Transcendence, p.31
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       Transcendence, p.31
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           Shay Savage
Page 31

  What if the baby is too big to come out?

  I can feel the panic rise inside of me as I pull Beh closer to my chest. She groans and rolls over, her blurry eyes taking in my face before she lays her hand against my cheek.

  “Ehd?” Beh makes a lot of sounds with her mouth, and I can see the worry in her eyes. As I look at her face, my mind conjures images of her with glassy eyes and pale, cold skin. I shudder, and I feel tears at the corners of my eyes.

  Without further sounds, Beh wraps her arms around my head and pulls me down to her chest. Her body moves back and forth slowly within the furs, rocking me and running her fingers through the hair on the back of my head. I try to calm my thoughts, but the only thing that brings me any peace is staring into her eyes.

  Beh spends days digging a small, baby-sized depression at the back of the cave behind our sleeping furs. She places the softest of the furs around soft, dried grasses. She uses the leather from the auroch caught in the pit trap to make a pile of little triangle shapes though I can’t understand what she intends to do with them. All I know for sure is to stay out of her way. I tried to help many times, but Beh shoves me away, not accepting any assistance.

  She acts as though her head is hot with sickness, but it isn’t.

  Her mouth noises are almost constant, but so is her desire to pull me down into the furs and put me inside of her, and she has been like that for days and days. At first, I was thrilled. Now, I am completely worn out.

  I watch as my mate takes handfuls of cooked grains and meats from the pot near the fire and licks them off her fingers. She moans in the pleasure of the taste, and the sound that might have made me hard earlier in the day only makes my penis twitch a little as she looks up at me and smiles through her breakfast. I feel my cheeks ache at the smile I give to her as she struggles to stand.

  I reach down and take my mate by her forearms to help her up. She stumbles slightly, but I keep her upright. Beh gasps, and she grips my arm even tighter. When I glance down, I can see her knuckles pale with her tight grasp. She releases me with one hand and uses it to rub around and underneath her belly as her breath escapes in quick little gulps. We stare into each other’s eyes, and understanding passes through them.

  Finally, the baby is coming.

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  The sound of my mate’s breathing and the slight crackling of the fire are the only sounds in the cave. The echo of Beh’s last round of screams has faded away though it seems the sounds may forever be lodged in my brain.

  I don’t remember the women of my tribe taking so long to have a baby.

  Beh takes a long, deep breath, and I watch her face closely for a moment before tentatively offering her one of the clay cups with water in it. She closes her eyes and squeezes my hand but doesn’t take the drink. At least she doesn’t throw it back at me this time.

  The sun has set outside, and Beh is exhausted. My dream comes back to me, and I try to hold her close and give her comfort, but she sometimes pushes me away. I try not to think about something terrible happening to her or the baby, but I can’t help it. My chest hurts and my throat tightens up. I had wanted to put a baby inside of her since I first brought her back to the cave, but now that the baby is really coming out, I’m frightened.

  I know Beh is too. I can see it in her eyes.

  Her breathing becomes more rapid, and her fingers clench my hand as she cries out again. I wrap my arm around her to steady her. Her current hands-and-knees position seems to be as good as any of the others she has tried, but the baby still doesn’t come. Beh’s fingers grip around my hand and into the old, worn fur on the ground below her. I tried to put the softer ones below her at the beginning of the day, but Beh moved all of them to the little divot she carved out for the baby.

  After the pain seems to have passed, Beh drops to her side on the floor. I reach out and stroke her face, but she doesn’t look to me.

  “Beh?”

  I see her eyes tighten a little and her chest rise and fall with a deep sigh, but she still won’t look at me. I touch her cheek and then her shoulder. Beh just closes her eyes. She holds her breath and doesn’t make a sound, but I can tell by the tension in her body that another pain has hit her. After a while, she lets out a gasp and starts breathing again.

  “Luffs,” I whisper as I touch her cheek again.

  Another sigh, but now she looks at me. Her lips twitch into the slightest of smiles before another pain hits her, and she cries out again. Her mouth makes a multitude of strange sounds as she reaches out, pulls me to her, and then pushes me away again.

  Then she cries out and pulls me back. I can’t keep up with where she wants me to be, and my own lack of knowledge makes me angry at myself. I don’t know enough about how to help a woman deliver a baby, and Beh needs more help than I can provide for her.

  Beh brings her knees up a little, but the way she is lying on her side doesn’t work very well. She’s so tired though; I don’t know how she can keep going. I wonder if she could take a little nap for a while and then try again. Several more pains hit her, but Beh doesn’t get up from her side. It seems the pains are worse when she lies that way, but she is hardly able to move any longer.

  I don’t know what to do.

  Abruptly, Beh’s eyes go wide as she tries to roll over but can’t. I rise quickly to help her, and a moment later she is back on her hands and knees again, rocking slowly back and forth as she moans.

  Beh grabs my arm and uses it for leverage as she gets up on her feet and bends her knees, balancing on the balls of her feet. I move to kneel in front of her, and she wraps her arms around my neck and holds tightly to my shoulders. She cries out again and again as tears pour from her eyes. I want to push the wetness away, but I’m afraid she’ll fall if I let go of her.

  As Beh strains with clenched teeth, I glance down and see the crown of a little head with dark hair peeking out from between her legs.

  “Hoh!” I reach down with my hand, and I can feel the baby’s hair, wet and warm.

  Beh grunts and grips me, then seems to relax for a moment, and the baby’s head disappears back inside of her again. A moment later, Beh leans her head against my shoulder and pushes. Again, a little head can be seen when she does.

  Over and over again—each time I reach down, thinking this will be when the baby comes out, but it doesn’t. Finally, as the light from the morning sun begins to trickle into the cave and Beh is nearly unable to keep her footing any longer, it happens.

  With a final wail, Beh digs her fingernails into my shoulders and pushes. A wet, slopping sound accompanies a tiny, wriggling figure as it drops from between my mate’s legs and into my hands. I gather it in one arm, and with the other, I slowly helps Beh to lie on her side. She’s still panting, crying, and laughing all at the same time. Beh reaches out toward my hands as a delicate cry escapes the lips of our new child.

  I look down into my arms at the tiny little girl that lies in them.

  I am a father.

  With the only possible exception being her mother, I have never seen anything so beautiful as our daughter. She’s so small lying in my hands that I’m afraid I will break her. Her tiny fingers grasp at nothing, and her little legs kick at my wrists as she cries.

  I look to my mate. Her hair is damp and hanging in her eyes, but her smile is bright as I take the baby and lay it in her arms. Tears fall from Beh’s eyes as she looks at the child. The baby’s eyes squeeze shut, and she lets out another, tiny wail. As Beh brings the child to her breast, I look to the cord that still connects them. Remembering what the women of my tribe did, I take out a long strand of sinew and tie it around the umbilical cord near the baby’s stomach. I take a second piece and tie it a little lower.

  Beh suddenly gasps and looks up at me as another pain slices through her body. I place my hand on her stomach and feel the tenseness of the muscles below her skin. I reach out and take the baby to wrap her in
the soft fur Beh had set aside, and her cries diminish a little. I hold her in one hand and quickly cut through the cord with my flint knife, right between the bits of sinew. Now that she’s wrapped tight, I can lay the baby in our sleeping furs long enough to help Beh deliver the placenta.

  By the time the task is done, my mate and child are both worn out—Beh from the labor and the baby from her crying. I get them situated in the furs and bring Beh water and cold cooked grains. Beh makes mouth noises and points a finger toward the fire. I add some logs to it to make it blaze again, and Beh sighs and moves her head from side to side. She takes the cup of water I brought her and dips the edge of one of the leather pieces into it, then proceeds to wipe the streaks of blood and mucus from the baby’s face.

  I find one of the little squares of cloth near the fire and notice the water-filled clay pot Beh set out earlier when she first started feeling pains. I bring it over along with the cloth. Beh smiles as I help her wipe down the baby with the warm water and then use the cloth to wash Beh’s legs and face.

  Wanting to be sure Beh has everything she needs, I take meat from the fire and a cup full of nuts over to the sleeping furs and feed them to her as she tries to get the baby to suckle at her breast. It takes several tries, but eventually the baby’s tiny lips wrap around her mother’s nipple, and reflex takes over.

  Beh winces as the baby latches on and then relaxes her head into the furs. I grab one of the extra furs and roll it into a little ball to place under her head since she likes lying that way. She looks up at me, and her eyes shine.

  “Loves,” she whispers.

  “Luffs!”

  Beh and our daughter settle deeper into the sleeping area while I gather up the old fur that is now covered in blood, wrap the placenta up in it, and head outside the cave. I don’t go far—I would never leave my new family alone for long—but only far enough to find the hole I had dug some time ago and dump the fur-wrapped placenta in it. I cover it with dirt and leaves to keep predators away and then head back to the cave.

  The baby is still busy suckling though she seems to be asleep at the same time. Beh’s eyes are open but glassy, and I think she is only partially awake. I try to get her to eat some more food, and she drinks some meat broth before waving me away.

  Though the sun is high in the sky, I crawl over my mate and baby to lie down with them in the warm furs. I watch in awe at the pair of them and wonder if there is any possible way for me to be happier than at this very moment.

  I reach over to push the hair from Beh’s forehead, and I realize the baby’s hair—now that it has dried a bit more—is not the same color as Beh’s. It has a golden-red tinge to it, which I know is more like mine. This prompts me to look at her face more closely, but she is too interested in her mother’s breast to show her whole face to me, and her eyes are still closed. I wonder what color they are and if they will be large and blue like her mother’s. Her fingers are tiny but long, compared to the rest of her little hands, and her cheeks are full and round with red splotches all over them from crying.

  Beh’s fingers curl into my hair, and she brings my face close to hers to press her mouth to mine.

  “Khzz,” I whisper when she releases me, and I’m rewarded with her lips against mine once again. She makes many soft sounds as her eyes stare at my face. I watch her mouth move as the noises come out from between her lips, and I’m grateful they are quiet noises. I reach out and wrap my arm around both the baby and Beh before I lay my head down on the furs.

  I look up at Beh for a moment, but just the act of lying down has done me in, and I find myself drifting off quickly. With the warmth of my mate and my child to comfort me, I take a long, slow breath and smile.

  As I doze off, I wonder if I can put another baby in her now.

  The first few days are hard.

  Beh is so tired, and the baby doesn’t sleep very long at a time. It’s been a while since I have been around a baby. My youngest sibling was already several seasons old when the fire took my tribe, and I forgot how messy they can be. Beh uses the little triangles of leather with some of her squares of cloth inside to wrap around the baby’s backside, and I end up washing the stinky things outside of the cave along with the straps of leather Beh wears to absorb the blood from after giving birth.

  We make a lot of trips to the lake using the hide on a stick to carry not only the supplies we gather but also our baby. She lies in the middle, surrounded by furs, and looks around her with wide, blue eyes that are exactly like Beh’s. She wriggles and moves around a lot when she’s placed on her back, and her skin is wonderfully soft. I like to touch the corner of her mouth and watch her turn toward my finger, looking for milk.

  She’s so pretty, just like Beh.

  Even with little continuous sleep, we have to prepare for winter. I fish at the lake as Beh holds the baby close to her breast and digs for cattail roots. Once she has many of them loaded on the hide, she sits to feed the baby for a while. I go back to my work until I hear her call out my name-sound.

  “Ehd!”

  Quickly, I look up and around the area, but there does not appear to be any danger, and Beh’s sounds don’t seem alarmed. Picking up the three small fish I have caught, I go to her and crouch down to make sure the baby is all right. She sucks at her mother’s breast greedily and makes little grunting sounds as she does.

  I smile.

  “Ehd. ” Beh reaches out and touches my chest. Then she places her hand on her own chest, right above her breasts. “Beh. ”

  I narrow my eyes at her as she places her hand on the baby and makes more sounds. I tilt my head to one side and try to listen closely to her sounds, but they’re just noise. She keeps going for a while, and I get bored. Just as I am about to stand and go back to fishing, she grabs my hand and holds tight.

  “Ehd…Beh…” she repeats, and then touches the baby again.
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