I came in and out of consciousness as the hours wore on. Because the bed was now a mess, Henri suggested I rest on the couch till he and Mal got it cleaned up. I only made it to the floor, curlin’ up in a pile of clean blankets and falling into the darkness again. I was aware at one point Henri carefully cleaning me off then at another point tryin’ to get me into the now-clean bed. I tried to wake up enough to help and as soon as I was on the mattress, I was out again.
It was about five-something in the morning when I fully woke up. Henri was sitting in a corner of the room, cradlin’ our son. Mal was no where to be seen. I struggled to sit up and gazed over at the two ghosts. A piercing feeling hit my heart at the sight. My son is a ghost, I realized fully. A ghost. Like Henri. He was going to grow up like this, never alive. Henri had occasionally told me a little bit what it was like and that was how this baby was going to experience life… Or rather… half-life.
Henri looked up and smiled at me. “Hey there, Mama,” he whispered. “You want to see our newest addition?” He got up and came over, carefully puttin’ the bundle in my arms.
The baby was awake, to my surprise, lookin’ up with squinty glowing eyes. “Hello,” I said, reaching down and touching his hand. His fingers curled around my finger. “Hello sweetie.” I felt like crying, both from happiness and fear. Everything was coming at me at once. How isolated he was going to be, like Henri had to be. We were going to have to keep him at home almost all the time. Home education. Only knowin’ a few people, his family… locked up… Would he grow up thinkin’ he was a monster? Would he feel resentful? All the fears and worries we had pushed aside before I got pregnant with Miracle came rushing into me like a waterfall. Tears dripped down and the baby was taken out of my arms.
“Henri–Henri–” I couldn’t talk. I put my hands against my eyes, tryin’ to stop the tears from taking over.
“Everything will be okay,” Henri said, rubbing my back with one hand. “Now is not the time to think about it. You gave birth to a healthy baby boy. You’re healthy, he’s healthy. Mal checked you over and said you look fine.”
“Wh-where is he?” I sniffled.
“In the bathroom. He did throw up, after making sure you were fine.” Henri let out a quiet laugh. “Looking so long at his sister down there was too much for him. But he held it together long enough to make sure, and to take care of the, uh, stuff.”
“Stuff?” I asked, finally darin’ to look up.
“The placenta, and shell pieces. Well, the placenta. We didn’t know what to do about the shell pieces…” Henri held the baby up a bit more and smiled. “He’s so cute… and so quiet. He hasn’t cried once since he was born.”
“All… the shell…?” I rubbed my belly and now Henri nodded.
“I made sure they were all out of you.” He leaned in to give me a kiss. “As far as Mal can tell, this little one is perfectly norm–healthy.”
Normal, I thought, squeezin’ my eyes shut. He was never going to be normal. “I’m so tired. My body hurts…”
“You should rest some more. And in a little while–” Henri paused then let out a sigh. “I’ll make you breakfast, if you feel like eating. Go to sleep, darling.”
There was somethin’ he wasn’t telling me. I opened my mouth to ask but then closed it again, not really caring. I wanted some more sleep. The wakefulness didn’t last long at all and rest sounded so nice. So I murmured what I hoped sounded like an ‘I love you’, and then went once more back into sleep.
The clock said ten-forty-nine when I woke up again. My body was aching and I wept silently for a few minutes. Not being able to rest up at the hospital was horrible though at least this time I didn’t have to push the baby out. Still, I felt like collapsin’ when I got to my feet. Henri wasn’t in the room and neither was the baby. I could hear the TV on in the other room so I figured Hen was out there with Miracle. I pulled on a robe, since I was just in a T-shirt and nothing else, then left the bedroom. After I cautiously took a few more steps I noticed two things. One was that Miracle wasn’t in the main room and two, Professor Redding was–with the baby in his arms.
I stared at him but was too weary to feel angry. “Professor… what are you doing here?”
He looked up, eyes wide under the brim of that stupid helmet. “S-Serenity… Y-you should be in b-bed…”
I rubbed my forehead and then held out my arms for the baby. “What are you doing here?” I asked again as he stood up and handed over my son. For a second I was worried he would float out of my arms but he just closed his eyes and snuggled against me. Hen and I hadn’t named him yet though we both knew the name we wanted for a son. Though… I wasn’t sure if it’d be the best choice for a–for a ghost.
“Henri c-c-called me,” the professor said, bitin’ his bottom lip. “He s-said you gave b-birth to a ghost and since y-you could go to a regular hospital and the only medical help y-you had was a student…” He trailed off and gazed openly into my eyes. “He was worried. S-so I agreed to c-come in and make sure y-you were all right.” He tilted his head forward to indicate the baby. “He is f-fine.”
“Where is Henri?” I asked, holdin’ the baby closer against my chest. He made a light little sound and opened and closed his mouth. Would my milk be okay for a ghost? What had they fed him so far?
“He is f-f-feeding the horses,” Professor Redding said. “M-Miracle was watching c-cartoons but she f-fell asleep so I put her in her c-crib. Th-there is some sausage and h-hash browns I can r-reheat for you… or I could f-fix you something for an early lunch? Th-the baby was f-fed a couple hours ago, when I first got here.”
My body cried out in sudden pain but I was able to stay as silent as the baby in my arms. I remembered vaguely not hearin’ him cry the night before and suddenly was worried he couldn’t make any sound. “Has he cried?” I asked, lookin’ up at Redding. “Has he been asleep?”
“Since I’ve b-been here he’s been mostly asleep,” Redding answered. “But he’s been v-very quiet. He is v-very cute. So is M-Miracle. Now, why don’t I get you s-some food?”
“After I eat you can check me over, and then we’ll need to talk.” I looked at him but he just smiled, most likely not knowin’ that I knew about the letter. While I was eating, Henri came back in and immediately began fussing over me. He took the baby but ignored me when I suggested putting him in his crib. Once I was done with my food and feelin’ a bit better, Professor Redding began his work. He had some equipment with him and I remained silent as he examined me. After he proclaimed me fine, I asked him if we could talk privately.
So while Henri took the baby with him into Miracle’s room, Redding and I stayed on the couch. He was quiet, waitin’ for me to begin the conversation but I wasn’t exactly sure where to begin. Then I wondered if it’d be better to not go on about the letter and instead focused on askin’ him the questions I wanted to ask his sister. Even though he had the helmet, he was far from his sister. Maybe he’d feel safe enough. That’s probably the best course of action here. Then again if I asked him, and SHE found out, SHE would get angry. If I asked him about the letter I had the feelin’ SHE wouldn’t find out since he wouldn’t tell her he did that. I think.
“Is everyth-thing okay?” he finally asked.
“Why are you wearing that helmet?” I asked. His hands jerked up, touching the edge of the hat. “What are you hiding from me?”
“I’m s-supposed to wear this around everyone w-with the, um, psychic abilities,” he muttered. “Lab r-rules…”
“We’re not in the lab,” I pointed out.
“I–I have to w-wear it, you’re… you’re a psychic. In a sense.” He clutched the edges of the helmet now, clutchin’ it tight on his head. “Though we’re not in the laboratory, I s-still have to w-wear it.”
“Because there’s something you’re trying to hide from me, you and your sister both.” I held up my head and glared. “Is whatever you’re hiding the reason you asked my grandmother to convince me not to come to the lab anymore?”
He winced and slid down a bit in his seat as his entire face blossomed into redness. “Ah… ah… you f-f-found… out…” He closed his eyes and shook his head back and forth. “I’m s-sorry. I know you’re p-probably very mad at me f-f-f-for that but you have to understand I j-just wanted to k-keep you safe…”
“Safe? From what?” I pointed at the helmet. “What that’s hiding, hmm? Is your sister doing something to me, then? Is that why she hates me being away so much? She’s doing something to me and wants to keep an eye on–“
“No!” he exclaimed. Now he was shaking his head so hard I thought maybe the helmet would go flying off. “She’s d-doing just wh-what she’s said she’s doing. Exploring th-the, uh, reaches of your abilities. It’s n-not that. There are… oh S-Serenity.” Suddenly he grabbed my hands and held them tightly. My abilities went nuts because physical contact was the strongest way to feel someone, but his helmet was still putting up the barrier. My head felt like it was going to explode, as much as my womb had the night before. I yelled and pulled back, strugglin’ to get my hands free.
“Let go, please, let go!” I begged and he released me. I pressed my hands against my head. “That hurt… That–the helmet is strong…”
“I’m s-s-s-sorry… I didn’t th-think of that, I j… just… I’m sorry.” Professor Redding was obviously distressed. “I d-didn’t think. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I whispered, rubbin’ my temples. “What were you going to say?”
I was afraid I had frightened him and he wouldn’t, but he spoke. “There are d-d-dangers in the laboratory that you j-just don’t know about, and sh-shouldn’t find out.” He swallowed and looked down at his hands. “I’m worried my s-sister will… try things… mess around w-w-with experiments and–crossing two subjects th-that could not be crossed.”
“Me being one of them,” I said.
Professor Redding blinked, then nodded slowly. “Y-yes. She… d-doesn’t exactly have p-pleasant feelings towards your f-family. She w-won’t care about the r-re-repercussions of some experimenting I’m af-fraid she might attempt. I know y-you want answers, b-but is it worth the r-risk?”
“Considering the fact I don’t know what the risks are, yes.” I rubbed my head again, my body wanting me to go back to bed but I wasn’t going to go anywhere until I got all I could out of the Professor.
“What if th-there is a risk to your family?”
“Are you threatening me, Professor Redding?”
“N-no, never!” His head snapped up and his eyes were huge. “You just d-don’t know what could happen and I c-can’t tell you everything. It’s not… safe… for anyone…”
“If you won’t tell me the risks then I will assume they’re not bad enough to give me reason to stop going,” I said then frowned, realizin’ I sounded a lot like Doctor Redding there. That was enough to send a shiver down my spine.
“Serenity, p-please trust me,” he whispered. “Please.”
I stared straight ahead, unable to look at him as I said, “I do trust you but if you can’t tell me everything then I can’t trust you on this matter. I’m sorry, Professor. I appreciate your concerns but I want–and need–answers. And a cure.”
“C-cure? There is n-no cure for your psychic abilities. It’s p-part of you, part of your DNA. It’s as m-m-much part of you as your fingerprints, and v-voice, and f-facial features…”
I stood up, frowning at the pain. “I need more than that to go off of, Professor. I’m sorry.” I went into the bedroom and lay down, groaning at the pain and relief going through my body. With everything that my grandma had told me, and now the Professor sayin’ stuff about dangers… I knew it would be better not to go. But I needed answers… I couldn’t live with these powers. With Henri and our son as ghosts, it would be up to me an’ Miracle to deal with the outside world and my powers made it hard. What if she got the powers too? I wanted to know as much as possible to make things as easy as possible for her.
And there had to be somethin’ to stop these powers. If they could make the helmets then they knew how the power worked, and how to block it. They had to know of a way to stop someone from experiencing them.
As the days went by, Henri and I learned how to deal with a ghost baby. He wasn’t consistent with his solidity. Sometimes when we tried puttin’ him in his crib he would just float down to the floor. A couple times when we fed him he’d let the bottle go through his face. Henri had to keep making clothes appear since the baby couldn’t do it himself, and changing his diaper was annoyin’. Most the time it took us several tries to get him to be solid so we could take care of the mess. It was real strange. I didn’t like it.
We had debated on his name, not sure if the name we originally picked out for a boy would work for him but after Hen and I talked it over we agreed to go ahead and name him Chance. I regretted it the first time Kaylee visited.
“Chance?” she asked, holdin’ her new nephew. “The ghost of a Chance?”
“Shut up!” I snapped and she giggled.
“Ghost of a Chance,” she said again, cuddlin’ him closely. “I like it. Whaaaaat? I think it’s cute! The ghost of a Chance. I love it, it’s perfect!”
“That is not why we’re giving him that name!” I wailed. “It’s like Miracle’s name. I mean, it is a miracle and a wonderful chance and all that stuff that Henri and I got back together–stop giggling, please stop!”
“Okay, okay! I’ll stop,” she said, pressin’ her lips together but giggling on the inside.
One of the other problems with Chance was the fact he didn’t cry. When he was real hungry or made a mess in his ghostly diaper he merely occasionally whimpered. Hen and I had to check on him several times a night just to make sure he was okay. Sometimes he’d be asleep, sometimes he’d be awake and need food or a change. He wouldn’t tell us. I wondered if it had to do with his plight of bein’ a ghost but when I talked to my maternal dad, he said that some kids were very quiet.
“But never crying?” I asked and Mom just shrugged.
The biggest problem, though, was Miracle. She decided right off the bat she didn’t like her brother. “No,” she said when she met him. “No.” And that’s what she said whenever she saw him. Unless Henri was holdin’ him, in which case she’d throw a temper tantrum. “Dada! Dada!” she wailed whenever she caught him bonding with his son. “Up! Dada, up!” She’d hold her arms up and then when he’d pick her up, holdin’ both babies, she’d crinkle her nose at Chance and make unhappy noises. We gave her as much attention as possible, making sure one of us was spending time with her if the other was carin’ for Chance. If Chance was asleep while Miracle was awake, she’d relish in all the attention she got. But she wouldn’t call him anything other than ‘no’ despite the constant attempts at getting her to say ‘baby’ or ‘brudder’ or ‘Chance’.
When she was about nineteen months, I took her to see an optometrist who said that she was far-sighted. We were given glasses and had the lovely task of teaching her to keep them on, tryin’ at first very short periods of time and then lengthening the time she wore them as the weeks passed. Despite usually disliking being told what to do, she would wear the glasses and actually started exploring around the house more than she used to. And when she wore the glasses, it became very easy to teach her to walk properly. She actually did it, taking many steps instead of only a few then stopping to cry. Soon she was walkin’ all over the place and trying to climb, getting into even more trouble than before.