By Lisa Verdekal

 

She had him alone. Not only no father, but completely alone, outside close to the ripening watermelons. She could have died from complications, she knew that, yet she also knew she had no choice. Like watermelon flowers fertilized by just that one visit from a bumblebee, fruit grew and then ripe was plucked from the vine. During her labour, she kept returning her focus to one large watermelon, so ready to be picked. She knew its flesh was succulent and sweet and filled with seeds. Each time a contraction returned from agonizing heights she savoured the stillness and the image of that watermelon. Together they were birthing. Despite its beginnings, this baby, she felt, would be a sweet child. A presence that delighted, like thirst slaked by a juicy slice of watermelon. She also sensed it would be a boy. And after seven, hard hours he arrived into the bright morning like a treasure released from a chest. A beautiful, shiny, baby boy.

 

He slipped rather easily, considering the circumstances, from her warm womb into the warm morning, an immaculate transition. As she marvelled at this surreal little being, a brief vision of him older came to her. Handsome and tall like a mythical figure, chest bare in the heat, looking forward, but feet firmly on the ground. Her heart danced, despite her efforts to keep it caged. It ran wild with horses, soared with the birds. It leapt and sang to the mountains and shook the wheel of fortune like a tambourine. Jackpot, the perfect prize, a beautiful, baby boy. The wheel had landed on the lucky number. But with every slap and rattle of the tambourine, the wheel turned bringing colder images. Seeping up from her cramping belly. Eclipsing the rising sun. She was alone and isolated. The worst had happened; there was no going home like this. He had warned her. You ever bring a bastard baby into this house you are no daughter of mine. What little family support he offered trembled and swayed, threatening to crumble. As family goes, he was all she had.

 

The day she'd found out, really found out, not just a nerve wracking inkling, her mind and body had frozen with fear. The urine poring over the plastic stick had produced a positive sign in the small window before the stream had subsided. If it was possible to be really pregnant, well that's what she was. She sat unthinking, numb and trembling, and went through a week on autopilot. Lying in bed one night she finally got herself serious and weighed up her options. Keep, abort, give up. She tried to give equal consideration to each option, but it was a ridiculous endeavour, fruitless, especially her fantasy that a savoir would come. Like clean and powerful waves pouring across the shore washing away debris, a savoir would come and smooth things over. A presence to give her predicament validity.  Someone who just by being there made it impossible for everyone to look down on her. A stream of lightness heading into the future. Her, the baby, her savoir, acceptance all around. Daydreams fashioned into ridiculous outcomes, the waves deposited only wreckage, the odds against her piling up.

 

It took all her wits and calm to cut the umbilical cord. She was kind of floaty and buzzy from the birth and this helped her not to think nervous thoughts while she did it. Thinking was her constant enemy. She left the placenta under a tree covered with sticks. So what, if dogs got it. She had no time or means to be digging. She almost laughed picturing some lady freaking out cause the dog had dragged it home and was gnawing it on the porch. No matter, she'd be long gone. She wondered if this ability to get serious had been a trait of her mother's. Her memory of her had steadily receded over the years and she had to take out the photo she always kept with her to get her mother's face in her head. A creased photo taken in a booth. Her mother holding a baby, her.

 

She dressed the baby boy in blue, blue for boys, easy. And then wrapped him in an orange blanket. She wasn't sure why she had chosen orange. She had spent some time choosing a blanket out of a good selection of affordable ones. She'd lifted each one to feel the fabric and drape it around her, envisioning a baby wrapped inside. This was hard to imagine and she had to study a few mothers with babies to get a clear picture in her mind. She kept returning to the burnt orange blanket, the odd one out and finally bought it.  She looked at the baby wrapped in his blanket and felt compelled to call him Star, though she knew it was a girl's name. The sun was a star though and she considered it to be masculine. Strong yet comforting like her imaginary savoir. Merciless and harsh, like the real men in her life.

 

She dressed, feeling a whoosh of thick blood pour out of her. Grateful she was young and therefore more able for this; she gathered up the baby and began walking. Her legs and breasts were heavy and she stopped a few times along the way to feed the baby and rest. She didn't want to stop, to slow down and allow in wider thoughts than her immediate plans, but she knew she must take it easy and that babies needed that first breast milk, though she couldn't quite remember what it was called. Also, she needed the baby to stay quiet if she wanted her plan to work. After seven miles she approached the borders of the town and felt she better take a look in the mirror, not to arouse suspicion with a dirty, wild face. Her eyes glowed, but she kept her mind from really seeing herself, she didn't want to question herself about what she was doing. Didn't want to look herself in the eye. Just stick with the plan. She thought it odd that her mind directed her body yet she could stop it at the same time from really probing into itself. She moved not really there, but focused.

 

An eagle flew overhead, hovered. She shielded her eyes from the intense sun and watched him, he who seemed to be watching her. Was he admonishing her or comforting her. She wasn't sure. She reached the town. Across the road was the bus station and just like the other few times when she had been in this town, the busses were lined up with their doors open. The drivers, it seemed, left the doors open because of the heat. She was relieved and thankful; she had counted on those doors being open. It was all working out.

 

It was still early enough and not many people were around. Down the road a shop keeper swept dust out onto the dusty street. A dog barked. Some garbage lids clanked. But again, she was lucky, the way to the bus was clear. The baby was quiet, covered and held close to her. Out of the corner of her eye she saw some passengers gathering in the depot. Not wanting to push her luck, she entered the first bus in the line out of three. She didn't even check to see where it was going. She went up the steps, looked at the empty driver's seat and without thinking, no time for thinking, walked down the aisle to the back. She crouched down under the back bench, laid the bundle under the seat, turned and went home.

 

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Originally from L.A. California, Lisa Verdekal now lives on the west coast of Ireland. She has had short stories published in Pink Girl Ink, Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry, Scarlet Leaf Review, 805 and Soul Sister Wisdom. She has an Honours Degree in Irish Heritage and a Masters in Advanced Language Skills German.  Rising Star is the first chapter in a short novel of the same name.  Lisa’s blog is available at https://proseperspective.blogspot.com