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In a small town in Massachusetts, a young girl sits alone of the steps of her house, weeping. Frieda tugged at her curly hair trying to get it out of her face. How did they know? The question was ridiculous, since there was no possible way for them to know. Yet, more troubling, who were they? No one here now could tell the tale apart from Frieda herself. Why? She thought as she wiped her tears and brought the objects up closer. The tea bag, filled to the brim with the terrible aroma of peppermint, was flung as far away from her as possible, but she clutched the photo to her heart. And as she saw his face form in her head she was struck again with the same one questioning word she thought every day; Why?
Mary Grath sat at a diner counter. Okay, 7 dollars and 4 cents. She glanced down at the check. +$ 7.04. Oh, there it was again, that terrible little plus sign. Resisting the urge to stick her tongue out at it like a 5-year-old, young compared to her 32 years, she took the money out of her purse and ran out as fast as she could. It had never been a reality to her to be pregnant without a boyfriend, a husband, or anything of the sort. She was brilliant, she was gorgeous, she was artistic... and she was about to become a mother. Mary frowned. She had been raised by her aunt, a NUN for crying out loud! This was not supposed to happen to people like her! On that note, she should call Aunt Adelaine, she hadn't let herself be seen since she had started showing. She parked in her driveway, deep in thought, and walked to get the mail. She blinked at her find, a pacifier?
Diapers, creams, bottles, he was most definitely in the wrong aisle. Greg Manning gruffly turned away from a couple of some exited mums-to-be swooning over some poor kid in a stroller. It was a funny thing, getting old. You came and left the world small, and in diapers. Being old was strange too. Heck, he was 68 and still didn't realize that he already had more than half of his life behind him. He didn't like babies, really. Most people fawned over them all day, but he found them disgusting. He walked to the counter fast. The child he had known... well, it didn't exist anymore. It had been one hot summer in Africa.
"24 dollars and seven cents please", an abrupt voice ripped him out of his memories. Memories, that was all he had now.
"Sir?" The young woman sat aggravated her dark hair frizzing in all directions. Oh, right.
"Here, keep the change." Greg grabbed the bag and walked out.
"All the lonely people...", the song text wafted out some kitchen window. In the war he had once known someone with a Ringo Star tattoo on his left shoulder. Eleanor Rigby, it was a sad story, not that he cared. Greg hadn't shared a tear for anyone but himself since his pet rabbit had died. His parents had been mortified, ashamed at him showing signs of actual emotion in public. He opened the grocery bag. You could never tell with people these days, they were all out to con you. An apple, paper towels, a lot of microwavable food he would probably never eat, and... what was that? Silently he picked a diaper out of the bag. What the heck?
"Frieda", a stern voice woke her out of her daydream.
"Frieda Martin!" Erm... in what class was she in now? Math?
"27", Frieda replied automatically.
"27 hours of sleep?!" Oh no, Ms. McNally was enjoying this moment.
"Well, if it's like that I'm sure you'll be able to answer questions 7, 8, and 9 on the board." Ick. Frieda walked up carefully feeling her bun bob on her head. She tugged her clothes into place and started to work on a problem she knew she would get wrong. She sighed. Why had she said 27? Was it the amount she had gathered at the last Save The Children meeting? No, it had been the number of Lenny's jersey. Lenny. She'd loved Lenny, he was the best friend she ever could have had. He'd always smelled faintly like peppermint. Peppermint tea had once been Frieda's favorite, but she couldn't stand it now. She was on a strictly chamomile diet. Once again she had to shudder as she thought of his hand disappearing under the water. Maybe if she had been a little taller, or stretched a little farther she could have saved him. As it was she hadn't. At the prospect of his cool hand never reaching her again she felt queasy. Then, in front of a class of 27 onlookers, Frieda Martin collapsed on the floor, her hands screeching down the chalkboard like the tortured song of a lark, knowing it had no chance of survival.
Yes. Greg Manning had killed someone.
It wasn't as if anyone would really care, it was a poor mother and child in Africa. He could remember it as if it was yesterday. She had had deep brown hair, and green eyes, that was the first thing he'd noticed about her. Dafina was her name, precious. She'd come into the room, so happy, and optimistic, though in a time of crisis. ''Are you hurt?'' she'd asked, such a sweet voice. It didn't matter now though. She'd come back to him, found him back home to tell him the news.
A knock on the door. Who could that be? Greg wondered, It was 2 am, a bit late for a friendly house call. Another knock. ''Okay, I'm coming, I’m coming!'' he yelled out pulling himself up from the couch. He opened the door. ''Hi..'' she said breathlessly. Dafina, he'd thought it was a summer thing, something he wouldn't have to carry around for life. He was wrong. God, how wrong he was. ''Hi.'' he answered confused. ''I thought you might want to meet someone'', she said and then she pulled the kid out from behind her. My, it was a complete replica of him! Only the eyes.... they were hers. Green ones that seemed to puncture into his heart and read what it intended. ''Why don't you come in?'' he asked. This couldn't happen. He couldn't have a kid here to drag him down. He was engaged! He couldn't have a bastard child! He led them to the dining room, he himself walking dazed to the kitchen to get drinks. Botulinum, he'd seen many a good soldiers die of it. Slowly, he tipped it into the sweet apple juice. For her, he brought water. She wouldn't have to die, she could go home. ''Here'', he handed out the drinks. The child smelled the cup then it tipped into its mouth. ''His names Babafemi'', she said. Oh my god, he was going to kill a human being! He was mad, he was insane, yet he was still following through with it. Then Babafemi shrieked, a horrible sound. To die of botulinum was to die a very painful death, it cut off your entire nervous system. The child fell down, suddenly a lifeless form. Somewhere, in the back of his head, he heard Dafina screaming. ''Do something!'' she shrieked, a command. And he did. Without second thought he picked up a butter knife of the table. That day not one life was taken, but two. The worst thing being that no one would know.
Greg closed his eyes and remember the last moment. When the warm brown eyes had met the piercing green, and she knew.
Frieda Martin was having a nightmare. To have one is a natural occurrence, happening quite often to most everyone. In the dictionary, it is noted as a dream arousing feelings of intense fear, horror, and distress. To Frieda it wasn't like this though. It was more as if she was living a memory of what was to come. It was the same dream she had quite often. The day Lenny drowned, the way the last thing she's done was have a fight with him, the way the police came and she never told them she had been there, and it always ended with him coming out of the water and beckoning to her. Sometimes he hugged her, sometimes he begged her to come with him to the depths, and sometimes... he pushed her in. The second time she looked it up, there was another definition, a demon or spirit once thought to plague sleeping people. The thing was, sometimes she was scared that he was one. If anyone was capable of becoming something that hadn't been a reality for years, it was him. Tonight he begged her to come with him, and full of love for her best friend she followed. As she walked into the murky water and felt it going higher and higher she realized what she was doing and struggled to leave, to get out and go anywhere but there. Strangely, her body wouldn't follow the command, and as she walked deeper and deeper into the water, she realized she had no chance, and let go.
''Ugh... that was so stupid of her, it was just a math problem. What a drama queen.''
''Heather shut up.''
''Why, its not like she can hear us!''
Frieda woke up to the sound of her classmates bickering over her sickbed. Annoyed, and embarrassed at what had just happened Frieda moved in a brave attempt to sit up.
''Ouch!'' she said surprised. Who knew it hurt after you passed out?
''Here darling, drink something.'' Frieda felt a hand pushing a glass shape into her hand and slowly pouring it down her throat. Where was she? She tried to focus on the terrible yellow walls. ''Mellow yellow'' it was called. The nurse had painted it that color to keep patients calm. God how ironic. Oh no, that was where she was. Oh... she felt like she was going to puke. Was that a symptom, or was it just cause of these terrible walls? Possibly both, mostly the later. Eww.. she pushed her way out of the stupid school news reporters and tried to walk out the door in an attempt to escape. Why they even had them was a mystery. Nothing interesting had happened since someone's mom called in hysterical to ask if there was any ammonia in the school beef.
''Wait!'', she heard a woman call after, ''After an accident like this your going to need to lie down a little longer! At least take this package left for you!'' Hmm.. strange not the regular one. This one had dark, chocolate skin, with an air of the wild about her. She must be a sub, or maybe a replacement. Good riddance, anyone who thought that color was a help obviously had no idea what they were doing. She grabbed the package and headed out- direction doorway.Once under the door, triumph clear in her eyes, Frieda turned around to claim their defeat when she opened the package and found water pouring out. It might not have been that bad if a dead fish hadn't flopped out, causing all the blood to flood to her head as she collapsed again, the smile still chiseled on her face.
When Mary had first found out she was pregnant she was sure she would be one of those terrible people who's babies are born in their car on a road tour to who knows where. As it happens, it didn't. On her way to get gas for a road trip she had her first cramp. Luckily it just happened that a nurse from St. Vincent also had the same plan to drive continentally across the US. She was just buying a jumbo pack of Cup Noodles when she saw Mary break apart in her car. She ran out, noodles brandished in hand, and pushed Mary to the side, taking over the steering wheel and keys. She then drove them to the nearest hospital and became her midwife.
BEEEPPP BEEEEPP Mary opened her eyes to find herself in the hospital. It took her a moment to remember where she was, though then it all flooded back to her as she saw a jumbo pack of soup. She remembered the pain, the laughs, her tears, and a strange women who'd swooped down to help her, like the archangel of severely pregnant women. However, she wasn't the only important human. She would hate that little thing, give it to adoption, or a family that actually wanted a kid. She could walk through the lobby and find a waiting father who looked slightly like John. She'd press it in his arms, symbolically harming the one who had fault in all of this. She was pulled out of her plans by a knock on the door.
''Come in!'' she called warily.
''Hi'', she said as the woman came in.
''Would you like to meet your new child?'' the nurse said, a smile plastered on her lips. My god, she probably says that with the same smile to everyone she sees, She thought. Even without an answer the nurse came over and handed her a blue bundle. Mary stared down at it, determined to find some flaw in this dreadful thing that was threatening her life. She had once heard a saying, that when you see your first child you start to live again, as if you yourself have opened your eyes to the world for the first time. She had always thought it was stupid, just a cheesy happy line to help mothers get used to the idea of having a child, even if it meant you would loose your shape forever. However, as she looked down at the face, Mary Grath was born again. She traced all the little curves and folds of her babies face and saw John's cheeks. The little boy had his cheeks, and his eyes and his ears and his mouth, and she did not hate him. She adored this cute little mini version, and through all the pain, and the many times she had cried herself to sleep, she laughed. A full throaty full out laugh of everything that had come, and everything that still would come. As she laughed the baby laughed with her, and she realized that that, that was hers.
''Have you got a name?'' the woman asked, and Mary looked up at her for the first time. The first thing she noticed were her eyes, intense green ones.
''No, i don't'', Mary answered truthfully, ''Any ideas?''
''What about Babafemi?'' She said. Mary let the word run over her tongue. Babafemi... it rolled wonderfully and sounded incredibly crazy and wild.
''I like it'', she decided, ''Where did you hear it?''
''It's a family name.'' the nurse answered with a hint of a smile.
''Babafemi.'' The word seamed to heal her. The nurse started to leave, on her way out she called out, ''Don't forget to let her know!'' Let her know? Let who know? She didn't possibly think that she was... Mary blushed. Aunt Adelaine would love to hear that. Oh, of course. She dialed the familiar number and held the phone up to her cheek.
''Hello?'' the voice echoed out of the receiver.
''Hi, Aunt Adelaine...'' she took a deep breath, ''I'm at the hospital, there's someone I think you ought to meet.''
"Www", Greg typed into the computer, "google.com". "Com", why "com"? "Com" like computer? He knew that on France they typed "fr", like francais, and in Germany they typed "de", like Deutschland. Why didn't everyone in the US type "un", like united states? Though, what would the UN type then? Did they even have their own ending? But no. It came to him then, "com" like commercial. Was that all that people thought of America? A land of corruption and barbies? He tried to block this random nervous babble out of his head. Finally, his prehistoric computer was done loading. Scared to know the truth, but scared not to, he typed in a name. B.. A.. B.. A.. F... E... M... I... Nervous, went to find the search button. "I'm feeling lucky", he read. What the heck was that supposed to mean? Well, he didn't need to press it. He was most definitely not feeling lucky, no need to tell Google. Oh, there it was, right under his nose. The kid had been right under his nose. He hit it fast before he could think. In the time his computer was loading he went to make himself some microwavable chicken of some sort. Popcorn would be better for this moment, but he wasn't watching a horror movie. This was real life. He dragged his feet up the stairs, feeling the weight of his shoulders which seemed to sag more and more with each step. Once up, he sat down in the chair and hesitantly hit the first link. Hmm.. babynamebox.com. His eyes looked down trying to find something that would help him in his search. His eyes scanned over the meaning, father loves me. As he read it he realized it was completely true.
Frieda had the same dream again, for the second time that day. However, this time he stood there differently. ''Frieda'', he said, ''Frieda, you have to leave.'' ''What?'' she asked confused. ''You can't be here.'' Frieda continued to look at him confused, ''I... don't understand...'', she stuttered. He looked at her aggravated, ''Frieda you can't be.'' The horrible truth stung her heart. ''The way you are...'' ''I understand.'' she cut him off sharply, ''No need to go into detail about what a sad, lying, depressed b**ch I am.'' Apparently it stung him to. She watched Lenny push back his hair, the flyaway blond that would be forever engraved in her mind. That was the problem, he was engraved into her. Into her eyes, under her eyelids, inside her eardrums, a curse she would have to hear forever, for the rest of her life. ''Now's the time'', he said his blue eyes staring into hers. Around this point her dream usually went crazy, a hustle of tears and flying hair and leaves that got in your eyes, yet this time it was calm. So, for the first time, she was able to see what really happened. He turned around as if seeing the terror that was to come to her. Scared of that ever coming object of utmost sadness and loneliness, Frieda took a step back, only to realize that the ledge ended there. She flew down, but luckily Lenny's hand came out to save her. She saw utter and complete pain in his eyes as he pushed out, ''I love you, but you need to let go''. Frieda nodded helpless and slowly let go of his fingers, in almost the same situation that she had been once before. Why had she never noticed before that he pushed her away to save her? Frieda lay there, covered in sweat trying to get her breathing normal again, when she realized the one important factor. She had to let go in another way.
Greg grabbed his bags, he needed to get out of his house. He ran to the driveway, feeling the burden of the world on his shoulders, and relaxed as he heard the engine brum to life. It was raining and he drove down the familiar road to the river with ease. It was exactly what he needed, no one came to swim here any more since that kid died. Greg got to the shore and quickly kicked off shoes and socks and t-shirt as he felt hot tears start to well up. He flung himself into the water and let the cold seep into all his wounds. It filled his empty heart, soul, and swept all the selfishness away, so he was only left with guilt. The calm even strokes got him to breathe again, and he cried real tears that had been bottled up since his seventh birthday. He thought the same thing he'd thought a couple weeks ago, when you left the world you did it small and in diapers. It might not have to be the case for him, he could die at the height of 6 feet 3 inches and in swimming trunks. He ducked down under the water, taking what he thought to be his last breath. It might even had worked if it wasn't for a single boat gliding calmly across the water. Greg took that breathe, closed his eyes, and smashed directly into the fishing boat. He felt a helping hand steadying him and, looking up to thank his savior, he noticed green piercing eyes seeming to read his heart, and then beg him to turn around. He meekly obliged, though the whole process was exchanged without a word, communicated through the green meeting the brown. Greg hadn't ever believed in people rising to become guardian angels, he had spent most of his days in church hurling spitballs at the old lady in front of him, but was there possibly another explanation?
Frieda had finally been let out of the Nurse's office. Luckily, she didn't have to go back to class, her mother had picked her up. Now, she'd left again, and Frieda found herself cleaning the kitchen for a little box. She found all sorts of stuff in the process, at some point she had found a sprig of ivy, which she had tucked into her hair in memory of dancing around a ''may pole'' with Lenny. It had actually been the American flag in the neighbors garden, but at the time their main fantasy was to run around one. They had sprinted through their garden at night, only to find that the neighbor's kids had had the same idea. Frieda smiled faintly at the memory. As she risked putting her hand through a dark cupboard that had not been open in years, she felt something sticky. ''EWWW!'' she exclaimed withdrawing her hand as soon as possible. As she lifted it up to examine it, she saw that a piece of it was still stuck. Bleh, she thought to herself. As it turned out it was a piece of cookie dough. She faintly remembered backing a pound of cookie dough with Lenny when her mom was gone. They hadn't manages to eat it all, so they had stuffed it in cracks and corners all around the house. Everyone had forgotten it existed, until now. She would have to mind dark corners, and places she hadn't been in ages. Finally, under all the rubble, she unearthed a single bag of peppermint tea. She dropped it in the hot water (which was not very hot anymore) and gulped it down as the hot temperature seared her throat. At the taste she smiled, and, grabbing a ribbon, she ventured into her neighbors yard. As she spun around the flag pole, she flung the ribbon along with her. She spun in circles, millions of times. At last she let go and flung herself into the grass to the great amusement of all five Meyers, sitting inside wishing to be out with her.
In a corner of a dark room, a woman sat, her hands in her lap. Tears ran down her face, but they weren't ones of sadness, they were tears of all the years, of all the souls. Tears of acceptance, and complete and utter happiness. The rain pattered down the window, in rhythm with her offering. Odion sat, and smiled. She sipped her tea as the clouds started to go away. Odion, first of twins, and though he didn't know it, she was finally able to say, ''Father loves me too", lifting her piercing green eyes to the rain.