Claire knocked on the door and pulled the hood of her jacket over her head to shield herself from the wind. She silently wished it could shield her from the consequences of her actions. She looked at the crinkled paper she held in her palm. This was the address. She hoped that whoever lived here could help her deal with her baby. Her baby. Even just in thought, those words sounded dirty. She should never have tried to play God. Who did she think she was? She should have known better. Everything in her had screamed at her not to do it. She remembered the old woman’s warning. Clear as a bell. “Think long and hard before you do this. Nature always finds a way to restore balance.” She hadn’t listened. But how could she? Life had dealt her a lousy hand and she wasn’t having it. You make your own destiny, right?
Everything had been going somewhat normally in Claire’s life. She had been raised solely by her mother following her father’s death when she was 9. And apart from missing him, their lives were OK. Her mother, Carol, had a steady job as a nurse at the local hospital. They lived in a small town and everyone knew everyone. She only left the small town once to go to go to college and pursue her dreams of being an artist. That didn’t work out well and she dropped out half way. She opened up an antiques shop and also sold hand crafted jewelry to supplement her income. Claire didn’t give her mother any trouble growing up and she was just an all-around good girl. She had dreams of being married to a good solid man by 25, 2 kids by 30 in a four-bedroom house with a vegetable garden so she could feed her family with fresh organic food. Which is why when her boyfriend of 8 months proposed, she (being 26 at the time) eagerly accepted.
Everything about Hank was just right. He checked all the boxes. He was from her hometown, from a family a few miles away that owned a large farm so he was a hard worker. He knew the importance of family and he had the same family values as her. Theirs was not a whirlwind romance filled with magic and chemistry but it was one of stability and principles. She got married to him.
They wasted no time. They moved into a house Hank and his brothers had built for them after their simple farm fields wedding. It wasn’t four bedroom or gray and white like she had dreamt, but it was red and white, three bedrooms and an attic. It had a single door garage and it was at the end of the cul-de-sac. She loved it the moment she saw it. Her marriage was off to a wonderful start.
Hank was dependable and predictable. Claire could set her clock by him. He woke up at 5 every morning, fed and tended to the animals that they kept on their small farm and was back in the house by 7am. He then got ready, had breakfast (Always eggs, bread and coffee) and left for his predictable job as an accountant by 8am. He always got home by six, took a shower, watched the news as he ate his dinner and got into bed by 10pm. Even his sex seemed scheduled. He folded his clothes before sex and always did the same stuff to her. He kissed her for about two minutes, fondled her ample breasts (he favored the left one) for another minute and then went in for the main event. That also lasted about 2min and he was done. He promptly fell to sleep after this, giving Claire the time to think about the babies she longed for.
Hank was alright. He was good to her. Patient, kind and very careful not to bring up the subject of raising a family. In the beginning, he had brought it up once or twice, but lately he didn’t seem as concerned as before, not even in trying to make a baby. Who could blame him? After three years of marriage, his sexual appetite had waned. But that wasn’t Claire’s main concern. She wanted, no, needed children. At least one. The fact that she was a Sunday school teacher didn’t help. The little angels brought her so much joy that she always wondered what her own would be like. But life had dealt her other cards. Cards of misery and sorrow. Why couldn’t she have a baby? She had done everything right. She had never even been on any birth control. So what was going on? What she couldn’t stand most of all were the constant questions. At the church, the supermarket, the pharmacy, the butchery. People in this town were so . Always looking at her waist to see if she was expanding, asking her if she had got her period. She wasn’t having it anymore. She had to do something about it. Maybe it was time for her to consider the old woman’s box. She had stayed away from it hoping that she would never need it but it seemed she couldn’t wait any longer. So she planned. Hank would be out of town for a few days. She would do it then.
Monday morning, Hank had to travel to the next town, four hours away to talk to a farmer about hiring his strong virile bull for the coming mating season. He needed two to three days to travel and negotiate with the farmer. If it went well, he would be back by lunch Wednesday. He even took leave from work to see this through. He was up by 5 and Claire saw him off at 8am. She run back into the house to put her plan into motion. She ran upstairs to retrieve a box from a drawer in the attic.
She turned on the single light bulb in the attic. It glowed a bright yellow and cast a very dark shadow over the dusty attic corners. The attic was packed floor to ceiling with furniture she had shopped in the hopes of having a baby or two. She had been careful to buy things in neutral colors. Although she had always wanted a little girl, she hadn’t wanted to jinx anything. So she had a green blanket, a lavender crib, light yellow curtains, orange play mat, lime green baby gym…The list went on and on and on. Her absolute favorite was the white rocking chair that she was supposed to be using for feeding time and rocking her would be babies to sleep. She often came up here, sat in it and cried. But not today.
She walked to the purple chest of drawers that she had bought for the nursery and slowly pulled the third drawer. Her heart was beating so fast. Part of her wished that the box would somehow be gone. The box was there. This was the moment. She took it out and set it on top of the chest. She blew off the dust and gently wiped it with the back of her hand. She had forgotten how beautiful it was. The wooden red box was about 3 inches high, 5 inches wide and 6 inches long. It had gold platted metal around the edges and had symbol on the top, also made of the gold platted metal. The symbol, which looked like yin and yang, also doubled as some kind of lock and Claire just knew she had to press it to open the box. Something else the old woman had said had bothered her. The small wrinkly old woman had shuffled into the shop, handed her the box wrapped in brown paper and said in a shaky, breathless voice “It has chosen you. Please take it” Claire was confused.
She tried to reject the package but the tiny woman was adamant. “You have to take it. I can’t keep it anymore. Just remember to follow the rules.” She then placed a small piece of paper that had a name and address on top of the package. “I hope it won’t be too late when you decide to look for me” With that, the tiny woman, named Delores, shuffled with an air of relief out of the antique shop.
So here she was, contemplating whether or not to open the box. She suddenly turned around. Why did she feel like someone was watching her? She was alone in the house. She listened for a sound. The only thing she could hear was the cow mooing in the shed in the backyard. She felt like she was doing something wrong. But why? Delores had given the box to her. So why did it feel so wrong. She looked at the box again, there was no turning back now. She took a deep breath and pressed the gold platted symbol on the cover. It depressed with a very clear click and the yin and yang slowly started detaching from one another. The box lid separated into two and sprung open.