Thursday, December 15, 2016

October 28

I stood outside the doorway to Mom’s room first thing this morning, Anrel in my arms. I had a near-army at my back that consisted of Aslada, Meyso, Jaon, Kini, and Imdiko Snoy.

I gave Anrel’s manny a grim smile. “The moment you hear her raise her voice or offer one nasty word, come get the baby. Don’t wait for me to call.”

He nodded. “I will have Anrel out of there as fast as possible.”

“Okay,” I said. “Then we’re as ready for this as we’re going to get.”

The men all nodded at me. I wasn’t sure how any of them felt about me showing Anrel to Mom, because none of their faces hinted at emotion. That they had all elected to be present told me they were as worried as I was about what the next few minutes would bring. Yet no one contested the wisdom of this move.

Given her bouts of anger, I thought I probably should have my head examined for exposing Anrel to her. But I know Eve Monroe. She’s unpredictable. Seeing her granddaughter might set off more fireworks, but it would also give her something to think about. Right now, she rejected me. I believed that knowing Anrel existed would eventually make her want to forge some sort of tie with us.

The men stayed outside the room. They would remain out of sight unless Mom got verbally abusive. If that happened, Snoy would grab Anrel and get her out. If Anrel was upset, she’d have the comfort of Clan Aslada while I dealt with Mom. Kini would observe Mom’s reactions to further his work with her.

I smiled down at the baby I held in my arms. “Okay, precious girl. Let’s see if you can charm your grandmom.”

Anrel smiled and burbled at me as if to say, who can resist me? She is so precious, but Mom is a force unto herself.

I drew a breath and walked into the room.

I went in just far enough that Mom could see us. I was ready for Anrel’s quick exit. Mom turned her head, her glare in place as her gaze found me.

She looked at Anrel. Her face froze. I held my breath.

Her mouth opened, and I tensed. Her raspy voice issued forth. “Is that. Yours?”

I nodded. “This is my daughter. Your grandchild.”

Mom stared. There was a long beat of silence as she took in this new development. I waited for what felt like an eternity. Anrel made nonsense noises and blew bubbles with her spit. She tried to feed me her little fist.

At last, Mom spoke again. “Can I. See her?”

I nodded. “Sure. That’s why she’s here.”

I walked over to Mom’s bed, positioning Anrel so she could have a good look at her. Mom’s gaze stayed riveted on her the whole time. Her expression had gone from angry to – well, I’m not sure how to describe it. It wasn’t warm. There was no sign of hopeless adoration. But she didn’t look ready to breathe fire either, so that was a plus. It was the kind of look Mom got when she’d been mad and wasn’t really ready to let go of it…but she didn’t want to fight anymore either.

I held the baby close so that Mom could see her without straining. Anrel babbled at her and waved her little hands. “This is Anrel. Anrel this is your – what do you want her to call you, Mom? Grandmom? Nana?”

Mom pulled a face. “Mimi. I’m her mimi. It will. Be easier. For her to. Say when she. Starts talking. I called. My great. Grand. Mother ‘mimi’.”

My body relaxed. I hadn’t expected instant acceptance, but here it was. Prophets be praised, Mom wanted to be Anrel’s grandmother.

“How old. Is she?” Mom asked. Her voice, so long unused, couldn’t help but be raspy. Yet I could tell she was trying to soften it.

“She just turned five Earth months.”

“Big baby. Must be. The Kalq blood. I like her eyes. I like. The purple color.”

“Pretty, isn’t she? She’s tough too. Like her mimi.”

“She has. Our nose. Just like you. And me.” Mom shot me a look. “Where is. The father?”

I wasn’t ready to get into that complicated story yet. “He’s not on Kalquor. He’s not part of our lives.”

Mom rolled her eyes. “Men. They suck. No matter the species.”

I laughed, not because I agreed with her, but because I was happy we were having a decent conversation. “Anrel has a long line of admirers who would be thrilled to take on the job.”

Mom was looking at the baby again. A hint of a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. “She looks good. You’re doing a. Good job with her.”

“Thanks.” I couldn’t take all the credit. “I have a big support system, thank goodness. I’m not sure I could handle it on my own.”

“You could. You’re going to be. Better as a mother. Than I was.” The smile was gone and sadness flitted across Mom’s face. “I screwed up. A lot.”

I patted her shoulder. “You were a single mom for the most part. There were a lot of problems not within your control. I’m here and I’m alive and I’m not a complete fuck-up. I’ll let you have a little credit for that.” I winked.

Mom’s attention went to Anrel again. “She is beautiful, Shalia. Thank you for. Not keeping her from me.”

“I’d never do that as long as you wanted her around. I’m glad you do.”

We visited for an hour until Anrel needed feeding and a diaper change. Mom spent most of it talking to her, telling her stories of how I was when I was a baby. She even laughed at the harmless mistakes a new mother makes with her first (or only) born. More than once I had to blink back tears. Mom spoke of me with such love that it overwhelmed me.

My sweet, beautiful, wonderful baby. Anrel, once more you have enchanted us all.

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