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What's in a Name?

 
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Grace Low
Gypsy Queen
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm


Joined: 18 Jan 2016
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:24 pm    Post subject: What's in a Name? Reply with quote

(June, 2018)

Whut folks mostly say about tha way someone was born was tha it had somethin' tah do with who they were. Tha' if a kid was born late it meant that they was taking their time, or tha they jist weren't ready or mehbe that they was pesky. Some kids gave a woman a run fer all she was worth. Sometimes tha kid took tha mother with them on tha way out. Some kids was born never breathin' a word. Their babe had come tah them late at night, the most remarkable part o' it being tha she come on the day the midwife had thought she would. Mark nevah heard a midwife getting a due date exactly right.

Whut men liked tah say was that a child, especially tha first child, did a lot tah break you. Tha your wife become someone else because she become mother tah yer children and weren't jist yer wife. Some tol' Mark tha iffin he thought sometimes it were hard to get a moment with Grace, jist wait tah see what a kid would do. The jokes wasn't hard, no one wanted the bad luck of discouraging a family. The men would tell him tha a kid would break him and then they would wait until it seemed like it was all like doom and gloom tah let him know that a kid got a way of mending you back bettah than you was to begin with. Kids break yah and then leave yah a man.

Mark wondered a little bit about tha, since he weren't even the one having the baby. Iffin the advice he got was tha this was all gonna be the most profound, what were it on Grace? She never gave him a salty word about being pregnant, but it weren't a surprise with the way they was tangled up in each other. She'd been expecting it.

Wantin' kids was one thing and now, two weeks after she were born, he was beginnin' tah see some of whut tha men said. Grace got plenty of help, sure, but somehow it was always like they was tired and napping. Like they become cats. Folks in camp cut him a break, though he been far more attentive tah her than men tended tah be. Mark worried cause he loved her, but some whispered that it were on account of Grace having lost a child. Even though the reason fer it weren't bad luck or her fault, folks at camp thought he should be vigilant and tha it were good fer him tah be so. On account of all that, Grace didn't get tah many breaks from him except fer more delicate moments when Jenny or tha otha girls would come ovah tah help her with… whutever it were that they helped her with.

"I'm back," he cracked the door, callin' in tah them, "and I got ice cream and I got burritos and I got a fancy kinda grilled cheese and all tha. Covered all tha bases." He attempted tah poke his head in, "Am I cleared fer entry?" Were tha ladies still there?

"Mark Barlow you are my hero," she called back to him in a soft voice. Their RV was of a decent size, half again as big as the one Mark had left to Ian, but it wasn't so big that even a quiet sound wouldn't carry clearly from the open bedroom door. "Back here, Baby."

No longer quite the littlest Gypsy, a freshly showered Grace was sitting up in bed with the pillows arranged behind her back to keep her upright, the newest holder of that particular title fast asleep on her chest. The purple had washed out of her lightly damp hair almost completely, leaving a soft mix of blues, greens and violets that made her look something like a mermaid in an ocean of soft blue sheets.

The little girl was gorgeous, and as far as her mother was concerned, perfect. She kept waiting to get over that, to be less in awe of the tiny, exquisite creature they'd made, to be less completely floored by the fact that they had a daughter, that they were parents. She got emotional about it sometimes, wide green eyes turning misty in the space of a heartbeat, and maybe that was because she knew damn well about the whispers. Maybe it was because some secret, still wounded part of her had at least half believed something terrible might happen, too.

Rubbing the baby's back in soothing little circles, Grace could feel her mouth water in anticipation of food. Ravenous almost all the time even under normal circumstances, the retired stylist was discovering that feeding her child had turned her into a seemingly bottomless pit. Mark had been right to bring a variety of choices-- chances were good his wife would end up eating all of them. She grinned in a sleepy, happy way when he darkened the door frame, clearly pleased to see him. "Hey, handsome."

"Oi, there's mah ladies." He grinned, somewhat glad tha there weren't a slew of women tah walk around. They enjoyed giving him every bit o' advice they got about their kid and how they did it an' whut were workin' for them. At first, he got irritated with it but then come tah realize it was jist them wanting to connect and be part o' the moment. Seemed like none of the pregnancies were identical, or the quirks o' tha baby. Sah mostly he jist smiled and nodded and said thanks cause he figured that's whut it were about, anyway.

"Yah look good," he sat on the edge of the bed, settin' down tha bags and then leaning over them. He gave the littlest Gypsy a kiss and then sniffed at her. Hard to describe new baby smell except it was kinda sweet and soothing. Like a pillow that had the skin smell on it of someone you liked, except cleaner and more personal. He leaned back and started tah unpack some o' the food, "Yah feel good?" A glance fer her and then he were back at trying to unpack the food.

The trailer was blessedly free of outside interference for the time being. Grace appreciated the help, to be sure -- it was their way that children should be raised by the community, and most fathers were historically not as immediately involved as Mark -- but if the Gypsy King thought he was receiving a lot of unsolicited advice, he at least had the mantle of perceived gender roles to protect him. His wife was a first time mom with a colorful past --- there would likely never be an end to the litany of 'helpful' suggestions.

"Thanks," she grinned, watching him with a tender expression in her eyes as he kissed his daughter on the head. Mark pulled away to attend to the food, and her full lips pressed into a playfully petulant pout. "...Hey, where's mine?" She wanted to know, her knees raising under the covers as she planted her little feet in the mattress. Pushing herself into a more completely upright position, she tipped her head towards him. "Want to take her for a bit?"

"Mah bad," he grinned and then corrected tha offense by leaning in, making an impression on her lips with his own. It were a kiss, more than jist in passing. Tha sort that was hopin' she weren't o' the mind tah forget about who she were. There weren't forever tah take it on, he was soon breaking away and then holding out his arms fer her.

"Oi, lemme take her. Iffin she naht tah fussy it'll give yah a moment tah eat." Mark was being careful, he weren't even smoking those last two weeks though it must have nagged at him or he was sneakin' them before a shower. There jist wasn't even that ghost of the smokes on him since she was born. He didn't like holdin' her when the hints of the smoke was on him.

For a brief moment, they kissed, and in that moment it was very clear that she hadn't forgotten anything. Her lips found his needfully, her one free hand reaching across the infant cradled carefully in the other arm to trace her fingertips lightly down the side of his scruffy cheek. "Better," she murmured as he pulled away, and it meant I love you as she settled back into the pillows with the taste of him still strong on her mouth.

Lifting one hand to carefully support the baby's head, she offered the little girl out to her father. "Nah. You can handle it even if she gets super fussy." Grace smiled warmly. "She's a sucker for her daddy, just like me."

Daddy. Seeing Mark with his first born child still took her breath away, even two weeks in. Maybe eventually she would become accustomed to the way he looked, holding his newborn daughter in his arms like she was the most precious thing he'd ever seen, but for now there was still something so beautiful about it that she almost teared up again. Taking a deep, if shaky, breath, the tiny dancer turned her attention to digging through the bag in pursuit of that grilled cheese sandwich with all its promised fancy fixings.

"How's the world out there holding up so far?" She asked as she unwrapped the sandwich, with a point of her chin that was meant to indicate everything outside their door. She hadn't really had the time or inclination to see for herself, yet.

The thing about it all were that some of whut happened wasn't unexpected. Like, the holding a kid and keepin' their head up because the neck was still workin' on having muscles. He'd known that when Billie come into the world and he'd known it from the other kids tha was born. Still, it were different, a little more nerve wreckin', when it was your own. Suddenly screwing that part up mattered a whole lot more than it used tah.

"Mehbe she is. Still likes yah better," he countered, but Grace was tha babe's whole world. She was warmth, food, shelter and company most of the day. His eyes was tracking what he did, not seeming tah ease until he had her cradled up to his chest. She weren't real interested in company at the moment, her eyes cracking once and then a gurgle followed some adjustments. Her fingers, impossibly small, gave a wiggle like she had waved. Aftah tha she was fine sleepin' off her lunch.

At the question o' the world out there he grinned lookin' at her, "Oh, there's an epidemic of split ends, hair bein' dyed with Kool Aid and naht a soul that knows a braid isn't making a woman's hair one horrific tangle. Tha world is hurtin'." There was a look tah the end table as he added, "Got somethin' tah drink?"
_________________

the sun goes down, the stars come out
and all that counts is here and now


Last edited by Grace Low on Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:04 pm; edited 6 times in total
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Grace Low
Gypsy Queen
Young Wyrm
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Well, sure, for now," Grace conceded as she unwrapped her sandwich. Using it to point towards the baby in his arms, she nodded. "Girl knows where her dinner is, and she's got her priorities straight." Grinning crookedly, she bit the pointy end off her sandwich as she watched him adjust and then finally relax into place, an affectionate smile drifting across her features.

She was two or three bites into her grilled cheese before she noticed that, no, actually, she no longer had a drink handy. There had been a glass in the holder on the nightstand earlier, but one of the women must have taken it to the kitchen while she was in the shower. Frowning with a mouth full of bread and melted goodness, the diminutive mama shook her head.

Forcing herself to swallow, Grace reluctantly set her food back down on its wrapping and then slipped out from under the covers. The dress she wore was a lot like a robe, a soft fabric that was wrapped across her midsection to hold it closed. "Apparently somebody cleaned up my drink. Want something?" she asked as she made her way to the door, ostensibly to rectify the situation. His commentary on the outside world drew a deliberate gaze towards the windows. "I knew it," she said solemnly. "The whole world is out there looking terrible without me."

"Well, she might be tha first generation tah get it right tha first time around," he smiled at her at tha talk o' priorities and mehbe the idea that she were gonna be a straight shooter. There was a look down tah the little one as he spoke, "If I were a bettin' man, tha, I think she gonna give a little bit o' Hell before it settle down tah something. Got that on both sides o' her family sah there naht much hope fer her." He grinned and reached, unable tah help but poke at the hand which was outta tha blanket. Since there weren't no reaction he nudged it again. Tha time she wriggled, her eyes stayin' shut as her eyebrows come tahgether in tha most serious look of concern before relaxing.

He didn't push his luck, he weren't wanting to start a crying fit or nothing.

She asked about the drink and looked up at her and nodded, "Some juice or water or somethin. Been running around." Whut he said tah her playin' along with his world assessment came when he grinned a bit more deeply, "Well, o' course it is. I can't verrah well be hoping to accidentally wind up near the shop tah get your attention anymore. Anytime I'm naht here I'm sure naht tah see yah."

"I don't know that her priorities will stay in line," admitted Grace a moment later. "I mean... yeah." Smiling at him from the doorway, her expression was soft, and full of love, despite the words she was saying. "Looking at her parents, they probably won't, but. For right now? Pretty much all she cares about is food, warmth, and sleep."

Watching them a moment longer, the tiny woman shook her head and slipped out into the kitchen.

She was only gone a couple of minutes, and when she came back she had two glasses of lemonade in hand. "You'll run into me out there again eventually," she laughed. "...Well, maybe," she added a moment later as she thought it over. Mark had said something about wanting an entire football team, after all, and though she never doubted for a second that he loved his daughter, no Gypsy king in the world would be fully satisfied without a son. Probably his Queen would find herself confined at home for quite some time for to come.

Funny, she'd expected to hate that. She'd loved her job, and the connection it gave her to the outside. Now, though… now she found she didn't care what happened with the outside world so long as Mark came home.

"Mehbe." He repeated aftah her and then smiled, nodding to the night stand. He weren't at all sure about the whole one-armed holding thing jist yet. Seemed like there were jist tah many ways to screw up a kid. Couldn't live with himself if it were him.

"Sah, I was thinkin," he said, swallowin' and then lookin' from her down tah the little one, "eventually someone's gonna need tah know her name. I mean, likely we will cause she's not a pineapple or anything." No way around the fondness that he got for her, but Grace knew like anybody having a boy was different. Havin' a girl was different. Most of 'em came from big families, Mark's had been cut short with his mother's passing.

Grace's family had been cut short, too, so she knew all too well the tribulations of being both an only child and a girl. She came deeper into the bedroom again, drinking from her glass as she did, and when she reached the nightstand she set both drinks down there for safekeeping. Crawling back into bed, she settled into her nest on the mattress once more, arranging pillows and covers to her liking. Once she was in place, she tipped her head in a way to let him know that she'd take the baby back whenever he was ready.

"Mm, yeah. Guess she's gotta have a public name that isn't 'Pineapple'," Grace smiled fondly. "Got anything particular in mind?"

"A couple, but mah mom's name was kinda... nah, I dun like it much." There was of course some sense o' their relationship being complicated. Plenty put those complications to tha side, especially when it came time tah remember the dead. Mark couldn't have really said why, jist that he was hoping tha between their shortened families that they could make something more healthy, more like it shoulda been. Lots o' siblings and jist the sorta noise and love a family were supposed to be.

"Pineapple isn't gonna be her name. I thought mehbe jist name her aftah you but then I was thinkin'," there was a small shrug as he looked from her tah the babe, and then back tah her, "when we was datin' I kinda weren't real sure but it was music tha got me through the parts I weren't confident of. Same like with da and mom and getting through that part that hurt. Music got that for me and I figure she'll be like that for us both. Be there when we don't know how it's gonna turn out or when things are hurtin'. Sah, I was thinkin' Mirela. Like the music? Yeah?" One of his eyebrows hiked up when he looked at her, tryin' tah see iffin she approved or not.

For a time, Grace said nothing, only adjusted the sheets around and underneath her so that she was comfortable. Wide green eyes remained fixed on the two of them, flickering back and forth between her husband and her daughter, taking in the true heart of her family. Briefly, her mind reflected back on all that had been previously -- the child memorialized in the slightly distorted tattoo on her hip, the things that could have been with Josh had fate and Silas not intervened. Even so, this felt right, this moment, Grace and Mark and their little baby girl pressed between them, the new beginning that both of them had been searching for their entire lives.

Her face cracked in a smile that spread like sunshine, and Grace leaned forward suddenly, first kissing his cheek and then laying her head on his shoulder. "Baby, that's beautiful", murmured the girl, her attention shifting to the child in his arms as she tried the name on herself. "Mirela," she repeated, softly. "I love it."

"Yeah? It's a bit, you know, old school." Mark and Grace weren't the most traditional of names tah be given, tha were fer sure. He weren't certain if she'd be wanting somethin' more like whut was heard in town, iffin the Romanian names felt more weird than natural. Her approval caused his smile tah crack with some ease. He leaned his head against hers, "Well, looks like yer even more stuck with me than you was plannin'. Anything happens to me, Mirela's gonna be carrying half o' me around tah keep you company."

He chuckled and turned his head, kissin' tha top of her head. "Yah eat enough?" Then he felt her wiggle up against him and the baby give out a cry. He moved tah adjust her better, but she jist cried a little bit harder. Mark weren’t gettin' it right, apparently.

"And Grace isn't?" Giggled Grace, the girl who'd once joked with him that her name sounded like an old Hollywood starlet. It might not have been traditional Roma, but it certainly qualified as old. "Plus, I mean... that's who we are, isn't it? We live in the real, modern world but always with a nod to our roots."

Lifting her wide green eyes to his face once more, she laughed again, the sound like quiet Christmas bells. "I was planning on being stuck with you forever, Barlow," she chided him playfully. "Barlow curse, remember?" Brows quirked in mock defiance, her gaze fell to her daughter once more. "Maybe we let outsiders call her 'Rela'," she added softly. "But what do we do about a middle name?"
_________________

the sun goes down, the stars come out
and all that counts is here and now


Last edited by Grace Low on Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:24 pm; edited 6 times in total
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Grace Low
Gypsy Queen
Young Wyrm
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“I am outta ideas, love, I spent all my creative juices on Mirela. You got somethin’ in mind?†There weren’t a protest to the mention o’ callin’ her Rela with outsiders. It sounded common enough and was close enough tah her real name that he kinda liked it fer what it was.

“Oi, I’m naht doin’ any better.†he shifted his weight when Mirela cried again, this time with a bit more energy as if tah let him know he really needed tah change up whut he was doin’ or there would be Hell tah pay, “I think she’s had enough o’ me.†There was a look tah the food and then back to her. His whole body sort of leaned forward, his forearm catching the back of her head sah she was still cradled as he offered her back up tah Grace. Still was a tricky thing to do. He figured by the time he got comfortable with it he wouldn’t even need tah be sah careful.

There was time to catch one more bite of her cooling grilled cheese before Mirela made her displeasure known, in that plaintive cry that promised trouble if the situation wasn’t rectified. It was fascinating to her the way she could discern the meaning behind each little nonverbal noise, trusting instinct to guide her where past experience could not. She set the sandwich down again, wiping her hands on the napkin that had been in the bag hastily before she reached for the baby, meeting him halfway to gather the little girl up in her arms again.

“Hey, hey!†She soothed the little one in a quiet whisper. “What’s all this about?†Tracing a fingertip lightly down the infant’s cheek, she resolved a moment later that it was discomfort in general and not a specific hunger that made her fussy. Carefully laying thegirl against her shoulder, she folded one arm expertly underneath her and slanted her body sideways to retrieve the lemonade. Taking a quick sip, she offered the cup to Mark a moment later. “Well… Mirela Barlow is already kind of a mouthful. It needs to be something simple, like Ann, but I don’t want ‘Ann’ ‘cause that’s boring.†There was a pause, and then a laugh. “Not Jenny, either. I know entirely too many Jennys.â€

“I think we owe it tah everybody naht tah have another Jenny. Or… is it the otha way around? Carry on tha Jenny tradition.†He wagged his eyebrows at her and then scooted, situating himself a bit closer, one elbow tah her propped up pillows and then he leaned in tah kiss her on the shoulder. There was a look down tah Mirela, who had magically settled fer her and not fer him.

“Ann is a bit on tha boring side. We could do like they do with celebrity couples and jist smoosh our names tahgether. Sahhh… Grak… or Ace, jist takin’ that part outta Grace. Little Mirela Ace Barlow.†There were a small chuckle and then he reached fer the grilled cheese, offerin’ tha one with the untouched corner up tah her mouth.

To be fair, the baby hadn’t settled immediately. There was some movement in the bed as Grace rocked her, setting the lemonade glass down again so she could rub Mirela’s back with the free hand. There was an almost voiceless hum, a snatch of some grunge song from twenty years ago that might have seemed out of place as a lullaby, but in short order she was, in fact, soothed back to sleep.

Giving her husband a look at the so-called ‘names’ he’d suggested, Grace leaned forward enough to accept a bite of the sandwich. Taking the moment to chew and then swallow, she shook her head. “You really are out of ideas, clearly.†Pondering it a little more, her full lips pursed thoughtfully. “What about...Jade?†A pause. “Faye, maybe.†Another pause. “Skye?â€

“Hey! I got tha one.†He grinned and then took a bite o’ her sandwich, one hand rustlin’ tha plastic bag tah check on the otha things he’d brought her. Once she was done talking he offered up the bitten end of the grilled cheese fer her to continue on with, “Faye sounds like it’s tah old for me. I kinda like Skye fer her. It’s ah short name I only heard a few times sah it’s naht like Jenny or anythin’.†After she had taken a bite he shifted, getting his glass of lemonade fer a much-needed swallow. Bread had a way of gettin’ someone parched.

“Mirela Skye, kinda sounds like one o’ the colors of blue paint at the department store or something.†Once she’d taken her bite, he helped himself tah another. There was a point to tha bags and then he added, “Got more than jist this fer yah.â€

In the first two weeks of life, it was hard to know what exactly a new child would end up looking like. There was the shadow of bruising on her face, her little features perhaps a little swollen or misshapen from the hardships of being born. There was the matter of her eyes, that murky shade of swamp water that was somewhere between blue and green and grey that was inherent to nearly all infants: would they resolve to bright blue like her father, or vivid green like her mom? Something else altogether? Only time would tell.

It was this last question that had prompted two of the suggestions: would she see the world in jade, or sky? The third choice, the one he’d discarded as too ‘old’, had been a nod to the unique landscape they’d chosen for their home, a tribute to Rhy’Din and all its exotic inhabitants. Mulling the three choices over a moment longer while she chewed the bites of sandwich that he’d fed her, Grace eventually nodded, a smile cresting in the corners of her mouth. “Yeah, I think I like Skye best, too.†Another nod. “Mirela Skye Barlow. It’s pretty.â€

His comment on the paint colors brought a little giggle as they shared what was left of the grilled cheese between them. “Or a particularly fancy box of crayons, yeah,†there was a concession as she grinned. “And good. I distinctly remember being promised a burrito.â€

“Nothin’ but tha best fer yah.†He reached ovah with his free hand to tug it out. He sat the grilled cheese on the knee o’ his pants sah that he had both hands there to unwrap it. The paper peeled back, he wagged it at her mouth and then held it steady fer her to take a bite and give a verdict on it.

“Mirela Skye. I think, yeah. Yeah. I like it.†He took a moment tah steal a kiss from her like they weren’t being given away. The mostly eaten half of his grilled cheese were taken up by his free hand. Burritos were a bit tricky, she might try her hand at it and holdin’ tha babe iffin she didn’t think he were steady enough. His attention dropped down tah the little one and then he were lookin’ back at her, his smile almost the sort that was cocky, “You ever imagine all this when yah gave me tha haircut evah sah long ago?â€

The baby was out cold on her shoulder, and Grace marvelled not for the first time how heavyi six pounds of sleeping baby could get to be after a while. The muscles of her arms had a permanent ache to them these days that even long hours on her feet with her hands extended hadn’t entirely prepared her for. She wondered if it was like the napping, if this was just a feature of her life now; whether having sore biceps and craving sleep was just what life would be like until the kid(s) were older.

Shifting under that weight, the stylist cast a quick glance around the bedroom at her options.There were a few choices, but all of them were further away than she wanted, or otherwise difficult to access, so she settled for carefully moving Mirela to the other shoulder to at least balance the strain. There was a tense moment of screwed up facial expression and irritated mewling before the infant settled again, apparently convinced that the world had not yet ended despite all the movement.

Reversing her hold, she snapped playfully at Mark’s fingers when he dangled the burrito before her, her brows rippling in a kind of unspoken challenge that said she’d get him for that later if he didn’t stop being cute with her food soonlike. Finally getting a bite, she licked her lips once, a smirk forming there when his question was posed.

“I did. Pretty much immediately.†She answered him promptly, turning an expectant look on him once more. “Didn’t you?â€

“Nah,†he said it softly and then edged in further on tha bed, jist enough tah stretch one leg out on it while the otha was still bent, supportin’ his weight. Tha elbow on the bed caused his shoudler to bulge forward, his cheek near propping itself on it. He finished off the last of the grilled cheese and then swallowed, swiping at his mouth with one hand before he continued, “I wasn’t in a place of hoping for much at the time.â€

They both knew too much was going on, it had kinda distracted from the possibility of the moment. She’d left him with a strong impression, anyway, one he’d been wanting tah know about. “Iffin I had known then whut I knew now? Wouldn’t have thought Iâ€d be sah lucky.â€

Likely it could be chalked up to the flood of hormonal imbalance that came in the wake of pregnancy as the body sought to normalize itself, but these days Grace felt everything particularly strongly. More strongly than was specifically warranted. She covered the sudden welling of tears with a thin smile, shifting herself at an angle so she could lay her head on his chest just a bit lower on his shoulder, too.
_________________

the sun goes down, the stars come out
and all that counts is here and now
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Gypsy Queen
Young Wyrm
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“I’d say we’re both pretty freakin’ lucky,†she said thickly, swallowing the lump in her throat that had come up from nowhere. “Granted, it was my obligation as a Gypsy girl to imagine myself married with children to every man who smiled at me, but…†Trailing off, she had one hand arm wrapped around their child and the other was bent at an angle so she could draw her fingers lightly over his face. “You were the first --the only -- I can remember that I actually wanted all this with.â€


“Oi, is tha sah? Lucky me. Well, even more lucky, I mean.†He smiled though she couldn’t see it and kissed her atop tha head again. Mark sometimes saw her eyes swimming whether it were for a song or a song she was remembering or whutevah it was. She got sad sometimes like tha too. Then happy. He figured the role he had here was tah make her know she weren’t alone, that all o’ the work she’d done tah make their babe wasn’t nothing to him. He’d been told about the ups and downs but sometimes he wondered if one could really say it were jist hormones. There was, aftah all, a whole new person in the world now.

If tha weren’t worth gettin’ your heart and head rocked, what were?

Grace couldn’t see his smile but she could feel it, hear it in the way he exhaled against her hair. Long lashes fluttering when he kissed her head, she drew a star on the baby’s back with the fingers of one hand and curled the other into the fabric of his shirt somewhere over her head.

“Nah, I mean. I wanted this from the beginning, yeah, but I guess I’m still pretty surprised that it actually happened.†A rueful smile touched her lips. Her heart was full to bursting with love for her husband and her daughter both, but there were shadows there in the corners of her eyes, faint but permanent stains on her heart. Ghosts of the husband that had been and the son who had never taken his first breath -- they were all scars that would never quite heal.

“I love you,†she said suddenly, emotional. “So much.â€

“I’m surprised it happened like it did. Some things are jist inevitable,†he woulda shrugged then if it weren’t fer her bein’ leaned into him and him being propped by an elbow. He wet his lips when he spoke, “But jist cause you know somethin’ is gonna happen one way or the other doesn’t mean that it’s gonna be good. Like owning a car can be tha best thin’ tah happen to you or a burden every day you gotta manage it. S’half tah do with you and half tah do with the otha person.†That weren’t even mentioning the instability he’d seen in the relationships around him. Quinn and Levi had been volatile, Molly seemed taken with otha men and Keirra were all ovah tha place. Mehbe there was something tah be said for the old way of doin’ things.

“Glad I have it with yah.†He didn’t feel like she were gonna betray him and most tha time, it felt like they was on the same side instead of facin’ each other in battle. He liked tha. He liked tha she felt like part of him and that she liked bein’ there with him like she did. While he weren’t sah emotional that it crept intah his voice, Mirela had a way of makin’ him feel different about stuff. It weren’t like babysitting or looking aftah his kid sis, tha was fer damn sure.

Brows inching together on her forehead, Grace tilted her head back to look up at him, twisting as much as she dared with the baby on her chest. “Did you just… compare our marriage to a car?†She gave him a look again --Mark earned himself a lot of looks-- then shook her head. “Better be a Ferrari or somethin’, then.†These last words came out in a grumbled half-threat as she settled against him once more.

“Glad I have it with you, too.†She went on a moment later. “I mean, so long as it’s not some junkyard lemon…â€

“Look, iffin yah wanted poetry I was naht the man for you. I’ll give yah that, the analogy was a little crap but yah know whut I meant, yeah? Sah maybe it’s naht on point but I got there. Sorta.†He were grinning, kinda likin’ the look she were giving him. Little but fierce, the little nickname fer her had withstood tha test o’ time.

He had just been settlin’ in, quite happy with himself when she gave him the comment about ‘lemon.’ He gasped, makin’ tha show of it since she couldn’t very well see the melodramatic expression, “Did yah jist compare our undying love tah a lemon?â€

“It was your analogy,†countered Little But Fierce herself. “I was just trying to work with it.â€

Tipping her head back again, she did the extremely mature thing and stuck her tongue out at him. That would show him, right?

Just then, Mirela woke from her slumber, most likely due to her mother’s squirming. She issued a single grumpy noise of complaint, screwing up her face as though she were deciding whether to make a real cry of it, but Grace let go of Mark and ran her index finger along the baby’s tiny little knuckles until the fist opened and then squeezed shut again, holding fast to her mother’s fingertip. Seemingly satisfied, the baby settled, but Grace blamed it on Mark anyway. “See? Mirela says you shouldn’t call us a car.â€

“I didn’t even defend it all tha way. Jist a little. But, all right,†he exhaled deeply after his shirt were released and Grace was soothing the babe. The admission came low and the tone of it were such that if Grace didn’t know better, she mighta thought he meant it, “I deeply apologize for comparing my two most favorite people in tha world tah a car. I were clearly under the stress of having less sleep and, um,†his attempts to sound as if he were surviving his own trial were starting to falter. He was gettin’ himself into hot waters again, whut with complaining o’ his sacrifices to a new mother and all. He summarized it all with another kiss on the top o’ her head, “you’re so beautiful.†Case closed.

“Good answer, Barlow,†she said, at least temporarily mollified. In the two and a half years or so that she’d been with him, Grace had come to know her man fairly well, even to mostly understand his strange brand of humor. She knew already that any sentence he spoke starting with I deeply apologize had to have been meant for the most part in jest, and all it warranted him was an affectionate roll of her eyes.

“Sleep would be so good,†she murmured a moment later, her voice whisper soft like they were discussing something forbidden, something illicit. “Almost as good as ‘um’,†echoed Grace, alluding perhaps to the thing he hadn’t said aloud.

“Well, iffin she’ll let meh take her I can maybe give yah a few winks if you like. Lemme get this food offa tha bed and intah the kitchen.†He slowly got to his feet, the one leg stretched along the edge of the bed catching the ground and helping him back up tah standing. He rolled his head because it ached a bit with how he’d been laying at that peering angle for sah long. Once up he began pickin’ around the bed, closing up containers and feedin’ them back into the plastic bag. Tha part was a little tricky. Tha plastic bag wasn’t so forgiving, or in the mind tah be quiet. Lucky for them Mirela didn’t seem tah be of the mind tah care too much about it.

“And fer the record,†he whispered, as though the babe knew enough English tha she might parrot whut he’d say iffin he weren’t careful, “nah way is sleep better than sex. Nah way. Iffin it is I’m gonna get a book and do some reeducating. Nah. Way.†He lifted the plastic bag offa the bed.

“I said almost as good,†countered Grace. She couldn’t really help him with the clean up without risking waking the child, so instead she endeavored to hold as still as possible, one hand cupped lightly over the baby’s head as though to block out the noise of rustling plastic.

Giving Mark a smile of thanks for his efforts, she shook her head, a sleepy grin displacing the earlier smile as she teased him. “I didn’t say it was better, but I don’t want to discourage you from your education. By all means, go get your book. I should be ready to see what you’ve learned in another week or two.â€

“Uh huh. Uhhhh huh.†He went and gave her a pointed look befer stepping out of the room tah put things up in the fridge or tah throw away the extra bag because it weren’t needed anymore. He checked his back pocket fer his phone and, naht seeing anything that called fer him tah do anythi immediately, he stepped right back intah the room with Grace and the babe.

“Yah need anythin’ else?†He stepped tah tha nightstand to reclaim his lemonade fer another swallow. He set the glass down and then sat on the bed beside her again, tugging some on the blankets to straighten them out around her. “I think Jenny plans on comin’ by here in a bit.†His eyes widened cause tha older woman had been relentless with tha intention to help. She were like Grace’s groupie or something now.
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Grace Low
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Just you, handsome.†Even just two weeks in, Grace was already finding the hard truth in the adage: sleep when the baby sleeps. She’d gotten still and quiet while Mark was putting things away in the kitchen, and as such her eyes were closed when he walked back in, lulled by the silence, and the reassuring weight of the infant on her chest. She wasn’t fully asleep, not with her child in her arms like that, and she’d answered him readily enough when he walked in the door, but it was clear that a nap wouldn’t be a half bad idea in the near to immediate future.

Inching her way back to a more upright position when he sat on the bed beside her, the new mother nodded. “Yeah, I don’t think she’s missed a day yet,†A faint smile touched her mouth. Any new baby was a big deal, but Mark’s child? There were many would say this day was long overdue, and maybe that was why all the women paid such extra care. Seemed like the whole Camp had a vested interest in their daughter.

He put a kiss tah her temple, one arm stretching around her befer he added, “I’ll stay til yah both nod off. Want me tah lay her down?†A glance tah Mirela, naht sure iff she would allow for the disturbance. Sometimes yes, sometimes she screamed as if he had tore the moon from the sky.

Mark had been liked, like a big brother to some, and like his father’s boy for others. He weren’t supposed to be wearing the shoes he were, but the conflict with Mac had settled uncertainties about him. Jist cause he was young didn’t mean he wasn’t gonna work hard or give every inch o’ himself for the family. Naht everyone had that crystallizing moment of digging their own grave. His had been public and whatevah doubts had been were washed away. Naht a soul doubted he were a good boy, a likable man, there had only been doubts as tah how far he could go with being jist as young as he’d been.

He’d done what he needed tah do, and one truth was passed from his father and now from him tah those in the camp-- family were the most important. More than money. More than opportunity.

And now there were Grace and the babe. There been so much doubt about them both swirling and circling that jist hadn’t been there for either of them. He’d known and she’d known. Mehbe that’s whut made it sah easy. They was on the same page so when someone came along with an idea to shake them, they was already shrugging it off.

Maybe it was that Mark was well liked, maybe it was because he was both young to be a camp leader and old to be a first time father. Maybe it was just that these were gentler, kinder excuses to explain their at times over enthusiastic helpfulness than a dark and secret truth: perhaps they hovered because of the double black marks on Mirela’s mother.

Grace knew there had to be an element of this last to the Camp’s vigilance, but in the end she found herself grateful. She wondered, briefly, how outsider women survived the first days after childbirth without a veritable village of women on hand who’d been through it before. The lot of them, Jenny in particular, but even Nance and Sarah and Prudence, the mothers of the family, they’d come together in a way that made her feel safe and secure as she bonded with her baby.

And then there was Mark. Mark who, unlike most men of his station, seemed genuinely interested in the particulars of caring for his child. In being there for his wife and sharing in these moments with her. Whatever doubts other people had tried to plant in her ears, Grace had known from the beginning what her heart wanted, and what her heart wanted was stretched out on the bed next to her with a protective arm around her shoulders.

“Mm, yeah, that’s probably a good idea,†she said after a moment. “I don’t even know whether or not I can feel my arms,†her laughter tinkled softly, like chiming silver. “I’m not sure I remember what they feel like.â€

“Kinda like a warm summer breeze, jist bettah.†He smiled and then moved in. This were tricky. He had fouled it up behfore, but now there were practice. He and Mirela was getting to know one another. One hand slipped against Grace’s chest and the othah tah the back of his daughter. He tried it in one fell motion instead o’ many aching steps. She were swayed then from Grace’s chest tah his own.

And then they waited. And waited.

At last after a few minutes when there weren’t no cry, he had a triumphant grin. One eyebrow arched up at her as if tah say “see? I gots this†and then he moved, careful as he could, tah the crib. This were the moment o’ truth. Separating her from his warmth and heartbeat to a quiet sprawl o’ mattresses and sheets wasn’t easy. Mark waited a moment right there, naht pressing his luck with another transition sah soon.

Grace let her hands slip away, giving him the access he needed for the transition. She kept a watchful eye on the both of them, and her smile matched his, broad and proud of him, when the baby didn't stir.

As he stood by the crib with his daughter in his arms, Grace couldn't repress the way her grin spread. She wiggled higher up on the mattress and stretched sideways, snagging her cell phone off the far pillow. Swiping her thumb over the phone, she maneuvered to the camera app and snapped a picture.

He felt like one o’ those guys that disarmed bombs and was making every motion really careful sah that nothing would blow up. He leaned over tha crib, bending at the waist and then he paused. She got a sec to accept the gravity change befer he lowered her down tah the mattress, away from his body heat. Upon being set down she wriggled, adjusting herself on tha back. He reached and put a blanket halfway up on her, jist so she wouldn’t squawk about feelin’ cold. His hands gripped the edge o’ the crib and then when he was feeling cocky with success he stood upright and then scampered back tah the bed, where he had been befer.

When it weren’t your full time job tah do it, it was jist only slightly obnoxious tah celebrate. Full timers always eye rolled the part timers. He still took it tah be a win, though. His grin was fer her and then he kissed her, a quick little hello on tha lips. His voice was kept soft and low, “Yah taken tha picture cause I do so well or cause yah wanna catch my cringe when she yells?â€

Returning his kiss with a quick flutter of her lashes and a hand that plucked at the material of his shirt to keep him close by, Grace cocked a brow at his comment. She made a point to --still holding him close with one hand -- check her phone with the other, selecting the image she’d taken and then looking it over appraisingly. “Well, I was actually thinking about how hot you looked just then,†she said, turning the phone so he could see. She didn’t let go, just in case he was entertaining any thoughts of grabbing the device from her to delete it. “But sure, one of those answers works, too.â€

Setting the phone aside again (once she was sure it wasn’t in any peril!), Grace twisted onto her side to curl up against him more effectively. With one arm bent at the elbow, fingers tucked underneath her chin, she draped the other across his midsection and snuggled in close. “Mm. You totally don’t have to go anywhere today,†she murmured into his chest. “You’re totally napping with me.â€

He weren’t tired, but there was jist times that when a Queen said somethin’ tha you took it tah be law. Nap time was now. Mark didn’t say anythin’ about her calling him hot, he just smiled at her as a way of sayin’ thanks, his chin liftin’ up fractionally with a little pride. It were true that this whole moment was Grace’s hour, tha world and camp was temporarily all revolving around her and the babe. Mark didn’t mind bein’ more of an afterthought, but the little compliment made him feel as if he hadn’t just drifted entirely from her mind. There was also that tiny selfish voice that was reassured tha some interest beyond his ability tah fetch food were there. Everyone needed tha, he knew, but it were a hard thing tah say. He didn’t have tah ask or pout for it and then feel guilty for even wanting it.

“I am, I gotta make sure your snoring doesn’t wake up Mirela.†A small grin down to her before he shifted his weight sah he rested more fully on tha bed beside her. If he kept talkin’ tah her she’d never nod off and she were needing tah do jist that.

Grace rolled her eyes at him and then nuzzled into his chest more completely. He smelled like outside, like sunshine and soap and the lush green grass that came up all over the glen in summer. He smelled like Mark, like her family, her home. Her almost cartoonishly wide green eyes drifted closed as she settled into him, plucking lightly at the seam between his shirt and his pants until she could get her hand underneath the hem of his shirt, seeking skin.

Dragging her fingertips lightly over his belly, it was all part of remembering that she was more than just the mother she’d become. Mirela had changed everything, certainly, but there were still some truths that couldn’t be ignored. She was still a woman, still his wife, and s still had the biggest, most ridiculous crush on him. Even when he was being obnoxious, even when he teased her like that. “I do not snore,†she commented, giving him the rise he was looking for as she pushed lightly at his chest with her fingers. “You do.â€
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Yeah, I dah love. Yah jist take tha heat for me,†his voice were gentle, mostly cause he hadn’t felt her hand on his chest, naht like tha, fer days. That’s whut a new babe meant though and he got no bitterness about him because o’ it. He was just enjoying whut it felt like tah feel her hand roam. He didn’t let his mind wander off ontah the paths of whut such a hand could be doing. There were time for that, later.

“Shhhh… yer mouth needs a rest.†He knew that might get her going by saying it, but he couldn’t help himself. Tha arm he got around her gave a squeeze, jist in case she weren’t aware o’ tha fact he was jokin.

Mark had a way of talking, half in his head and half in his teeth, that sometimes even his wife still couldn’t understand. Grace didn’t respond to the first thing he’d said because she had no idea what he was talking about, and it didn’t seem important enough to ask. She listened to the gentle thump of his heartbeat where it pulsed steadily below her ear, concentrated on the texture of his skin as she drew her little circles there in its surface, tracing patterns or song lyrics or who knows what in invisible ink.

She might have drifted off completely, lulled by a moment of quiet peace shared between them, were it not for his second smart ass comment. That particular phrase was a variation on a theme she’d been hearing her whole life. From her Dad. From Jasper. From Silas. From Josh. Brows furrowing, Grace opened her eyes, frowning. The tightening of his embrace, the reassurance that it was meant as a joke, took away some of the sting, but not all of it.

Her fingers slid out from underneath his shirt as she pulled away from him, rolling back onto her back.

He felt her withdraw and his body followed her, naht lettin’ it disappear as he turned intah her. He kissed her cheek, more than aware tha she might be sensitive. Sensitive or righteous? Was hard tah say, and he didn’t wanna claim it tah be one or tha other.

“Never needs tah if you got something tah say. Yer hear me, yeah?†He knew whut it meant tah have a woman turn away. His arm around her squeezed that shoulder, feelin’ tha winter of her from having turned away. Mehbe she had only been tired and tha were whut made her turn away. Nah matter, he said the rest anyway, “I make tha sorta grilled cheese sandwich tha makes anyone forgive meh.â€

Relax, Grace reminded herself as Mark intuitively closed in around her. This is Mark, not anybody who came before him. She hadn’t really been aware of the sudden tension in her shoulders until it gave again, her body sagging into the mattress even as she wound her arms around his neck, hugging him close up against her. “Thanks,†she whispered against the side of his neck, and like his words to her had been, it was an apology. “We all got our sore spots. I’m still working on that one.â€

It was her way of saying that she knew he wasn’t like the others, that she knew not to hold what anybody else had ever said against him. Turning her face into his neck again, she pressed a kiss there lightly, and then --maybe because he really was forgiven, because there really wasn’t anything to forgive -- she bit him just as lightly.

“Yah should be sleepin’,†he warned her, a cock of his brow jist after her bite. Grace knew she coulda got away with murder, that he was in a place to excuse whutever it were she said or did. His body stayed settled, undisturbed like he were already sleepin’. He let her wriggle around, struggling in tha space o’ wanting to spend time with him and feelin’ sah desperately tired.

Mark didn’t mind it none, she could struggle all she liked and he’d enjoy himself tha same. It were the first time since her birth tha he felt like they was jist being two people around each other. The minutes fer that was small, precious. The babe might cry or Grace might succumb tah the sleep he were telling her tah.

“Probably,†she cheerfully agreed, without actually making any initial move to let go of him or settle down. After a moment, she did relax her grip again, easing back into the mattress on her back. Bending her closest arm back at the elbow, she let the backs of her knuckles play lightly over his shirt. “I both desperately want to sleep more than anything else in the world ever and… also don’t want to sleep, like at all.â€

Glancing over at the crib, the baby still sleeping peacefully inside it, she shifted closer. A memory came to her suddenly, the night he’d quite literally crawled in the window to come to her while Mason was sleeping on the couch. Her expression was somewhere between a smile and a blush as she thought of everything that ensued afterwards, but what had made her think of it was the trying to be quiet, to escape detection, like teenagers in the dark hiding from their parents.

The ‘parent’ now was a tiny, fragile thing who didn’t even have any words yet, but she had lungs on her like a fire alarm. It paid to be careful and quiet.

Taking a deep breath, Grace let it out slowly, trying to redirect the train of her thoughts. “Hey, is your tablet handy?†She said suddenly. “We could curl up an’ watch, y’know… five or ten minutes of a show before we pass out like we used to in your old camper…â€

“I think I got it on tha nightstand,†he scratched the side o’ one brow and then craned his neck tah check fer it. Most times it was there on account of that also being where the charge cable was. He didn’t just wander around camp with it, it were more or less his television set. Everything else he got he got by the phone.

There was one nudge tah her befer he twisted around, checking the spot. Aftah some careful shuffling and no little frail creature gettin’ up in arms, he had the tablet cradled by one hand as it were propped up on his stomach. One arm, o’ course, was around her, hugging her up tah his side, “Whatcha wanna see, love?†There were a time that they was watchin’ each other on text messages and video screens, sayin’ hi and connecting when things was new and awkward.

Grace remembered those times, too, trying to answer his questions, feeling self conscious about her pigtails as she held the phone in her hand, keeping her voice low to talk to him. How she'd learned to tell the difference in his smile when he was fighting sleep long before she'd learned the shape of his mouth for herself. Maybe that was part of it, all the things that had developed between them. The strange intimacy that her time away from camp had paradoxically mandated, inviting each other into their own private spaces before they'd had a chance to hold hands or see a movie. It was awkward and at times embarrassing, but she remembered it fondly now.

Settling against him once more after he had everything situated, the little gypsy had turned on her side again, her head cradled in the soft hollow of his shoulder. “Ummmm, hm. I really like that cartoon with the dragons, but I feel like we should watch something more… age appropriate while we still can?â€

“Oi, we all grown up nah?†He said tha words absently, the arm which was around her sent his fingers tah stroking the outside o’ her arm. He hunted through tha movies, trying tah look all expert though they been too busy tah really know whut tha latest and greatest were anymore. Sah much o’ whut he was seeing was new. He felt like he shoulda done research befer this moment.

“How about tha Breakfast Club? An oldie but a goodie? Yah can fall asleep knowin’ whut happens next but enjoy seein’ it again aftah sah long?†His head caught an angle to where he could look at her a little better.

“All grown up?†Grace laughed, tilting her head. She caught his shirt in her teeth, nipping him playfully, as though to illustrate how ‘mature’ she was. “Nah. I just hear about the little ones wanting to watch the same show so many times that the parents slowly go insane.†Giggling quietly again, she was content to let him pick something from the lists.

“Breakfast Club?†She thought about that for a moment. “I don't know that I've ever seen the whole thing, actually… sure, let's watch that.†For Grace, it wasn't the movie itself that mattered near so much as the simple act of curling up with Mark.

His shoulders went up in a show of pain at her bitin’. He squeezed the hand of the arm around her on tha shoulder like a man who were gettin cauterized. His grin nevah went away, tho. Mark weren’t known for his acting abilities. Eyes went back tah the screen as he hunted through the options tah find tha movie. “Repetition how we learn, yeah? Keep tryin’ tah walk, keep tryin’ tah talk until one day yah do.†If anything, Mark had learned tha value o’ being persistent.

Softly, as if tah himself, “There it is.†His fingers tapped, a soundless dance on the screen until it darkened only to illuminate with the movie’s introduction clip.

She slipped her lead hand underneath his shirt again as she settled into his side once more, fidgeting only a little bit more until she found a comfortable spot where she could also see. The screen went black as the first strains of the movie’s most famous song came on, and as the opening credits rolled, the little dancer whispered the words almost unconsciously underneath her breath. Won’t you come see about me, I’ll be alone, dancing you know it baby…

Grace probably wasn’t destined to see it all the way through this time, either. With the steady thrum of his heartbeat underneath one ear and the catchy tune quietly filling the space between them, she let out a long sigh of contentment as her fingers curled into his skin. “This is pretty perfect.â€

“Mmm.†Tha sound of agreement followed when she spoke. He could hear her little whispering of singing jist about half way. He liked it, how it were kinda ghostly but still sweet. In a moment like tha it was easy tah think back to when they first started. He weren’t feeling like he could fall asleep, but more like a comfortable meditation. That movie played, Grace’s little voice wove up intah tha sound of the movie and then her figure’s tension eased like the grasp she got curled up intah his shirt. She was right about a lotta things, especially about it being perfect.
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