Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Kaigyokusai {Masatsugu}, Japan 1813-1892, pair of rabbit netsuke in ivory with inlays (Kaigyokusai {Masatsugu}, Japan 1813-1892, pair of rabbit netsuke in ivory with inlays, photo by Marshall Astor)

Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

May 2014

Myra went to sleep very shortly after they got home, her emotions worn to a whisper. Ginny went to her easel, and Beebo curled up on Ginny's daybed within line of sight of Ginny. Myra woke up after five hours, wondering where the fuck she was for a minute until she recognized their new bedroom. After another minute, she remembered that Mimi had been born. That shoved her out of bed, down the wide hall into Ginny's workspace where Ginny was asleep under a quilt, Beebo now beside her head looking down into the yard. Breaking every rule, Myra stepped to the canvas and looked at it. There were fields of color and strange shapes atop them, but nothing recognizable yet.

Myra pushed in behind Ginny, whispering to Beebo "Go check downstairs or something". Ginny shifted and put her hands over Myra's arms. Myra breathed into her ear "Can you wake up, or do you need sleep too badly?" She waited. After half a minute, Ginny shifted again and said "What?"

"Will you hold me?"

Ginny rolled over, her eyes bloodshot and wide as she looked at Myra. She pulled Myra into her embrace and Myra burst into tears.

"It's a baby. A baby that's a direct descendant of you and Gillam. A new human being, and I love her with all my heart already" she sobbed. Ginny patted her back and said "I know, I know." Myra cried for a few minutes before she realized Ginny had fallen back asleep. That was all right, it was enough. She closed her eyes and slept, too.

She was awakened an indefinite amount of time later by the phone ringing. She had another period of disorientation, but at least this time Ginny was beside her. Finally she found her way to her desk around the corner and answered. It was Carly, saying they were heading for the hospital, did she and Ginny want to accompany them?

"We're just waking up. Yeah, come by for us" said Myra.

"Don't eat, I'm buying a bunch of breakfast burritos" said Carly.

Ginny was lying on her back, staring at Myra blearily. She got up and showered while Myra dressed and went downstairs. Carly was already in the kitchen making coffee to put in a thermos for Gillam, while Eric filled a plastic bottle with cream. "He'll want sugar, too" said Myra.

She emptied their fruit bowl into a canvas carry-wall, adding a loaf of her bread already sliced and a round of cheese. She pulled carrots and celery from the crisper and lay them on top of the rest. By this time, Ginny was downstairs. They got into Carly's back seat together and Myra sent text messages to Allie and Chris saying they would be at the hospital.

When they walked into the birthing room, Myra's gaze went immediately to Gillam, sitting on the edge of Jane's bed with Mimi in his arms. He looked like he had not slept at all. Even so, his face was diffuse with wonder. Mimi was asleep. But Ginny said "Why do you have an IV?", and Myra noticed Jane then, curled on her side, paler than ever, with a line in her arm.

Lucy, at her side, said "Her blood sugar isn't normal." Gillam added "She didn't have any diabetic results during the pregnancy, but they're talking about it now. We're waiting on the latest urine test." He released one hand from Mimi to put it on Jane's hip. He hasn't slept for two nights, then thought Myra.

Jane spoke in a faint voice "If I don't even out, they won't let me nurse her any more." She sounded close to defeat.

"When did this come up?" said Ginny, moving to Jane and cupping her cheek.

"About 4 this morning, they did a set of tests" said Gillam. He had turned so Carly and Eric could look down on Mimi.

Anton and Jemima, on the couch with pillows, began rousing themselves. Myra said to them "We brought breakfast. Well, Carly, mostly. Why don't you set it up for them on the table over there?" When Carly and Eric carried the bags over, Myra said to Gillam "You should eat. I want to hold the baby anyhow." As he stood, she took his place on the edge of the bed: Jane needed Mimi nearby, she guessed.

Ginny went to the cafeteria and returned with cartons of milk and juice. Lucy had joined her parents to eat. Ginny ate two plums and a wedge of cheese, then came to ask for a turn with Mimi. While Myra was unwrapping a burrito, Dr. Plakovic came into the room.

"Looking better" she said to Jane right away. "We're going to keep you n.p.o. until noon, then do another set of values. But your glucose is almost in normal range, everything else is normal, and if you return to a regular diet by this evening, we'll let you go home tomorrow."

Gillam was at Jane's side instantly, still chewing. "With Mimi, yes?" he asked.

"She's in perfect condition" said the doctor with a smile. She noticed the crowd at the other end of the room at that point. Myra said "Would you like some coffee or a burrito?"

The doctor declined and said "Jane should rest." After she left, Myra said to Anton and Jemima, "If you want to go home and sleep, we'll take watch for you." They conferred briefly and accepted. Lucy seemed torn; she had a baby at home with her husband. Finally she decided to wait until noon and Jane's next test results before going home. Carly and Eric offered to drive Anton and Jemima to Jane and Gillam's house. Myra nudged Ginny and said "You need more sleep. Or -- whatever. You can go, I'll call you if something changes here."

"You sure?" said Ginny.

"Yep. Call the aunties and ask them to not come until noon. We're going into sleep mode here, if we can" said Myra.

After everyone but Myra and Lucy had gone, Myra urged Gillam to stretch out next to Jane. "Unbuckle your pants, take off your shoes, and cover yourself with a second blanket" she said. Jane groaned as she curled into Gillam. "My stomach feels like someone punched me in it for hours" she said. He put his arms around her and whispered something only they could hear.

Lucy pulled the blinds and turned off the lights except for a lamp at the end of the room. "What if she gets hungry?" said Jane, reaching for Mimi.

Myra gave her the baby but said "I can tell if she needs you and I'll give her to you right away. If you'll sleep better with me holding her, I'd be thrilled." After kissing both cheeks, Jane returned Mimi to Myra. Gillam's eyes were already closed. Myra moved to the armchair, motioning Lucy toward the couch. Five minutes later, everyone in the room was asleep except for Myra.

Nurses interrupted the peace regularly but briefly. Gillam didn't wake at all. Not just dead on his feet, but sure of me, thought Myra. Since he was born. She whispered to Mimi, "You'll have the same security, won't you? You get to have him as your rock, even better than me."

Mimi woke up once to nurse and have her diaper changed. After she was back in Myra's arms, Myra talked to her almost inaudibly about how glad everyone was to have her join their family, about what she was going to see in this glorious world she had entered, how perfect she was. She got to look her fill at her granddaughter's face, familiar on a cellular level and yet somehow unique.

Ginny was the first to return, right before noon. As Myra gave Mimi to her, she whispered "Did you sleep?"

"No" said Ginny. There was a streak of pale yellow on her wrist and green underneath two fingernails. "But I'm okay. What about them?"

"Soaking in accomplishment" Myra answered. Ginny began singing to Mimi the same Yiddish lullaby about raisins and almonds that she'd sung to their own babies. Mimi woke up to listen, trying hard to focus on Ginny's face. Myra felt tears well up behind her eyes.

A few minutes later, a nurse came to draw more blood from Jane and escort her to the bathroom for a urine sample. Gillam, groggy but much more responsive than earlier, came to take Mimi from them. He gave her up to Jane for another feeding. He walked to the table and chewed a slice of bread between bites of banana.

"It's Saturday, right?" he asked the room.

"Yes. Shabbat shalom" said Ginny. He grinned at her and said "She was born on shabbos?"

"A sacred child" replied Ginny. He stood up on his toes briefly in jubilation, drank down a carton of orange juice and went to the bathroom before returning to Jane's side. When Margie called on Myra's cell a few minutes later, Myra handed it over to Gillam and he described Mimi to his sister with reverence that made Myra well up again. As he returned the phone to Myra, he said "She'll be here for the naming ceremony next Sunday. Her and Frances both."

"We'll get the invitations out tomorrow" said Myra.

Allie and Edwina arrived a couple of minutes after Dr. Plakovic had come to tell Jane her blood sugar was normal and she could eat. A nurse brought her soup and juice. Jane asked for a slice of Myra's bread instead of crackers. After finishing her soup, she asked for cheese as well, which Gillam fed her morsel by morsel as Jane resumed holding Mimi. Eventually she lay back down, groaning with each movement, and allowed Allie and Edwina to take Mimi between them.

Lucy said quietly to Myra and Ginny "She had an episiotomy, too." Ginny winced in commiseration. Lucy took her leave with great reluctance, promising to return the next weekend. Jane wept her gratitude at Lucy's steadfast coaching through the birth. Lucy said "I'll tell little Peter you gave him his favorite cousin."

Carly and Eric showed up with chicken salad and iced tea. Gillam ate some more, sitting on the couch close to Carly as Carly had a turn holding Mimi. Carly said "Will her eyes stay this color?" Gillam looked at Ginny, who answered "Hard to tell. If they stay blue, they probably won't be this shade. But they don't look like Gillam's did, so I think yes, they'll be blue."

Myra added "I hope her hair stays this dark. Margie's was like this but went to brown quickly. Gillam's was always brown." Ginny said "Hers will be brown, too. I mean, if my vision was correct." Gillam said sharply, "What vision?" Ginny told him about the painting, and Gillam's face flooded with awe.

"How did she look? I mean, was she happy?" he said hoarsely.

"Extremely. She was around three or four, sturdy, brilliant, and utterly confident" said Ginny. "You'll see." Gillam turned and looked at Jane, whose expression had a trace of fear in it.

When Anton and Jemima came at 2:00, Ginny and Myra went home, promising to return after dinner. At the house, Ginny said she would lie down a while now and Myra decided to join her. They woke again at 6:00, picking up cheeseburgers and fish tacos on the way to the hospital. Gillam greeted them with "I was hoping you'd bring food" and ate a cheeseburger with fries. Jane ate some fries in addition to her hospital meal. Mimi thrilled Myra by making a small sound when Myra took her, an exhalation that Myra was certain meant recognition.

By 11:00 the next day, Jane, Gillam and Mimi were home, along with Beebo who was introduced to Mimi as "her big brother". He sniffed of her with astonishment on his face -- clearly, he didn't know humans came in miniature sizes, Myra said. In addition to the soup and meatloaf, she and Jemima created reheatable favorite dishes for the new family while aunties and uncles passed around the baby. At 5:00, Myra suggested everybody not currently living there go home. She remembered how she and Ginny had just wanted to doze with their newborns for unlimited amounts of time. Gillam had the next two days off, and Jane's parents were around for urgent requests.

Still, it was agonizing to leave Mimi behind. She was already integral to their existence.

The aunties and uncles decided to follow Myra and Ginny to their house. Ginny excused herself swiftly and climbed the stairs to her easel. Myra put lasagnas in the oven and let Carly decide what kind of salad to accompany it. She and her friends sat around the table, looking at the collection of Mimi photos they already had and finalizing plans for the naming ceremony. Chris went outside to check on the new cherry tree, and on her return she said "One heavy rain and that yard will be a bog. You need to get grass begun."

"The problem is", said Myra, "We have more construction to do out there -- the fish pond, the herb garden plus canopy, the barbecue area, putting in a shed, and even the flower beds aren't decided on yet. And Ginny'll be painting for another couple of days, I'm guessing." Sima asked about some of these ideas, and eventually Myra called Annie to see if she was free for dinner. Annie agreed to come by. She sat between Ginny and Sima, and by dessert they had a preliminary sketch of the metal framework over the herb garden.

"I'll see if I can get Mara to come some time this week, too" said Myra.

"For the shed, you should just go buy one prefab" said Chris. "I'll help you lay a concrete pad once you know the dimensions you're getting, and they can deliver it and set it up. Way easier than getting your contractor back."

"Yeah, we'd considered that. I'll add that to my list this week" said Myra. "When I'm not Mimi-watching."

"How's your book going?" asked Allie.

"Not" said Myra. "I'm too caught up in other stuff at the moment. Another week or two and I'll be able to focus on it again. How's yours?"

"I need one more research trip, which we're thinking about taking in July" said Allie. "In the that Mimi's here, I want to finalize the Poppyseed book." Allie had drawn a series of illustrations for the main body of the book. Poppyseed was a brown child with orange eyes. Her Grandma Bran was a lovely pale green and her white hair had tinges of pink.

"Go for it" said Myra. She asked Ginny, "Have you worked on a cover yet?"

"I think this painting should be the blueprint for the cover" said Ginny. "Except I'll use Allie's color scheme for the characters."

Allie cleared her throat. "We still have to hash out percentages with our respective agents, but I want to donate my share of any income from the book to Mimi's education fund."

Myra high-fived Allie, saying "Brilliant! Me too!"

"Me three" said Ginny. "And with all three of our names on it, this book will sell, you know?"

"Don't tell 'em yet" asked Allie. "I want us to all hand over the bank book together."

"Listen, over the next few months, I want you all to think of this house as a coming and going point to visiting baby-land next door, if necessary. Feel free to grab meals here, hang out, whatever" said Myra.

Eric asked shyly "Would it be all right if I did one of your new flower beds?"

Ginny said "Absolutely. I know I'm going to be taking cuttings from the other rose garden and starting one here, inside the front fence. Otherwise you have a free hand."

Carly looked at him expectantly, and when Eric didn't say more, Carly nudged him. Eric finally said "Uh...Once there's grass and the pond is in, I was wondering...would it be all right if I brought over Welsh sometimes to get fresh air, run around in a safe environment?"

Chris and Sima looked blank, and Myra reminded them "Welsh is his elderly rabbit." To Eric she said "I'd love that. I'll even babysit for him if you can't be here the whole time."

Ginny said "He won't eat flowers, will he?"

"He might" said Eric. "That's why he has to be watched, directed toward what's all right for him to consume. But if you're weeding, say, dropping some of those in his direction would be a treat for him."

"We'll get rabbit-savvy" said Myra firmly. "I'm honored to have the chance. Just think about how Mimi's going to adore seeing a bunny sometimes."

"Which reminds me, I need to research the best species of fish for my indoor tank as well as the pond" said Ginny. Chris turned out to have knowledge in this area, and they went upstairs to Myra's computer to look online for ideas.

"She won't be back down" predicted Edwina, watching Ginny disappear.

"Nope. Probably will paint most of the night. You all wanna do something?" asked Myra.

Allie stood and said "I want to go home and help Edwina get ready for the week. I'll be by tomorrow, though. Every day I can to see the baby."

"Yeah, us too" said Carly. Myra said to him "Take lasagna for your lunch tomorrow."

Annie left at the same time as Chris and Sima. Myra went upstairs and stood at Ginny's elbow to get her attention. "I looked at it yesterday" she confessed. "Can I look again?"

Ginny stood aside. The difference was startling. It was as if something alive was slowly emerging from the flat surface -- no facial features yet, but the body of a girl in a garden was coming forward.

"Wow" said Myra softly. She kissed Ginny lingeringly and said "I'm going to create the ceremony invite on my computer. As much as I can manage -- will you look it over later and make it perfect, then hit send?"

"Yes" said Ginny. Then, another first, she stopped Myra from leaving and said "Do you like it?"

"What -- the painting? Oh, Ginny, it's spectacular, incomplete as it is. It makes me tremble to look at it." She was touched at Ginny asking reassurance. No wonder she had always kept other eyes off her work until she knew it was the way she meant it to be.

"Wake me when you get up" said Ginny, hugging Myra again. "I want to go with you to see our granddaughter in the morning."

"Remember what it was like, our first night at home with Margie? And Gillam?" said Myra.

"In that very house. In that bedroom" said Ginny. "Our little boy has created his own immortality and his own family."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Jesse Wendel said...

I am so happy. I can't even start to tell you how happy I am.

Jesse Wendel said...

Plus, a BUNNY.

That makes everything perfect.