I felt embarrassed that I had fainted but I couldn’t help myself. It was very shocking to suddenly discover you have a nine-month-old baby.
“You okay?” Penny asked when I sat up, rubbing the back of my head.
“Yeah,” I mumbled, looking at the bundle in her arms. “Sorry I reacted like that.”
Since we didn’t have much of anything for a baby, I went to get dressed as Penny started feeding the baby. Kyle. My son, Kyle. He clutched at the bottle, slurping down the formula. “I’ll be back,” I said, kissing the side of her head.
“Here’s a list,” she said, handing me a scrap of paper. “Tomorrow we’ll have to get a crib and everything. You know, Teri did give us a few things maybe it can wait till morning.”
I shook my head. “I might as well go tonight. I’m not getting any sleep anyway.”
I didn’t add that the fresh air would do me good. I wanted a bit of time to myself to think, which I did as I walked to the grocery store. I’m a father. It repeated over and over in my head, causing bits of me to feel numb again. Penny and I had previously agreed not to try until we had been married for a year. We both wanted children but wanted at least a year together as a newly married couple without a baby to worry about…
But the morning after our anniversary getting a baby? A baby getting close to his first birthday? I hoped we could handle it. I was happy to have him, and I knew I’d soon probably be one of those proud papas like my own father had been. But right now I just felt scared and worried about everything. I was mad at Teri for not telling me, and mildly annoyed Penny had kept it from me too–but I understood why she did. It wasn’t Penny’s place to tell me anyway, it was Teri’s.
That night, Kyle slept on our bed and as soon as the stores opened in the morning I went to get a crib. Kyle looked so tiny and frail laying in the crib but he gurgled happily, reaching up towards us.
“I need to go sign the papers,” I said, slipping an arm around Penny’s waist. “I hope it goes smoothly. Teri’s probably halfway to France by now, or already there.”
Penny looked up at me and placed her lips against the corner of my mouth. “You doing all right, Cal?”
“Yeah,” I sighed, running my fingers through my hair. “It’s still a bit hard to believe. I’m a father.” I bent down and touched Kyle’s hand. He pursed his lips out and clutched at my finger. “I hope I make a good father…”
“You’ll be wonderful,” Penny assured me. “You will be a better father than I am mother.”
“No!” I exclaimed, brushing her cheek. “Why would you say that? You’ll make a wonderful mother.”
“I’ve never had one,” she stated, putting her hand over mine. “I don’t know how to be motherly.”
“There have been plenty of women who never knew their mother who became wonderful mothers,” I said, tilting her head so she could look into my eyes. “Just because you didn’t have a mother won’t make you a bad one.”
She smiled and closed her eyes, nuzzling against my hand. “You’re right,” she replied. “You better go get those papers signed.”
The next few days were a bit tense and difficult as we tried to adjust to being parents. Kyle wasn’t a fussy baby and he rarely cried, but I for one had no clue what to do when he did cry. Every time I heard him sniffling I grabbed everything and went running, prepared to feed or change or burp or whatever.
Penny didn’t have any trouble. She adored Kyle and soon began recognizing what he needed just from the noises he made. She was a natural though she insisted on buying more and more books. Soon she had a nice little pile of how to take care of a baby.
In fact, it was becoming a rare sight not to see her with Kyle in her hands. Whenever I saw the two of them together, I couldn’t help but smile. I had the feeling once Kyle started getting older, she’d want another baby. I wasn’t sure if she could get pregnant, though she insisted she could. Apparently since I knew about all the, ah, inner parts of a woman, when she came real she got all the parts. I had no clue how it worked but I trusted that she was right. Maybe she could get pregnant.
I smiled to myself, thinking how cute she’d be with a little baby bump.
“It’s Daddy!” Penny turned to me and held Kyle out.
I took him in my arms and tickled at his stomach as he giggled and flailed happily.
Things seemed to be slowly settling into something that might be normal as a week with Kyle turned into two weeks. Suddenly, out of no where, Penny’s screams ripped through my thoughts. I was in the middle of painting while Kyle napped. Penny had gone out to get the bills but now she sounded completely terrified.
I hurried outside, seeing her standing in front of the mailbox, her face a deathly white. I managed to get the first syllable of her name out when she collapsed against me.
“What’s wrong?” I demanded, wrapping my arms around her, ready to protect her.
“I–I was g-getting the mail!” she stammered, clutching at my shirt. “It’s in there. Oh Cal, it’s in the mailbox!”
I bent down, picking up a stick off the ground. I figured it was a big spider or something, and I was ready to get rid of it. I opened the mailbox and began poking inside violently. When the stick was met with resistance I frowned and looked in. There was a box. I pulled it out, wondering if this was what made her so afraid.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, turning the box over, trying to figure out what was so scary about it.
“Calcier!” she cried out. “Oh you were far too young to remember but–but I remember.” She stepped back, her arms shooting around her body as she sniffled. “I can smell it.” She tipped her head forward and her hair fell across her face. “That scent, I know that scent, it’s lingered in my mind for so long…”
“Sweetheart, what is it?” I asked.
She whimpered and with a trembling hand she snatched the box away from me. “I know what is inside this… At least, I think I know.”
“Should I throw it away?” I asked.
She shook her head violently and slowly began tearing the paper. “No. No. Oh no, oh Cal. Why?” She frantically began tearing at the box. I reached out to try to calm her but then the box was open and I saw what was inside.
No, I thought, my eyes getting bigger and bigger as Penny took the doll out and carefully held it against her body.
Neither of us spoke. I was too afraid to say anything. Penny just stared at nothing , clutching at the doll. I picked up the box and looked for a return address. It was postmarked from Twinbrook but there was nothing else there.
A small card fluttered down and I grabbed it before it landed. It was from a nonexistent second cousin. For Kyle. I gripped the paper until it started to tear.
Her voice was a fluttering whisper, barely there. I looked up and saw tears in her eyes. “Pens…” I reached out but she stepped back.
“Cal, what do we do?”
I knew why she asked, it was what was pounding my own brain. What do we do? This doll… “Is it… like you?” I finally whispered.
Penny looked down and pulled it up close to her face. “I don’t know. Cal, it’s from the same place I’m from. It’s…” She slowly looked up, her cheeks glistening from the tears. “Cal, I never told you were I came from, did I?”
Her story didn’t surprise me, it was what I had suspected. She hardly had any memory before she came to my house. But she remembered with clarity the two scientists, the startling green eyes, the force gone into making her what she was. She thought she had been sent to me to ‘experiment’ what she would turn into. She was nothing but scientific studies. Like me. We were both just inhuman experiments of the Redding twins. They had forced life through my father, and forced life into a doll.
We were both so sick and miserable by the time she finished talking that all we could do was hunch over on the ground in silence. Were our lives really just… research? Were either of us even human? And now this doll… another one. Something else to force into existence that shouldn’t be. Could we do that? Could we not do that?
If we brought it to life like I had with Penny, it was just us being like them. Playing with life, playing Watcher. Not something for humans to do–not that we were even human. Could we do that?
But on the other hand, if there was a soul hidden inside that body… wouldn’t it be wrong of us not to give it the chance of being alive? Could we just dismiss it so easily?
After what felt like forever we slowly stood. Penny stared at me with sad eyes and reached over, touching my hand. “Calcifer,” she said again. “We should let Kyle have the doll.”
I stared back at her and clutched her hand, nodding very slowly. “Yes,” I agreed. “You’re right… and it might not be…” I looked down at the doll. “It might not be the same. This might just be a d-doll.”
We both knew that it was a false hope. Penny put her arms around me and I clutched her tightly. She was right. Kyle should have the doll, and all we could do was wait and see what happened as he grew up. And if the doll became his friend like Penny was to me, then I would make another potion.
It made me so incredibly angry, though. It felt as though we were just playthings in the hands of those nutcases. They weren’t leaving me alone, that much was obvious, and if they were still doing this to me, then who knew what they would do next. They might show up and try to cut me open to find out what was on the inside–or else force me into something else entirely. I had to find them. I had to find them as soon as I could before anymore crap happened, and sever the link between our families forever.