“Oh God, fuck!”
Delta screams as loud as she possibly can, and the whole room shakes. Even through the delivery room window, it still comes through loud and clear.
Julie plants her feet firmly in place and clenches her fist. Her breaths quicken.
Unfortunately, it is impossible for us to gain an inside view into this woman’s thoughts and emotions; the only insight we are able to gain is in what we can observe in her actions.
“Just push,” some random doctor says.
“I thought the painkillers would make this less horrible!” Delta shouts.
“The more you snark, the more painful it will be,” they tell her. Whether or not it is true does not matter, because Delta shuts up after this, other than the screaming of course.
It is not very long before the messy part of the process explodes into all its beautiful gory glory, and the miracle of life takes its time to shine.
Delta and Julie’s first child is born this day, moving wildly about and crying loudly.
The doctors beckon Julie inside, and she enters the delivery room to see her child.
“It’s a girl,” a doctor says.
Whether or not that will turn out to be true in the long term is currently unclear, but what is clear is that Julie does not have an interest in contradicting this proclamation, since she does not respond to it.
Instead, she stares at the scrunched up face of this new child of hers.
“Esther,” Delta says faintly. “I’m naming her Esther. Finally, out of my damn... womb...” She passes out promptly.
“Hello, Esther,” Julie says to her crying child.
And then Esther stops wailing. Her eyes adjust to the light, and her screams turn into quiet sobs. A few scattered tears here and there.
“That’s my girl,” she says. “Look at your mother, will you?”
She does. Esther, nestled in the doctor’s arms, turns her head and opens her eyes to gaze right at Julie.
Those tiny, vibrant pink eyes, staring at her with a level of focused curiosity not seen in many this young. Just two minutes old.
Julie raises her palm and extends her arm forward, close to Esther’s undersized head. Waiting for something.
Then, on cue, Esther reaches out with her own trembling arm and touches her mother’s palm.
The delivery room shakes once more.
A force field of shimmering, trembling energy emerges from their hands and circles around the mother and her daughter.
Everyone else in the room is frozen, as if paused in time, with just these two looking and blinking at each other.
Then, when Julie takes her hand away from the baby, the energy dissipates and everything resumes as if normal. The doctors yell in fright, but Julie does nothing special. We can assume she has been moved, but we do not yet know how, except for one important fact:
This is the beginning of a new stage of life for Julie Rafati. That much is very clear.
San Francisco State University, in an Intro to Macroeconomics course. A large lecture hall, with Professor Rafati in front of a whiteboard and a quiet, courteous infant sitting on a table next to her.
All eyes are on the lecture, but not because of the material. Not even because of the beautiful teacher, as was once was the case. Esther is the object of intense fascination by almost every student in the entire class. With Delta back at Bustable Lemons and Julie back at the university, there are not many options for their extremely young child. Fortunately, things seem to be going quite well for now.
Julie does not seem to pay close attention to her, but Esther certainly does to everyone and everything else. Her eyes move around with bright specks of curiosity that light up far beyond anything reasonable for a newborn. She looks at the whiteboard and studies the notes her mother has written for the students; at this point, Esther may be the only one paying any attention to those notes.
Whether due to the distracted atmosphere or some other unknown reason, Julie soon decides to end class early. It’s all review before the midterms, so the students aren’t exactly upset. Instead, a large cohort of them gather at the front of the lecture hall and circle around the baby.
The students remark with incredible enthusiasm about how lovely Esther is. Her bright pink eyes contrast so much with her dark tan skin that they pop out excitedly every time she moves her head. She just looks... interesting, they all say.
Julie takes the compliments with courtesy, but rushes them all out of the lecture hall. Then, the moment the coast is clear, Esther starts to cry. She picks her up and takes her to be changed.
“You carried yourself very well,” Julie says to her.
Delta rolls over on her back and lets out an extended, highly satisfied sigh. She pulls the covers over herself and Julie, although Julie makes no moves to make herself comfortable.
“Been waiting for that for ages,” Delta murmurs.
Their first time in weeks, the first good moment they could make with their busy schedules and active child. It was well deserved.
Delta looks at the baby monitor on the nightstand and smiles a little. “I thought for sure Esther was going to wake up and start babbling about something. Guess she’s really asleep.”
“Isn’t it a bit strange the baby is already babbling so soon?” Julie asks, seemingly rhetorically.
“Eh, she’s got good genes. What are you getting at?”
Julie adjusts her pillow and says, “I wonder about a lot of things. Esther is certainly one of them.”
“You’re not going through a quarter-life crisis, are you?” Delta turns on the TV to some late-night talk show, where a comedian pokes fun at Joe Biden announcing his reelection campaign despite his advanced age. The audience laughs heartily at a clip of him slipping up his words. “Poor guy can’t catch a break. I really don’t think he should run again.”
Julie reaches over, takes the remote, and turns off the TV. Whatever she is feeling right now, it must be something serious, because she looks Delta straight in the eyes.
“Don’t you ever think about the fact I dye my hair red, because my roots are pink? Or how I wear contacts, because my eyes are pink? Or how I was an orphan, abandoned on the doorstep of some couple’s doorstep?”
“Isn’t it weird I’ve gone my entire life without anyone questioning any of this? Even me?”
“She has my eyes, Delta,” Julie says. “I think we should examine this situation.”
Delta sighs loudly, albeit with much less satisfaction than before. “Okay, yeah, I guess we should probably check this out. It never really occurred to me that... God, this is going to get us into a lot of shit, isn’t it?”
“With your track record, I can assume so.”
“Are you teasing me?”
“I’m teasing you.”
“Well, you know there’s a price to pay for that,” Delta says with a growing grin.
“I’m fully willing to accept the cost.”
Delta leans over her wife and kisses her on the shoulder. “Maybe in the morning, if the baby’s not awake yet.”
She will be awake already. She always will be in the morning.