I couldn’t believe it. When Serenity told me noitsnotpossible I refused to accept it as true. The words were in my head but they didn’t stick for a long time, and when they did noitsalllies I couldn’t stop crying. Papa. Dead. It wasn’t real! It was a dream, a dream I did not wake up from. Two years. Two years he had been gone! I hadn’t even been half-alive again for two years. All this time, worrying about how he’d react, how he’d feel, and it was nothing for he was gone. Papa. Mama. They were where I should be. Mama was not a ghost, I did not think Papa would be a ghost. But me. I was a ghost. I clung to the world of the living… for a reason I still didn’t understand.
Serenity, my beautiful Serenity, left me alone in my grief. There were no words she could say mypapacouldntbedead that would lift the hurt. Ah, I gave those I loved sadness when I died and now… now it was my turn to be plunged down to those depths. My papa, there for me every day of my life. My papa, losing first his beloved wife and then his son. Steady. Plodding forward to trying to find a cure for me. One of my rocks arockcannotjustgoaway and now he was gone.
For a week I withdrew into silence. No TV, no games, no books. I spent my time staring out the window at the waterfall. At night, clinging to my wife. Serenity… I could not imagine losing her. How could my papa go on after my mama died? I would fade into nothing if Serenity was gone. At night, I clung to her, scared I’d wake up and she’d be gone. But every morning I’d wake up to her head on my arm, her legs tangled in mine.
Slowly, as the days passed, I came to face the truth howcanitbethetruth that he was gone. I would never see him again. Hear his voice, his laughter. I remembered the way he drilled English into me when I was young, how he let me sleep in his bed for three years after Mama died, how patient he was during my tantrums. He had a shell up, for most people, but with me, I knew him. I loved him. He was more than anyone could ask for in a father.
Serenity told me about Bernette. I spent time online doing some snooping and found a few articles, including a picture of their wedding day. I read the birth announcements for my two half-sisters and my half-brother. Noelle, Andre, and Emilie–ages 5, 4, and 2 respectively. I wondered what they were like, how my papa felt starting another family so late in his life, how the children would be growing up without him. I read the obituary for Papa. He had done a lot of work for neurosurgery and I couldn’t help but smile, feeling proud of him. I hope you’d be proud of me, I thought, closing down the browsers and drifting over to the window. Papa was a realist for the most part–one of the reasons I was scared of approaching him like this–but did believe in miracles. He always believed I’d live. And I did live, Papa. It just took a few years.
I heard movements in the other room so I drifted out and went over to my wife, my arms going around her. “Sen,” I said, heart pounding at the feel of her warm body against my cool one; at least, it would be pounding if I still had a heartbeat. “Did you have a good nap?”
“Mhm.” She nodded and kissed my neck. “Are you hungry?”
I had barely eaten since she told me, but as she said the words I realized I was. “Yep,” I said with a smile. “How about we order a pizza. And maybe race.”
Her face lit up at that. “Sounds great to me. I’ll call for a delivery right away.”
She turned away, taking a few steps. Her ponytail swung back and forth and I could see a few hairs curling against the back of her neck as she bent her head to punch in the numbers. My love, I thought. Papa had adored her, and I knew he’d approve of our marriage, of the family we’d eventually have. I was determined to do my best and be as good a father to my children as Papa was to me. Whenever that happened. She told me a few days later she had taken an early detection test and it had been negative. And a month later that test popped up as negative. I tried appear not upset, promising her that two months was just two months. We were young (or was I?) and had plenty of time.
But then another month went by, and another. We were due back to go to the lab which I wasn’t too happy about. I wish Sen had never agreed to go to the labs but I would support her. And protect her. Doctor Redding disliked me being in the room but I was not going to go anywhere where Sen would be out of my sight. This time there were more scans done, some blood tests, and a lot of Sen and some other person just staring at each other. Sometimes machines were hooked up to her and there was something that looked like a polygraph test or something as Sen concentrated on feeling the other person’s emotions.
Thankfully we were also in the side room of the lab, where we spent most our time the first week. Professor Redding was usually with us during these times, so we talked a lot. Sen was right, he was scared of something, but he was easy to talk to and was fluent in French which we often wound up speaking. On the third day I noticed something but didn’t say anything until the fourth. “I hate to sound awkward but, um, weren’t you… didn’t you have less… Is that a new helmet?” I couldn’t ask him.
Professor Redding reached up. “Oh y-yes. Th-the one I wore l-last time was an older d-design, before we knew a l-lot about the telepaths. It w-was designed for extreme p-protection but it hurt and was heavy. After our first g-group grew up w-we were able to fix the design and m-make a few changes. B-but since we d-didn’t know how s-strong Serenity was, sh-she made me wear th-the other one.”
So that meant she wasn’t as strong a telepath as they anticipated. I didn’t know if that was a good thing or not. “When did you start this project?” I asked, switching to French. I didn’t want Doctor Redding picking up on my fishing. She knew French just as well as he did but I was hoping she was too distracted talking to Sen to pay much attention to us chatting in another language.
Professor Redding frowned. “Sixty years ago,” he answered, his stutter not as noticeable. “We’ve c-come a long way in some aspects but we’re still in the dark for a lot of th-things, though my sister is hoping Serenity w-will be able to help discover new properties of the psychic world.”
“Like what?” I asked.
Professor Redding opened his mouth but it was his sister who spoke. “Brother, why don’t you go get us something to drink?” Her tone was authoritative, tinged with anger. Oops. “I’ll have a coffee. Mrs. Danevbie? Mr. Laroche?”
Professor Redding winced and scurried out of the room before Sen and I could say what we wanted. He brought back two coffees and two bottles of pop. He and I began talking again but he changed the subject to something else completely. I knew I couldn’t get him back to the project so I didn’t even try. I was still curious about–what I had noticed. I wasn’t the only one because when Sen got a break from talking with Doctor Redding, she came over and the first thing she said was, “Weren’t you bald last time?”
Professor Redding went red and mumbled something. Doctor Redding sipped at her coffee, smirking slightly. “He was,” she answered. “His head was shaved.”
“Y-yes… m-my… yes…” Professor Redding muttered, staring down at his shoes.
“Ask him why,” the doctor said. The professor went even redder and shook his head. “He had chewing gum in his hair. Not just at the edges. No. It was stuck deep. I decided it would be better for him to shave his head completely than have a bald patch, and an uneven growth pattern for a while.”
“Chewing gum,” Sen said while I tried not to snicker at the image.
“I d-d-didn’t do it!” he wailed. “It w-was that k-kid. He w-was mad at me. I k-keep telling you, sister!” He clutched at his helmet, quite red.
“Which child?” Doctor Redding asked, as I really tried not to laugh. “The one that continually demands you grow a beard?”
“Y-yeah.” The professor nodded. “And he w-won’t stop kicking me!”
Doctor Redding looked unamused. “This is why I dislike children in the labs. We should make it a rule.”
“But–he’s the s-s-son of two of our best r-researchers and they c-can’t find babysitters easily,” Professor Redding said, looking a bit distressed. “From wh-what I understand, my hair isn’t th-the first to receive gum in it f-from him…”
I couldn’t take it anymore, I began laughing. Sen hit me but she was giggling too. The professor looked a bit distressed but then chuckled as well. The doctor made a scoffing sound and went back to sit on the couch. “I g-guess it is funny,” he admitted, grinning.
“No. It’s not. Let’s continue our session, Mrs. Danevbie,” Doctor Redding said loudly. Sen rolled her eyes and sat back down, while I went back to talking with Professor Redding. When it was time to move on to the exercise room, the professor acted as if he wanted to tell me something but all he wound up saying was a ‘see you later’.
It seemed like for the rest of the week, Professor Redding wanted to talk to me about something and I knew what it was. The conversation we had started that his sister interrupted. I supposed I could talk to him outside the room but that meant leaving Sen alone with the doctor and I was not going to do that. I did not trust her, I still sometimes asked Sen to quit doing this but my wife swore up and down things would be fine. I knew she had her own agenda. Answers, for some reason. I understood she wanted to know about these abilities but… this did not seem the safest way to do it. I wanted to help her, which I knew I could possibly do by chatting to Professor Redding alone–but nope, not doing that. I was going to always be ready to protect Sen.
On our final day there, I could tell Sen was distressed about something. Earlier in the day, Doctor Redding had been talking with her in a low voice. I had been talking to the professor, so I didn’t pick up on what was being said. But after that, Sen seemed upset about something. I tried asking her what was wrong but she waved me off, promising everything was fine. She even tried to distract me with a kiss. Which was at least a really nice distraction, but I was still very worried. I didn’t like the fact something she said had stress my darling this much, enough to make her not want to talk to me about it.
That night as we packed up what little we had brought, mostly some clothes for her since she didn’t like the clothes the Reddings had provided, I decided to bring it up again. “Hey, Sen, what was it that Doctor Redding said earlier? I saw you two talking and you’ve been acting kinda upset since.”
“I’m not upset,” she said, trying to sound believable. “I’m tired, looking forward to getting home. Ugh, I hate being away for ten days instead of a week, we really need to fix that. I agreed to a week. A week! Traveling should be in their time, not mine. I mean, if this was closer and traveling only took a few hours, or a day… but we have to stay overnight at a hotel. That’s not fair, really. At least I’m getting paid and that pays for gas and–“
“Sen,” I said gently. “What was said today? Don’t tell me you’re not upset. I love you, I know you. Something is going on, don’t lie to me please. Don’t tell me that.”
She just stared at me, a shirt clutched in her hands. After a few seconds she swallowed and said, “Henri, I was thinking that maybe I should keep up learning French. Maybe sometime we can visit France, you and I. If you wanted to, that is.” She smiled at me, looking earnest except inside her brain was ticking away at keeping the subject on what she wanted.
I sighed and shrugged. “If you want, but–“
“I had some questions, about some translations?” she asked, turning back to the suitcase and refolding the shirt. “How would you say ‘congratulations’?”
My shoulders drooped a bit. It was going to be hard to talk to her about the incident, so I gave her what she wanted. “Félicitations,” I replied, floating over to the dresser and picking up her nightie. One good thing about being a ghost was that I didn’t need to pack any clothes. Though sometimes I still had difficulty changing into different outfits.
“I see… félicitations…” she murmured. “Well, what about… something like–if you were… were planning to become something. Like ‘I’m going to be’ something. How would you start that? ‘I’m going to be’.”
I pursed my lips, very confused at this translation request. “Well, it depends really but something like, je vais être un. Like if you were planning on switching careers to, say, painting, you could say je vais être un artiste.”
“I see, thank you.” Sen turned to take the shirt from me, and smiled nervously. “And you always… called your father ‘papa’ but there’s another word for it, right?”
I squinted. “Yes. Père, could be used. What the heck are you getting–“
“What if you put all those things together?” she asked, eyes widening a bit. “I want to hear you say it, your accent is sexy.”
Now I knew she was just babbling to keep me from asking her what happened earlier. I opened my mouth to force the issue, then groaned.”Félicitations, je vais être… un…. père….. what?!” It was like a shock of electricity had been shot into my spine. I froze, except for my jaw that dropped to the floor. “WHAT!?” She just beamed at me and the electricity got stronger. “Sen? Sen? You–I–what? Est-il vrai? Est-il–is it TRUE?!”
“Yes!” she finally said, grabbing my hands. “I’m pregnant! Doctor Redding told me today! The blood tests she took earlier this week, she noticed my hormones weren’t typical and decided to check to make sure and–she told me today since she’s so mad that I won’t be able to come in for ages, and I’m pregnant, I’m pregnant!” She slid her arms around me, holding me tightly. I was still unable to move. “We’re going to have our baby, Hen! We’re going to be parents!”
Another electric shock, and I could move. “P-parents? We–you–you’re pregnant–baby–with a baby!”
She giggled, burying her face in my neck. “What else would I be pregnant with, silly? A moose? Yes, we’re going to have a baby! I’m not very far in at all, it’s still a week before I woulda started again but I won’t, because I–I’m really pregnant!” She stepped back, eyes shining. “A baby.”
I reached down, carefully putting one hand over her flat stomach. “A baby,” I breathed out. “Our baby. I’m going to be a daddy.” I moved my hands, hugging her again. I felt like crying and a tear did come out of one eye. Just the day before it felt like it was taking so long to become pregnant but now it felt like it happened so fast. We had only been trying four, five months. We had only been married just a year. But we were both close to our thirtieth birthdays, mine coming up fairly soon and hers a few months after. And now we were going to have a baby! “Serenity,” I said and she tilted her head to look at me. “I love you.” I kissed her first lightly and then firmly. A BABY! I was going to be a daddy!