A light drizzle spotted the dusty yard late that July afternoon. The small, blue house with wood siding was one of several on the four-acre land. Holding the tiny package wrapped in an off-white sheet, Marceline surreptitiously mounted the porch. She glanced around before carefully resting its delicate content directly in front of the old screen door whose rusty hinges had left the lower part slightly lopsided. Standing up again, she knocked on the front window as loudly as she could, then glanced around one last time before taking off into the distance. She ran as fast as she could in the rain that had now picked up intensity.
Inside the house remained quiet until the sound of footsteps approached the front room. The package lying at the door made a stir after the knocking, but there was no further activity. Through the screen door, Clea Jean immediately saw the rolled up sheet on the porch, and standing just inches away from the door, she noticed a slight stir coming from it which caused her to jerk. She aimed for a better look, unaware of what the mysterious package could possibly be; a series of unhealthy thoughts crowded her mind.
“Pierre, come here!” she cried, still staring through the screen.
A boy appeared moments later. He was fairly tall for his age and on the slim side. Also, he did not look a day below sixteen, although he had just a week prior seen his twelfth birthday. His eyes caught hold of what had drawn Clea’s attention. “What is it?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Could be some kind of voodoo trap.”
Pierre shook his head, thinking his mother was far too superstitious and also generally bad-minded, always believing the worst.
He saw a stir in the sheet. “It moved!” he exclaimed.
Then they heard a weak cry and Clea quickly opened the door and stooped next to it. She unwrapped the sheet only to find a partially clad infant grimacing, then the crying continued.
“It’s a baby!” Clea blurted, wide-eyed.
Pierre had joined her on the porch, and was gazing at the child. Clea carefully picked it up, and she and her son scanned the large property.
“Whose baby is it?” Pierre asked.
“How would I know? You saw me pick it up. Did you see someone here when I picked it up?”
Pierre didn’t perceive the question worthy of a response. “It’s white,” he said.
“Not white — half white,” Clea corrected him. She was still scanning the vicinity and no one was outside as far as she could see. “Let’s get it in before she catches a cold.”
She gently rested the baby on the couch, then she and Pierre stood staring at it as if in a daze.
“She’s got a dimple, Mommy, and her hair is so pretty.” He reached down to touch the baby.
Clea slapped his hand.
“Don’t touch it on its head! You just used the bathroom, boy.”
“I washed my hands, Mommy. You don’t think I know I must wash my hands after using the toilet?”
Clea gave him a feisty look as he again reached down to touch the baby’s head.
“You be careful, ya hear? She’s not a rugged boy like you.”
Pierre glanced at his mother, then focused again on the texture of the baby’s jet-black curls. The child’s eyes were darting across the room, but paid much attention to the teenager smiling down at her. Clea observed with an austere look.
She was in her late forties and life had not been easy in the village set on the tropical island of Nervesta. Neither had it been for many of her neighbors – immigrants who shared the common ground upon which their clapboard houses sat. Heavy rains on the low-lying property often posed a colossal nuisance, especially for Clea who generally found less to appreciate and much to complain about. Those closest to her swore she contended with OCD, despite not having a specific name for it. Instead, they referred to her as “picky”; sometimes “particular”; other times just “crazy”. Born and bred in Haiti, she found herself in the village where her husband, Jacques, also a Haitian refugee, resided before they were married. When he upped and left, she remained.
Pierre quickly shut the main door from the sudden downpour of rain.
“When it stops, we have to find out who had the nerve to leave an infant on my porch,” Clea said angrily. “I wonder what they expect me to do with it!”
Pierre looked at her. “Maybe whoever it was doesn’t want it.”
“So they bring it here—to me? What am I to do with it? Feeding and taking care of you is challenging enough. I swear, boy, when you finish school, you better get a good job and pay me back for all the years I had to invest my hard-earned money in you.”
“Mommy, stop talking foolishness! How can you tell your own son to pay you back for doing what you’re supposed to do as a mother? I didn’t ask to be here, remember?”
Clea fixed her gaze on the boy, temporarily forgetting the child that was now quietly sucking its thumb. “You mean to tell me you gonna just grow up and make your living, and think you don’t owe me nothing for as good as I’ve been to you? I raised you by myself. I worked and slaved for everything you have including those clothes on your back. They don’t belong to you; they belong to me! Ungrateful!”
Pierre shook his head. Clea tended to take things so seriously. “You need to lighten up, Mommy.”
“Lighten up? Lighten up? Where you get this talk from? Mixing with those other children at your school, I bet. You are Haitian. You have pride in your heritage, boy!”
Pierre sighed deeply. “You are going from one thing to the next, Mommy. First of all, I never said I wouldn’t help take care of you when I’m older and secondly, I am proud of my heritage. You think just because I don’t speak like you that I am not proud? I was born here, Mommy. You expect me not to speak like the natives?”
Clea cut her eye at him, then reached down and picked up the baby after she noticed it was getting restless.
“Get a clean sheet and fold it in half over my bed. Let’s lay the baby in my room ‘til the rain stops. It must be hungry.”
Pierre quickly heeded her instructions, then sat next to the bed watching the baby while Clea went into the kitchen.
“How will you feed her?” he asked.
“Don’t you worry. I know just how.” She was back a few minutes later with a small baby bottle filled halfway with milk.
“Where did that come from?”
“You,” she replied, sitting on the bed and scooping the little child into her arms.
“Me?” Pierre was baffled.
The baby sucked the old, light brown plastic nipple eagerly. “She’s starving,” Clea noted.
Pierre looked on. “Yeah and you finally referred to her as she.
“This bottle was yours,” Clea finally revealed. “I kept it all these years.”
“Why? You wanted more children?”
“No. No more children. You know I don’t throw away hardly anything. And it’s a good thing too because if I was any different I wouldn’t be sitting here feeding this child right now. Whoever she belongs to owes me for a can of milk.”
Pierre smiled at the comment. He knew her sour attitude and bossiness were the weapons of mass destruction that drove his father away – first to the bottle, then as far away from her as he could get. He was saddened by news that cirrhosis of the liver finally claimed Jacques’ life and never had a bad word to say about the man that walked out on him and his mother when he was just seven years old.
“You are such a smart woman,” Pierre said.
“I know,” Clea replied. “Tell me, who in this village just had a baby? This child must only be between five or six weeks old and two months.”
Pierre thought for a moment, then called a few names.
“Well, that’s four. If the mother of this child is from this village, one of the four is missing a baby. We’ll find out who it is very soon.”
Two hours later…
“Michel!” Clea shouted at the door. Pierre was standing behind her.
Within seconds, the front door screeched open and a tall woman with narrow features appeared on the other side. The look on her face was one of shock as she fixed her gaze downward.
“Is that a baby?” Michel Gilbert asked.
“What does it look like?” Clea brushed past her, inviting herself inside the small, cramped living space. Michel followed her over to the couch and Pierre closed the door after stepping inside.
“That… that looks like…”
“Who?” Clea asked Michel.
Michel’s astonishment overpowered her voice.
“We see we arrived at the right door,” Clea said.
“Marceline left Eva with you?” Michel probed.
“Not exactly. She left the child on my doorstep, just before the rain came pouring down. What type of human being does that?” Clea made no effort to hide her disgust.
Michel found the chair and slowly descended. “She did that?”
“You’re damn right she did! Where the hell is she?”
“She’s not here. She left already.”
“Left? Left to go where? When is she coming back?” Clea demanded.
Michel shook her head. “She’s not coming back.”
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