Friday. End of week. Phew. The writing is becoming sluggish, but I refuse to type words just for the word count. I find, though, that the Nanowidget at the left that I move up with every post is a real motivator. If I don’t write at least my minimum word count, the line become red. Aaagh.
Here’s another excerpt (there are some passages snipped in between the excerpts, but you’re still at the beginning of the story, at chapter 4):
Another day, another baby. All my fears were confirmed. It was a girl. What was the feminine equivalent of Phoenix?
At first I didnâ€™t know it was a girl, and I wasnâ€™t about to check myself. Maybe if it had been my own kid, it wouldâ€™ve been different. Maybe. But I decided to be a pig and let a woman take care of the diaper-changing, gender-checking chores.
It was only seven in the morning but I figured Claire had already gone to work and, Isabel, despite her jet-lag, probably had breakfast with Claire. Like me, Isabel ate breakfast, and sheâ€™d joked that sheâ€™d have Claire join our ranks soon. I didnâ€™t know Claireâ€™s breakfast habits, and I really didnâ€™t care about them. The fact that all three of us would, one day, go down to the Moulin de Provence for espresso and bagels made me shudder. Okay, maybe we had a civilized conversation the night before, but Claire was a tight-ass at the best of times and her tongue spewed too much vinegar for my taste.
I picked up the phone and speed-dialed Isabelâ€™s number. To my surprise, Claireâ€™s sleepy voice answered.
â€œI donâ€™t believe it,â€ I said, â€œitâ€™s seven in the morning and youâ€™re not at work.â€
â€œWhat? Seven?â€ she said, sounding a lot more awake. â€œOh, my God, Iâ€™m late.â€
â€œWait! Donâ€™t hang up. Since youâ€™re not gone, you can come and help me with my little problem.â€
At that moment, the baby started to wail. Claire paused at the other end of the line. â€œIs it a girl?â€
â€œThatâ€™s what I want you to come and check.â€
â€œWhat makes you think I know anything about babies?â€
â€œYouâ€™re a woman, arenâ€™t you?â€
â€œYou are such a jerk.â€ She slammed the phone in my ear.
â€œOuch.â€ No help from that quarter. I was debating what to do next â€”call Betty, or Mrs. Pâ€” when the doorbell rang. Isabel stood on the other side. I opened the door, pulled her inside. She had on a robe over a long nightgown and slippers. She yawned.
â€œYouâ€™re a life saver,” I said. “Iâ€™ll make coffee.â€
I lifted the bag that Iâ€™d taken from the coffee table in expectation of help. â€œDid Claire tell you about this baby?â€
â€œShe told me about the one yesterday. Itâ€™s kind of hard to believe.â€
â€œNo shit.â€ I dragged her into my bedroom, where the baby was still crying. As far as I could tell, it looked exactly like the other one. â€œIf you give it formula, it should grow several inches. Please donâ€™t be scared, okay?â€
â€œYouâ€™re staying with me, right?â€
â€œAhâ€¦ coffee. Iâ€™ll go make coffee. I got bagels.â€
Isabel shook her head and pushed me out the door. â€œWimp.â€
A couple of minutes later, the crying stopped. I could hear Isabel cooing and laughing. Obviously a woman thing, because neither Terry or I had made the ridiculous sounds. Then there was no sound.
I left off dividing a bagel and went back to the bedroom. Isabel sat on the bed, her face pale, holding a much bigger baby in her arms. â€œItâ€™s true.â€ She raised stunned eyes to mine. â€œAfter the affair with the Fates, I understood the world was weirder than I knew. But when Claire explained about the baby, I didnâ€™t believe it. But itâ€™s true.â€
â€œYou mean sheâ€™ll be gone by tonight?â€
â€œPhoenix was gone in about seven hours.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. I fell asleep.â€ Or maybe someone had put me to sleep. I felt off-kilter, as if I had one foot on a balance beam and the other in the air. â€œHe was a man by then. Listening to music. He loved music, especially opera.â€
Isabel frowned. â€œThatâ€™s a little weird.â€
â€œI thought that, too.â€ I went into the bathroom, came back with a towel. â€œCome on, Iâ€™ll put her on the floor near the breakfast bar. We can have breakfast.â€
â€œIâ€™m not hungry.â€
â€œThen you can watch me eat while you drink your coffee.â€