brought her home. He would hand her little handmade toys (she had no idea if he made them or got them from somewhere) and make funny faces at her. Laura would giggle when she saw him. Charlie, on the other hand, took a little while to get used to the new “puppy”. Eventually, he warmed up to her; he became a loving big brother.
At night, Laura would wake up crying, either from wanting to eat, a messy diaper, or just fussiness, and Joy would calm her down. She’d rock her back and forth, singing her a cheesy little lullaby she made up.
“I love you, I love you, my Laura. ’Cause you are my sweet little girl. I love you, I love you, my Laura. ’Cause you are my whole little world. ’Cause you are sweet and so petite, you are my sweet little one. ’Cause you’re my girl, my whole wide world, you are my sweet little one. I love you, I love you, my Laura. ’Cause you are my sweet little girl. I love you, I love you, my Laura. ’Cause you are my whole little world.”
That’d calm her right down and she’d fall back asleep. Then Joy would put her back and return to sleep herself.
It wasn’t until Laura was about five months old that she said her first word. Joy was getting ready for work. She was leaving Laura in the care of Joan for that day (the babysitter cancelled). As she was ruffling through her closet to find her cardigan, she heard Joan calling her name, talking about how she’d heard Laura say her first word.
Obviously, Joy didn’t want to miss this. She grabbed her phone, set it to video, and rushed upstairs. Laura was sitting in Joan’s lap, giggling. Joy centered the phone’s camera on Laura as Joan told her to say the word again. Joy’s smile faded when she heard the word from her baby’s mouth.
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