Wednesday, November 28, 2007


(Two Women, sculpture by Sigrid Herr

This is an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, skip down to Read More. If not, here's links to background information in the sidebar to the right, third item from top.

5 July 1987

The morning after the Fourth of July, at breakfast Myra was eating leftover strawberry shortcake when Ginny said "Okay, are you ready? I'm ready."

"For what?" asked Myra.

Ginny reached out her finger and wiped a smear of whipped cream from Myra's chin, then licked it off her finger. "To think about getting pregnant."

Myra stopped chewing. "For real?"

"Yep. It'll be at least a year, I figure, before any possible child actually arrives. But I'm ready to start down that road. Being around Patty has helped make it seem a real option."

Myra stared at her for a minute, thinking. "Yeah, I'm ready too." They kept staring at each other another minute.

"So, I guess we begin with gathering information about the process" said Ginny.

"Hey, you know, Mary Wings did a comic book about lesbian insemination, I've got a copy somewhere" said Myra.

Ginny looked incredulous. "By information, I wasn't thinking of the comics, you know."

"No, really, Gin, it's quite good. Came out of the Portland Women's Center -- "

"Nevertheless...We have Patty and Pat we can interview -- "

"Oh, god, Ginny, why don't you just talk with Patty alone, it'll go better."

"...Okay. And Nancy, I can ask with Nancy about her pregnancies. Plus we should be getting recommendations from every dyke we know about who the best OB-Gyns are in town."

"I'll take Paula out to lunch, ask her about when she got pregnant with Rain."

"Paula your ex?" asked Ginny, a little chill in her voice.

"She works at Aradia, Ginny, she's going to be an excellent resource. Besides, we don't relate as exes, not in the usual sense. And I could ask Annie at Red and Black, I think there might a new book out about it."

"Annie, another ex."

"Oh, get off it, Ginny. Who am I having a baby with? Ask yourself that. I mean, are you sure you're ready to do this with me?"

When Ginny didn't answer right away, Myra stood up and carried her plate to the sink. She went on through the kitchen. After a couple of minutes, Ginny went looking for her. Myra wasn't in the bedroom or their bath, so Ginny walked upstairs, checking the deck. She finally found her sitting on the floor in a corner of the mural room that was for their future children.

Ginny sat down beside her. "I blew it."

"Sure did."

"I am certain, Myra."

"You fucking well better be. You screw me over about our kids, I'll sic Allie and Chris on you."

Ginny began laughing. "You're not translating into middle class at the moment, are you, honey?"

Myra laughed too, and bumped Ginny with her shoulder. "Go away and let me think for a while."

Ginny felt scared, but stood up and headed for the door.

"I love you, Ginny."

"Love you back."

After an hour, Myra came to her desk and sat down to write. Ginny was mopping her studio. When she was done, she sat down on Myra's daybed and waited. Myra finally looked up and Ginny said "A new poem?"

"Yeah. First draft."

"One of those poems I'm going to see myself in?"

Myra grinned. "The perils of being lovers with a writer."

"Are we okay?"

"We are now. Plus, another thing to add on our to-do list: Meet with a family law specialist about second parent adoption and all the other things we need to do around having children." Myra was still grinning, but her eyes were a little distant.

"Okay. But don't we need to talk some more?"

"Maybe, Ginny. For now, though, I'm going to Quaker Meeting. I'll be back for lunch." Myra kissed Ginny on the cheek and walked out the door, jingling her keys. Alice stood on Myra's desk, looking at Ginny keenly.

"I prodded the beach rubble that time, didn't I, Alice? What do you suggest I do now?"

Alice blinked.

"Right. Wash myself and wait. Always good advice."

(Sappho, from Musei Capitolini, Rome: "If you are squeamish / Don't prod the / beach rubble")

At 12:30 the phone rang. When Ginny answered, Myra said "Hey, babe. I stopped by Red and Black on the way home, and they do have some books on the topic. I'm buying 'em all. But Annie is just getting off work, and I've offered to have lunch with her. Would you like to join us?"

Ginny didn't know what to say. Was this Myra testing her? Was it not a test, but thinking it was a test was god testing her? Finally she answered "I started eggplant parmegiana here."

"Oh, wow. Well, how about I bring Annie home to eat lunch with us?"

"...Okay, Myra."

"See ya soon."

As soon as Myra hung up, Ginny called Allie and said "Please tell me you're free for lunch."

"Could be. What's on the menu?'

"Eggplant parmegiana and Annie Gagliardi, Myra's ex."

"Annie? Oh, that's right, she and Myra dated briefly. I don't really see her as an ex, they were more like friends with privileges."

Ginny already felt better.

"Are you asking me cause you want to see me, Ginny, or cause Annie's coming?"


Allie laughed. "Well, all right then. But can I hang out with you afterward and talk art?"


Ginny set up the expresso machine to be ready to make Allie's favorite cuppa jane when she arrived. She was just starting on a salad when Myra and Annie walked in the door, laughing. Myra set a few books on the table and walked around to give Ginny a big hug and kiss.

"Smells great in here. Annie, you and Ginny know each other, but this here is the girl o'my dreams. And this is our house o'love, would you like a tour?"

As Myra led Annie off, Ginny reduced a stalk of broccoli to florets and thin slices, and tried to get over being so hard on herself. Allie arrived after Myra and Annie had gone upstairs. She was carrying a box from Macrina Bakery, which she held triumphantly in the air and declared "Cannoli!"

Ginny kissed her and said "Coffee on the way."

Allie sliced bread and spread it with garlic butter while Ginny filled her in about the baby discussion in a low voice. Allie got up to pour half and half in her coffee and whispered to Ginny "It's the Astrid thing, I think. Plus you being stupid."

"I thought of both of those possibilities."

"If Myra was going to cheat on you, you'd know. Her version of honesty was in yo face."

"Well, I better get over my cheap self before we have a kid, I can tell that much."

Myra had appeared at the bottom of the stairs; she gave a laugh and said "You and me both, Ginny. Hey, Al."

"Hey. And Annie, good to see you. How's Lute?"

"She's gone rafting for the weekend, and I miss her more than makes good sense. New love and all that. Myra is rescuing me from just going home to eat Cheetos and feel sorry for myself."

Myra went to set the table and Ginny motioned Annie to sit at the breakfast bar and chat while she made salad dressing. Allie put garlic bread in the oven and leaned against the counter, sipping her coffee. At one point, standing by the sideboard, Myra caught Ginny's eye and gave her a big wink. Ginny melted into a grin, then returned her attention to Annie, who was turning out to be a lot of fun.

The following Sunday, after breakfast, Myra and Ginny snuggled up to each other on Myra's daybed and looked over the results of their baby-making investigation.

"First of all, Myra, I owe you a big apology about the comic book. You were right, I was wrong."

"I love that sentence."

"And -- the San Fran area looks to be our best source for mail-order sperm."

Myra giggled. "I guess I'll write off for catalogues from all our possible outlets, and we'll see who has the best layaway plan."

Ginny laughed hard. "Okay, it took Nancy eight tries on her first pregnancy, four on her second; took Patty five tries to get pregnant now, and her friend Noni six and four, respectively."

"Paula said she got Rain on the second try, but from what she's seen at the clinic, it's usually four to six months before it takes."

"But you know, Myra, that's for women who really were fertile. I might not be, I have no know of telling yet."

"So, we need to go see a doc. Let's look at the list of recommendations for an OB -- hey, check it out, one name appears on three different lists: Shamina Desai, M.D."

"Then I'll call Dr. Desai tomorrow and get an appointment. Let's see how we like her."

"Cool. Anything else at the moment?"

Ginny looked at Myra. "An appointment with our lawyer, about adoption."

"Oh, yeah. I'll call tomorrow for that. Thanks for remembering, Ginny." Myra kissed her gently.

"Now let's go out to the nursery -- different kind of nursery, ha -- and get some late summer veggies for our new raised beds."

"Gardening day. Shall we ask Ms. Schevitz over for dinner? I could make chicken korma."


August 1987

After their appointment with Dr. Desai, Ginny sat down at her work table and said "I'm going to create a chart to track all the things I need to do to determine ovulation. Can I borrow some of your fancy paper?"

"Help yourself. And if you need any assistance with, say, checking the consistency of your vaginal mucus..."

Ginny grinned and kissed Myra's hand. "I know who to call."

"While you're doing that, I'll extract the basics from the book about how to select the baby's sex."

"No, wait, I want to do that with you. We need to discuss it, I think."

"Okay." Myra got the book and pulled her desk chair up to Ginny's table. "Will you keep rough notes?"

"Yes." Ginny picked up a scrap of drawing paper and a red watercolor pencil. Myra smiled to herself.

"Okay, number one: Proximity to ovulation. Two days or more before ovulation increases the chance of having a girl. Their swimmers are stronger and can last longer."

"Yay, girl swimmers!" cheered Ginny.

"So, inseminate at least three days before ovulation" said Myra.

"Let's go with four, just to increase our odds" said Ginny, writing.

"Next: Ph of your hoo-hoo. Acid for girls -- just like the Alien Queen, huh? Do you know if you naturally run acidic or alkaline?"

"No, but I have some strips to test myself over the next month. Maybe you could assist with that?" said Ginny with a sly smile.

Myra bumped her shoulder companionably, grinning. "It says to douche with vinegar and water right before insemination, but we have to use this particular formula."

"We'll copy that on a card and put it in the bathroom" said Ginny.

"Next is where we drop the swimmers in. Deep favors boys -- that fucking figures, doesn't it? So parachute 'em in near the entrance, and missionary-position, you on your back, for girlies."

"Got it" said Ginny.

"Here's a part that helps us without us doing anything: Orgasms. No orgasms favors girls. Well, good, because there is no way I'm connecting our lovemaking to this project -- I am not trying to be a het. And with that goop in the picture, nuh-uh."

"I agree with you, My, but it worries me a little -- how long after I inseminate are you going to be willing to make love with me again? Especially go down on me?"

"We'll just have to do a sniff test and find out. I can smell it a mile away."

Ginny looked at Myra sadly. "I fucking hate how you acquired such personal knowledge, my love."

"I fucking hate it too. I'm grateful for your understanding."

"Of course. The only thing I don't understand is how come you like mayonnaise so much, given your aversion to white squirty stuff."

"Oh, gag me, Ginny, don't you even compare the two!" said Myra vehemently. Ginny was giggling.

"Moving on: Oh, this last one we have no control over, sperm count. It comes as it is. Okay, then, we've got the things we can jigger, try to get a daughter out of you."

"I'll add this to the ovulation calendar. Do some calligraphy, add some graphics" said Ginny, her eyes getting that must-do-art look in them.

"Something to share with our children, along with their birth announcement" said Myra. But Ginny was pulling out tubes of watercolor and nibs, and didn't get the joke.

September 1987

Myra arrived home shortly before dinner. Ginny had baked acorn squash filled with wild rice and veggies. She set out a plate of soft cheeses and a pitcher of herbal tea as Myra washed her hands and put plates at their beautiful table.

"Do you want tamari?" asked Ginny.

"Maybe. Let's see what it tastes like" said Myra.

They sat down and took each other's hands, closing their eyes and relishing this moment of connection, of sustenance, of peace. As they dug in, Myra said "I spent some time at the library today, and I've got a new list of baby things for us to talk about. This rice is excellent, by the way."

"It's a different kind at the Co-op. Pull out your list, let's have at it."

Myra retrieved her notebook from her back pocket, flipped through to the right page.

"Okay. Do you have any objections to children having vaccinations? I don't, I'm a big believer in preventing mortality, coming from my family, but I'm willing to hear arguments."

"No arguments here" said Ginny, putting slivers of cheese on her squash bowl mixture.

"How about the whole attachment parenting thing? Specifically, holding the baby as much as possible, sleeping with the baby, not forcing a separation until the child is ready."

"It makes a lot of sense to me" said Ginny. "I mean, she's carried inside me her entire existence, and suddenly there's this separation -- it must be, on some level, traumatic. What I'd like is for her to not be separated from a human body at least the first 24 hours of her life, until she can get used to the strangeness of the world out here. And after that, hold her as much as we can handle. I may be naive, but from what I saw teaching, when a kid is ready to branch out, they do, unless they have some traumatic incident holding them back. The sleeping thing, though -- " Ginny paused.

"Are you scared about rolling over on the baby and smothering her?" said Myra.

"No, there are these bumper things you can buy that will keep her safe. At least, that's what I hear, haven't seen one. And I don't want to make her sleep alone all the time, I mean, how selfish is that? She can't come to us, we have to go to her. But everything I read stresses the issue of sleep deprivation for parents. If we have her in a crib right beside the bed, so we can hear her but not have to deal with her in bed, and if we hold her all the rest of the time -- what do you think?"

"I say give it a try. I can imagine one of us or both of us, though, not being to tear ourselves away from her."

"Well, the other part of that is -- Myra, you're my lover. I don't want you and me to become just mommies. We are in our prime, I want not just an active sex life with you but also all the sensuality that we get from sleeping with each other. You know? It's not that I'd resent her, per se, we're more mature than that -- but I don't want to lose something by adding her on. If we can manage it."

Myra took Ginny's hand. "Hear, hear. Lovers forever."

Ginny grinned and kissed the back of Myra's hand. "What else?"

"How long do you want to breast feed?"

"At least six months, I mean, if it works. Seems like a lot of women can't pull it off. After that, I'll see."

"And when it's time to introduce non-milk-foods, we're clear that we're going to make our own organic baby food? I mean, I just assumed, since we take so much care with our own meals."

"Yes. Unless there's difficulty we can't anticipate, and then we buy the organic jar stuff that may or not be what it says it is."

Myra looked down at her list and said "Well, I only got one more. But it's the one I'm scared about."

Ginny took a drink of tea. "Spit it out, we've come this far."

"If it's a boy -- circumcision."

Ginny stopped chewing and looked at Myra. "If it's a boy -- he's a Bates. He's a Jew. Circumcision is part of that."

"I know, Ginny, and I'm down with the religious heritage aspect of it. But -- I don't want to cut a sensitive piece of flesh off our child before he can consent to it. Not just so he'll look a certain way."

Ginny's face was stony. "It's not just cosmetic, there are also plenty of studies that show health benefits to removing foreskin -- not just for him but for future partners of his, there's a cancer link."

"I know. I frankly have never seen an uncircumcised penis, except in pictures, and from what I've read, it's work to retract the foreskin and clean under there, something we'd have to do zealously and eventually teach him to do. But if we let him reach an age where he could decide for himself -- I equate the foreskin with that little hood over my clit, and if that had been removed when I was a baby, well, on some level I wouldn't know what I had missed, but I do know as a woman what a difference that would have made."

Ginny raked her fork through her rice. "Oh, shit, Myra. I can't believe you, of all people, is advocating for penis integrity." She smiled in a strained way.

Myra took a breath. "Well, I have to admit, I got influenced by a fag I knew in college, who was very outspoken on this subject. This guy -- he was a bit of a wacko, Ginny, I'll cop to that up front."

"Wacko in what way?"

"He believed that chiropractic had the ability to heal just about anything, including cancer, and that the American Medical Association was conspiring to keep chiropractors suppressed because it would eat into their profits if people could be healed noninvasively."

Ginny gaped at Myra. "And this is someone you want to quote to me?"

"Yeah, well, he was also the guy who convinced me to buy my first Alix Dobkin album. And who said separatism was a vital step in re-defining your identity. He was a radical fairy, Ginny."

"That -- temporizes things a bit" admitted Ginny.

"Anyhow, he was convinced that cutting away foreskin exposed the glans, its mucus membrane, to dryness and air, resulting in loss of sensation. And that the heterosexual male's fixation on deep penetration is linked to that -- because they couldn't experience the intense sensation of that little patch of velvety skin slipping back and forth over the equivalent of our clit with any kind of motion at all, they had to find another way to get sensation, and banging against a cervix was a substitute. He had had sex with countless guys, of both persuasions, and he was convinced the ones who weren't circumcised had a richer sexual experience."

"Was he anti-semitic?" said Ginny. "This sound like a Zionist conspiracy kind of argument."

"I don't know" admitted Myra. "I don't think he himself was Jewish. Ginny, honey, your food is getting cold. I'm just bringing this up, but I'm not going to violate your heritage or that of our son by drawing a line here. Keep eating, we'll keep talking."

Ginny put a bite in her mouth. "Let's look into it, I'll go that far. And I have to talk with Daddy, because he's the male our son is going to be the most exposed to, and I can't have his Zayde telling him he's not a real Jew because his wee-wee looks different."


"Maybe we'll only have daughters and this won't be something we have to deal with" grinned Ginny.

"From your mouth to Shekhinah's ear" said Myra. She closed her notebook and resumed eating, too.

(Mother and Child, sculpture by Sigrid Herr

8 November 1987

Ginny finished a painting on Saturday and, after her usual feast, went to bed early. Myra sat up late, working on a chapbook she wanted to have done by solstice. Ginny didn't awaken when Myra joined her in bed, but caulked herself to Myra's back with a deep sigh. The next morning, when Myra woke up, Ginny wasn't there. A note on the breakfast bar informed her that Patty had gone into labor, a couple of days early, and Ginny was at the hospital with her, she'd call home later.

Myra met Allie for their usual Sunday breakfast, and when she got home, there was still no message from Ginny. She started bread, set some white beans to soak, and took Juju for a long walk. Back home -- still no call. Myra began to get worried for Patty. She wasn't sure what hospital they were using.

Finally, as Myra was setting bread on the counter to cool before slicing, the phone rang.

"Hey, honey -- I'm at a pay phone in the lobby" said Ginny.

"How's it going, is she okay?" asked Myra.

"She's not progressing very fast, and either she has a low pain threshold or this is way harder than anybody admits" said Ginny. "If things don't change soon, they're gonna do a C-section. But her mother and sister just got here from Naperville, and that meant I could take a little break."

"How's Pat holding up?"

"Ah, the strong silent type. Which would not work for me, but Patty seems to draw what she needs just from holding Pat's hand."

"I'm at a point here where I can come right down, if you want" said Myra.

"No, what with the relatives, their friends Barb and Noni, plus the doula, the room is pretty crowded. I mean, I'd love to have you here, but Patty needs it to be just those who have first-hand experience at this point. Plus me, she specifically asked me to stay" said Ginny.

"Have you eaten?" asked Myra.

"Not yet, I called you first. And god knows what they've got here. But I'm okay, Myra. I don't know when I'll be able to call you back, though."

"That's all right, Ginny my love, you take care of yourself and Patty. Call me if you need anything, I'll be here the rest of the day."

"There's a baby being born right now, right as we speak -- a new person joining our world" said Ginny, a note of awe in her voice.

"Of woman born. The biggest miracle of all time" agreed Myra. "So, I'll see you or hear from you when I do?"

"Yep. Love you. Wish you could see this."

"I've seen a couple of births, Ginny, I do know what you're going through. Though not Patty, god help her. Love you back, Ginny."

Myra made baked beans, figured out a whole-grain recipe for cheese puffs, and put together Ginny's favorite spinach salad. She prepared a deep blue bowl of beans ready for reheating and stored it in the fridge, next to a coral bowl of salad and a small green plate of cheese puffs. She ate in the living room, watching junk TV while feeding tidbits to Juju and Alice. Then she did a load of laundry, changed their bedsheets, and wrote some more, going to bed late again. At 3:30, she woke up to Ginny joining her in bed, the bowl of beans in her hand with cheese puffs propped around the rim.

"How's Patty?" said Myra, sitting upright.

"Okay. And he's here. A boy, which they knew but hadn't told anybody. She managed to have him without surgery, although I'm not sure how. He's fine, and, oh, Myra, he's so incredibly beautiful. Just an amazing, beautiful being." Ginny's voice choked up and she set the beans on the nightstand to lean against Myra.

"What did they name him?" asked Myra, holding Ginny close.

"Truitt Patrick Marchand. Just Patty's last name, not Pat's." Ginny's voice sounded a little dismayed by the surname choice.

"Well, the Patrick was a foregone conclusion, but Truitt? That's really different" said Myra.

"It's the name of the gay man who was Patty's best friend all through high school and college -- really, her best friend until she moved here and I met her" said Ginny.

"Is he the donor?" asked Myra.

"No, he declined. They used some network out of Portland, I think" said Ginny. She sounded exhausted. She reached for the beans again, and Myra kept holding her as she ate.

"Truitt. I like it, I really do. When do I get to meet him?"

"They're keeping her through tomorrow, because of how rough it was for her -- Myra, she's bruised from how he came out of her. Anyhow, maybe day after tomorrow, when they go home -- they'll need help then, I'm sure. I don't know how much time Pat is taking off -- she's only been at Microsoft a year -- and Patty's family is staying a while. We can find out what they need from us once they figure it out, I guess." Ginny was talking around her food, almost shoving it in and taking big gulps of water.

"Slow down, you've got all the time in the world now, honey" said Myra. Ginny started chewing more methodically. After one big swallow, she said "Myra -- I'm scared shitless about doing what she just did. I mean, I've never seen someone having that hard of a time, physically."

Myra thought about the people in her family who died slowly, of various things, and then turned her mind away from it.

"You don't have to, if you don't want to, Ginny. We can adopt. Or steal them from an unattended cart at Safeway" said Myra.

But Ginny didn't laugh. She was chewing again, and when she finished that bite, she said "No, I'm bound to have at least one baby. I've known I wanted to since I was little."

"Well, Gin, you're bigger than her, especially in the right places, and you're in much better shape. You've got what it takes, sister woman."

"And I've got you" said Ginny. She finished her bowl and said "I'm still a little hungry..."

"I'll go get you more" offered Myra.

"No, I think that's enough to let me get to sleep. I was depleted from the painting jag when I got up this morning. Is it all right with you if I don't brush my teeth, just turn off the light and lie down in your arms here?"

Myra took the bowl from Ginny, clicked off the bedside lamp and stretched out, Ginny half on top of her.

16 November 1987

When Allie answered her door for their Cagney and Lacey night, she was surprised to see Myra and Ginny dressed up in their finest. She looked down at her jeans and sweatshirt, and said "Did I miss the black tie announcement?"

Throwing herself down on Allie's couch, Myra said "We've just come from Truitt's bris. We didn't have time to go home and change."

"Oh, yeah" said Allie. "How was it?"

Ginny said "Number one, we are NOT going to do that to any child of ours." She looked at Myra and said "You can give yourself another victory notch in your notebook if you want."

Myra replied "I don't feel victorious. Al, it was just awful. I can still hear his screams."

"Holy fuck" said Allie. "Didn't they give him anesthesia?"

"This was very traditional" said Ginny. "Done by a mohel who also fucking drew blood out of him afterward, though at least he used a cup for that instead of his fucking mouth."

Allie was horrified. Ginny explained the process to her. Myra added "They put a little wine beforehand in Truitt's mouth, but that was probably just another physical assault, really. When you do it in a hospital, they supposedly use anesthetic gel -- though not all the time -- or some kind of squeeze it off slowly apparatus, but I don't fucking trust any of 'em, not after this."

"I also can't forget the look on Patty's face, afterward, when she was trying to comfort him" said Ginny. "And before right before we left, while everybody else was still eating and getting drunk, I went with her into the bedroom to change him, and when she pulled his diaper down, he completely panicked, I meant, just went as berserk as he could -- I don't know how long it will take him to trust adults exposing him again."

"Oh, god" said Myra, her face distraught. "Was Pat in there to see that?"

"No, she was still basking in the glow of her father's approval" said Ginny.

"Carl from Gross Pointe" Myra said to Allie with distaste. "He had the kind of Aryan looks where you expected him to stand up and start singing 'Tomorrow belongs to me' at any minute. And Pat was playing the dutiful son, except when she was being the dad who holds down Truitt while they cut at him."

"You know, my family had money but we really didn't hang out with that kind of crowd" said Ginny. "I mean, Mother's family, yes, the Richmond Jews would have been at home there. And Mother yearned to be part of that circle at our Temple. But Daddy either didn't pass muster, for all his education and earnings, or else he balked at joining their ranks. Either way, I got upper middle class training but not to that level."

"I'm glad for you" said Myra, noting the defensive tone in Ginny's voice. "But even if you had, I'd love you just the same. We're raised the way we're raised, no shame in it."

"There's shame in handing it on, though" said Ginny.

"Well, we got an examined life" said Myra.

"Worth having" finished Ginny.

Myra looked at Allie. "Sorry to come dump all this in your living room, Al. Let's change the subject, shall we? You and Ginny wanna do your art thang?"

"Sure" said Allie. "Did you two already eat?"

"No, there was a spread but I was too upset to do more than nibble" said Ginny.

"I want pizza" declared Myra. "I'll order, you two go ahead."

First of December 1987

Ginny came in from her Saturday afternoon meeting of Art Against War and said, walking into the kitchen, "What smells so good?"

"Spinach lasagna. Actually five of them, but one is for tonight, the rest to be frozen" said Myra.

"Wow, you've been industrious. And look at the flowers on the table -- you must have run by Pike, I see some out of season blooms in there."

"We have reason to celebrate" said Myra, with a huge smile.

Ginny walked up to her and put her hands against Myra's upstretched palms. "What?"

"We got the catalogue today from the sperm donor place in Berkeley."

"Where?" said Ginny, looking around. "Where is it?"

"On my desk. But wait, Ginny, don't you want to sit down after dinner and take our time going through it?"

"No, I want to see it right now. Haven't you looked in it yet?"

"Of course not. I waited for you" said Myra indignantly.

"Well, I would've looked" said Ginny. "Turn the oven on low and come in here, let's shop."

They settled together on Myra's daybed, leaning against the wall. Myra pulled out her notebook and pen, resting it on her knee.

"Let's see how they're arranged. Okay, we've got racial background, height, hair color, eye color, medical history -- what do you care most about?" said Ginny.

Myra picked up her pen. "Jewish, for sure. Healthy. Brown hair. That's it for me, I think.

"I'm with you on those three, but I want to add brown eyes. I want at least one child with brown eyes so they might look like you and your family."

Myra was moved. "Thanks, Ginny. Let's see how many options that leaves us."

They went through and starred all possibles. Then Myra said "I just noticed this other column, about notification. Some of these guys are willing to be contacted by the child when they are grown, and some aren't."

"No" said Ginny. "No contact. These children will be yours and mine, no daddies."

"That's not the issue, I don't think" said Myra. "The issue is, if our child grows up and wants to know their biological heritage, or needs to know maybe for medical reasons, can they find it out? I say yes. I don't need to know for myself, but I can imagine them wanting to and I don't think it's fair to close that door for them."

"Are you sure there's no way the guy can track us down and threaten our relationship with our children?"

Myra flipped to the front of the catalogue and read a bit. "I'm sure. It's only after a certain age, and it's only if the child initiates it."

"Well, okay then. And is there any way to tell which of these -- samples, I guess is the word for it -- will still be around in two or three years so we could have the second child use the same donor?"

"I don't see it in here. One of us could call them and find out" said Myra.

"It will have to be on Monday, they're closed now. You know, Myra, looking at this -- it isn't just hair color, it's also texture. I hate to say it, but I want texture like ours -- thick and maybe wavy or curly, but not thin and not frizzy. Is that internalized anti-Semitism?"

Myra looked her in the eyes. "Probably, Ginny."


"So you can either commit to get over it so it never influences your opinion of your child's hair, or you can admit you're fucked in that area and discriminate on the basis of it. I mean, there's no guarantee the donor isn't carrying dominant genes for frizziness, and blue eyes, and blond hair, and all the other stuff we have a preference about. Only the Jewish part seems reliable. Otherwise, we'll just have to go with what we get."

"I know that, I do. I'm not shallow, Myra. I just want Rosa's hair to have a fighting chance. I want it to go on forever. I like thinking maybe 4000 years ago there was a woman in Canaan with hair like Rosa's and Daddy's and mine."

"Yeah, I do too. And if it exists now, it must have existed back then, you're right." Myra nuzzled Ginny's hair with her face.

"Okay, then we've got -- 12 possibles. Some of these guys are tall, some are not. Do we care enough to rank them based on that?"

"I don't" said Myra. "You decide."

"I don't care either. Looks like the real deciding factor is going to be availability, both short-term and long-term."

"Grab your fertility calendar, honey-bunch. I'll get our guidelines for sex selection and let's come up with windows."

After collaborative math, they came up with a point three weeks away when insemination would be most likely to precede ovulation by four days.

"It's risky -- what if we're fucking with the process too much by inseminating far away from the point of ovulation? What if we can't get pregnant at all?" said Ginny.

"I like that we, angel. Well, Dr. Desai thought you were extremely fertile, and god knows you're healthy. Let's give it a try for a few months. It's just money and hope we're spending, we've got lots of that. If, after what -- a year? -- the girl swimmers aren't making over the gap, then we could reconsider."

"Not a year. Maybe eight months" said Ginny.

"Okey-doke. Do you want to call on Monday or shall I?"

"Could we do it together? You get on the extension?"

"Yes. Oh, wow, Ginny, this might really happen, you know?"

"No might, Myra. It's in our future, I know it. Let's go eat lasagna. And in the next three weeks, I'm going to gorge on all the fish I have to give up when I'm pregnant."

"Good thing I bought tuna steaks today, then."

"God I love you. Can I have your baby?"

"Thought you'd never ask."

They went into the kitchen together.

Three days after Christmas, 1987

When the doorbell rang right before noon, Myra knew what it had to be. Everybody they knew tended to just knock once and walk right in, not ring the bell. She felt an odd thrill when the delivery driver was a woman, a dyke from the looks of it. Trafficking in purloined materials for the sisterhood.

As Myra signed for the delivery, Ginny appeared next to her and took the package from the driver. The driver touched the brim of her cap and grinned at them: "Have fun." She must have recognized the return address.

Myra locked the front door and followed Ginny into the bedroom. They opened the package and read through the instructions one more time. Myra said "Let's take this into the kitchen. We need to deal with the temperature issues, and there might be a leak, don't want stains on the floor."

Which completely sent Ginny off into hysterics for some reason. Her cheeks were flushed. She had on one of her dark blue tunics over an aqua turtleneck, a pair of Birkenstocks with red wool socks, and nothing else.

It took a while to get things ready. As Myra was unwrapping the syringe, she said "Would you like some music on?"

Ginny began laughing wildly again. "What do you suggest" she gasped, "'Waterfall?'"

Myra couldn't do more than smile. She asked Ginny to double-check her reading of the thermometer; she was scared about doing it wrong. She pulled back the plunger on the syringe and forced herself to look at the contents. Not a single thing like mayonnaise, she didn't know where people got that idea.

They walked to the bedroom and Ginny pulled off her shirts and shoes but left her socks on. Her lovely blond leg hair clustered at the end of the sock cuffs, a blend of red and yellow that Myra found homey. Ginny piled two pillows on top of each other in the middle of the bed, lay a towel over that -- not one of the good towels, Myra was glad to note -- and positioned herself with her hips tilted at an angle toward the ceiling. It was so completely nonerotic, Myra felt an additional layer of relief.

Then Ginny said "Kiss me before you go on."

"Why? I mean, I know why you want to kiss me, but right now?"

"Right now. This is not about sex, don't get your panties in a wad -- " Ginny went off into hysterics again for a while. Finally she continued, still giggling "We are expanding our family. This is a sacred act. Kissing is sacred."

"Okay." Still holding the syringe carefully, Myra leaned over to kiss Ginny. Ginny pulled her in to a long, inexpressibly sweet connection. Finally Ginny said "We're all ready in here."

Myra knelt between Ginny's legs and tenderly parted Ginny's lips, tracing her fingers lightly down to Ginny's vagina. She put the tip of her forefinger into Ginny's vagina, testing for moisture and announcing her presence. It was wet enough that the syringe would not tug at her mucus membranes. She positioned the syringe in Ginny's vagina and pushed it in about half an inch. Then, ever so carefully, she pushed in the plunger on the syringe.

After a few moments, Ginny said "I think I can feel it."

"How does it feel?" said Myra.

"Like my period going in reverse" said Ginny.

Myra was finally able to laugh. She threw away the syringe and lay down next to Ginny, covering them both with a quilt. She lay her head on Ginny's shoulder and began rubbing her belly and breasts.

"Do you want to do some kind of visualization or meditation?" asked Myra.

Ginny began laughing and was trying not to this time: "I'm afraid it will splash out or something" she wheezed.

"Not likely, from what I saw" said Myra.

"Just talk to me, My. Tell me what your life would have been like if you'd had two mommies instead of one."

Myra was silent for a moment. "Well, in a way, I did. But not the way we're doing it."

"What do you mean?"

"You know my family moved to Calcutta when I was six months old and we lived there until I was four."

"Right. Your father got extra money for overseas work. Your first language was Hindi and you spoke English with a British accent when you got back."

"Yeah. Well, because my family's income was so high over there, comparatively speaking, my parents hired servants. They had a cook, and a bearer which is kind of like a butler, I guess, and an ayah for me. Ayah is like a nanny."

"Holy shit, Myra, you never told me any of this."

"It's complicated. To move from poverty into that and then back out -- kind of hard to understand."

"Do you remember your -- how do you pronounce it?"

"Ayah. Oh, absolutely. I thought she was my mother. Her name was Nilmoni, which is an unusual name for a woman in India, mostly it's a male name. She was young and small and I have a vivid memory of being carried tucked inside her sari."

"What was your mother doing?"

"Playing bridge, going to tea at the British Embassy, living it up. At least at first. Then she got interested in Hinduism and began studying it. That's when she started believed in reincarnation and stopped being a Christian."

"Your mother wasn't a Christian when you were growing up?" Ginny looked like she needed to sit up, she was so amazed.

"No, but she allowed herself to be silenced by the rest of the family. She let my father and my grandparents control the religious training of us kids. Except alone with me, when she told me about other things. Like Ganesh, and Vishnu, and how she and I had been reincarnated together through countless lifetimes because we just couldn't get enough of each other. She said in most lifetimes, though, we weren't parent and child, we were lovers."

Ginny was speechless. "Well, no fucking wonder" she said finally.

"Oh, don't get all Freudian on me" said Myra. "Anyhow, my father was of course gone all the time, so Mama put my older brother in an English boy's school. He was only home on weekends, otherwise he boarded there. He was eight when he went in, and that's where he got schooled to be a monster. You don't get to be a member of the ruling class without brutal training, and that's when he got his licks."

"He was raped there?"

"Yes, and beaten. The conflation of sex with power. The male imperative. But I really don't remember him as a member of the family until we came back when I was four, and from my first real interaction with him then, I realized I needed to be afraid of him."

"So you were with Nilmoni all day?"

"Mostly. She got me up in the morning, fed and dressed me, and put me to bed at night. Between tea-time and dinner, I would be given to Mama, who played with me and fed me an early meal. I have some lovely memories of that. Then Nilmoni would take me back to our quarters and sing me to sleep."

"Holy shit" said Ginny again. "What was it like when you came back to America?"

"At first it was just an adventure, the travel, getting to be with Mama so much. She was very pregnant with Gil, so she was instantly overwhelmed. I kept waiting for Nilmoni to show up, and finally I asked about her, after a few weeks. Mama kinda went off on me, said Nilmoni was never going to come because she was just a servant. I think Mama was jealous."

"What on earth did you do?"

"I went to a hiding place and thought for a while. I had a big problem on my hands. Then -- I can remember this so clear, I was wearing seersucker shorts and I was coming back down the hall, and there was an angle of light on the hall floor where sun came in through a window. On one side of the slant was bright light, on the other side was shadow. I stopped right before the shadow and thought 'Okay, I have to be part of this family. I can fix things, I'll be the one to make my mother happy.' Then I stepped over into the shadow, completely confident I could do what I had just promised myself. I mean, not a doubt in the world."

Ginny pulled Myra to her tight and kissed her forehead. "I know that girl" she whispered.

"Yeah -- it's actually a good memory, despite how tragically misinformed I was." Myra laughed. "I used that memory, and sense of power, to do the final big push of recovery the year I was getting to know you. I wasn't wrong about the ability, I just didn't have enough experience and resource as a kid to pull it off."

"Have you ever talked with Nilmoni since?"

"No, by the time I decided to track her down, in my early 20s, Mama couldn't remember her last name. Here's the thing, though -- it was because of Nilmoni that I got to hang out with Mother Teresa as a baby, isn't that cool?"

Myra's weight kept Ginny from bolting upright. "Mother Teresa? You're shitting me, right?"

"Nilmoni had gone to the high school for poor girls that Mother Teresa started -- I think she had her as a teacher, I'm not sure. Anyhow, lots of the girls from that school became nuns, the first sisters in the order she started, the Missionaries of Charity. These sisters were Nilmoni's friends, so after breakfast each day, she'd take me out on the streets of Calcutta and we'd hang with the sisters as they did their work among the poor."

"You remember this?"

""Some. It was -- well, fun is not the right word, I guess. But I loved every minute of it -- even faced with terrible hardship, there was a profound human connection going on, and I felt safe, I was with Nilmoni."

"Do you remember Mother Teresa?"

"I don't know. Now that she's been in the news so much, it's affected what might be my memory of her, you dig?"

"Well, again, I have to say, no wonder, Myra. You grew up looking for a sisterhood to help save the world, and honey you sure found one."

Myra laughed in delight. "I never thought of it that way! Listen, did you look at a clock when we began?"

"Yeah. We've got half an hour to go. Wow, Myra, I can't get over this. What a lucky child this is going to be, with you as a mother."

"And you, Ginny Bates. You and Rosa and Lena and on back. My Mama would probably believe there's a little soul out there right now, swirling around, waiting to jump down into your egg and choose this life with us."

Ginny giggled. "Your mother would say it was her, coming back for another turn with you."

"I don't believe that, Ginny. I wish I did, but I don't."

"That's good. Because this baby is all ours, no meddling from other forces."

"Come on, baby, come on down! Eggie-eggie-outsinfree! " said Myra. They began laughing together, pooled in each other's warmth under the quilt.

March 27, 1988

At breakfast, Ginny handed Myra blueberries for her oatmeal and then said "I hate to have to tell you, but I feel PMS-y."

Myra looked at her keenly. "Really? Like how?"

"Oh, my nipples are tender, I feel a little bloaty -- the usual. I thought maybe it was coming on yesterday, but now that I'm up today, I really feel like I'm about to start bleeding." Ginny's voice was so sad, Myra didn't think she could eat any more.

"Oh, honey." Myra scooted her chair over next to Ginny's and leaned against her. Ginny began crying quietly.

"What if this doesn't ever take, Myra? What if I just can't conceive?"

"Well...we will have children, we'll find a way to raise children. But I know that's only part of it. How are you going to feel if you don't get to be pregnant?"

"I know this is so self-centered -- but I want my line out there in the world. I want my people sent forth into the future." Ginny's crying intensified.

"Oh, Ginny, so do I" whispered Myra, kissing Ginny's temple. "My people will be your people."

Ginny cried it out, her fingers linked through Myra's. Afterward, she used a paper towel to blow her nose and then smiled blurrily at Myra. "Back to the syringe, I guess."

"Try number four. How's about if I grab the calendar and we figure out when to place our next order?"

When Myra returned to the table, Ginny said "You gonna eat your oatmeal?"

"No, you want it?"

"I'll at least eat the blueberries" said Ginny, pulling Myra's bowl in front of her.

"Okay, your next period is due -- well, this is odd, technically at least six days ago, you should already be having it."

"Let me look at that. I guess I got confused because February's a short month. We last tried on March 6 -- that's right, it was the weekend of the International Women's Day rally, I remember. Because we thought I would be ovulating on the 10th. This doesn't make sense, it's too late for mittelschmerze..." Ginny looked up at Myra and stopped chewing.

"It's been two and a half weeks since you ovulated" said Myra in a whisper. "Have you peed yet this morning?"

Ginny got up so fast she knocked her chair over backwards. Myra was right behind her as they raced to the bathroom.

Four minutes later, Ginny was sobbing again, sitting on the toilet lid with Myra's arms around her as Myra sat on the edge of the tub.

"Okay, this could be a false positive" sniffled Ginny.

"I know. Let's see if you can get into Dr. Desai for a blood test this afternoon. But what do you feel, Ginny?"

"I think this is it. I felt so different last night and this morning -- I thought it was PMS because -- oh, Myra, this must be what pregnant feels like!" Ginny's voice was high and jubilant, even as she cried.

"Come on" said Myra, tugging Ginny to her feet. "Let's look at the dates calculator, see when our child will join us!"

They curled up together on Myra's daybed with the calculator pad. Myra wasn't sure she was doing it right, but Ginny's clear head for figures had no doubt. "The last two weeks of November -- a Thanksgiving baby!" marveled Ginny.

"A Sag" said Myra. "Another fire sign!"

Myra reached to her desk and grabbed the phone -- she did have Dr. Desai's office number memorized. Once she explained their need, she got past the usual waiting time and was told to come in at 4 p.m.

After she hung up, she and Ginny could not stop staring at each other.

"Oh, god, if this is not it, Gin, I don't think I can bear it" said Myra.

"We can face anything, Myra Josong. But -- this is it. It is" said Ginny.

"What do we do now?" The universe had shifted its axis. Myra was glad she was sitting down.

"We go make love. I can't think of anything I want to do more" said Ginny, her face triumphant.

"Perfect" said Myra.

On April Fool's Day, with blood tests and initial pelvic verifying Ginny was pregnant and their dates being more or less verified -- although Dr. Desai said a sonogram in a few weeks would be the clincher -- Myra pulled out her notebook so they could make a list of who to tell.

"I'm terrified something will ... happen" said Ginny. "I don't want to tempt fate by going public. I'd rather wait until two or three months from now. Can you hang with that?'

"Yes, I know how you feel. But some people know we're trying, and are going to ask."

"Like Allie. And Patty. And Sima" said Ginny.

"And maybe your family?" asked Myra.

Ginny laughed. "Mother would never ask, and neither will Daddy, although for two completely different reasons. Cathy might...How about if people ask, we tell them and request they not go wild with the information just yet?"

"Sounds fair. And I need to take it to my therapist. I'm not sure how to even feel about this, completely. It's like -- beyond good news."

Ginny couldn't stop grinning. "I want to get in a visit with Nancy, too."

"Ginny...Ginny...You are my hero every single day, but this is a quantum leap." Myra put her hands reverently on Ginny's belly.

"We did this together" said Ginny.

Myra looked at her. "I'm not stepping away from you or refusing to take credit, Gin, but no -- you did this. Your incredible body lit this spark."

They wrapped around each other and sat for a long time in tight embrace.

That night, Myra presented a large roast turkey with blueberry and wild rice stuffing for shabbos dinner.

Allie said "What's the occasion -- is this some kind of April Fool tradition I don't know about?"

Myra grinned at Ginny. "They're not going to believe us, because of the date" she said.

Chris looked keenly at Ginny, then stood up and came around the table. Kneeling on the floor, she put both hands on Ginny's belly and closed her eyes. When she opened them again, her eyes were wet. She kissed Ginny's belly very softly and stood up, then leaned over to kiss first Ginny's head, then Myra's.

"Whoa" said Allie. "For real?"

Sima stood up also, and came to kiss Ginny's belly. Ginny was fighting not to cry even as she laughed. Allie reached across the table and took one of Myra's hands, one of Ginny's in each of hers.

"We're going to be mommies" Ginny said, looking at them all with a beaming face. Myra gave a sharp rap on the table, then began carving the turkey.

Dinner was dominated by pregnancy talk. Ginny got their baby books and read out loud to them about trimesters and developmental stages. Myra fed her forkfuls of food in between paragraphs. Allie kept saying "Holy moly".

Sima asked "Is Myra's name going to be on the birth certificate as, well, not the father..."

"Dr. Desai swears she'll get it on there as the other parent" said Ginny. "She's straight but she's incredibly cool."

"When we went in for our first visit earlier this year" said Myra, "The intake questionnaire asked Ginny what form of birth control she used. She put down 'lesbianism', and Dr. Desai loved it, insisted it go into the chart like that."

"I need a good gynecologist" said Chris. Sima and Myra both looked at her; Sima taking her hand. Myra said "I'll go with you, introduce you, if you want."

"You just want a chance to look at my snatch, I know your ways, Myra Josong" said Chris. Myra laughed, and Chris winked at her.

"Holy moly" said Allie again. "This time next year, we'll have a new cadre member sitting here with us."

"She's sitting here with us right now" said Sima. "Or he."

Chris told Ginny "You have to stop tying your shoes, or any knot. No knot tying until you deliver. Wear Velcro shoes, or get Myra to do it."

Ginny was surprised. "Okay -- how come?"

"Knots in the cord" said Chris. "And you shouldn't make fun of any disabled people -- "

"Like I ever would!" said Ginny.

"Or animals that look different. Watch how you tease." finished Chris.

"This from your mama?" asked Myra.

"And aunties, and grammas. I heard it a lot growing up" said Chris.

"Okay. Thanks" said Ginny.

"So, listen, mah li'l punkinhaids" began Myra, "We aren't telling anybody. Except ya'll. Something could -- go wrong -- "

Ginny rapped the table this time.

"And, well, it's just family for now."

Everybody looked serious.

"Eat" said Myra. "I've got more sweet potatoes in the oven."

"So do I" said Ginny, and everybody cracked up.

10 April 1988 (Sunday)

Ginny wasn't able to keep any of her breakfast down. Myra made her some tummy tea that Nancy had recommended and brought it to where Ginny was lying on Myra's daybed, which was only a quick trip to the bathroom off the study. She fed Ginny a few sips, until finally Ginny sat up and took the cup from her. Her face was pale and her eyes were a clear grey-blue, always a sign she felt ill. Myra leaned against the wall and Ginny leaned back against her, sipping slowly at the tea and sighing after every sip.

At one point, she held up the empty teaspoon and tried to see her face in it. "Where is that pregnant glow they talk about?" she complained. "I've got zits the size of peanuts and a greenish cast to my skin."

Myra wasn't sure if she should laugh or not. Finally she said "Getting to kiss you with pimples on your face kinda makes me feel like we're re-enacting those teenaged girls who longed for each other but hadn't met yet."

Ginny snorted. "Nice try. I appreciate it, honey, but I feel bushwhacked by my own body. I'm sick to my stomach and hungry at the same time. Sucks."

"In an hour or two, you'll be able to eat again. It always lifts by early afternoon" reminded Myra.

"I can't go sit in the hottub because of this baby inside, I can't go for a walk because what if I have to puke, I can't sleep because I'm not really sleepy. You know, if you'd been the one to knock me up, I'd be pretty hacked off at you right now."

"You don't think of me as the one who got you pregnant?" said Myra.

"Well, not in the 'let my gratify my desire on you with possible consequences' sense, no."

"I can hang with that."

"What shall we do for the next while until I can eat and move around again? I feel clingy, and I don't want to spend the whole time bitching at you."

"Let's talk baby plans" suggested Myra.

"What have we not covered yet? Nothing too intense, okay? I'm not up for another circumcision discussion."

"What about names? We can begin picking out names."

"Oh, Myra. Well, let me just be graceless as hell. I want her, or him, to have family names, nothing trendy. But not the names of family members who are still alive."

"Do you really believe evil spirits are hovering around -- " Myra stopped herself. "Okay, I don't care where the tradition comes from, I'm good with it. But that means we can't name our daughter after you."

"Well, I wouldn't want to do that, anyhow. At least not the Virginia part."

"What's wrong with Virginia? I absolutely adore your name, both the original and then Ginny."

"I like Ginny, too. But Virginia? For a Jew? It's like naming a girl Holly or Noel. Just a small indication of my mother's craving for assimilation but not having the guts to actually go all out."

Myra giggled. "I never made that association before. I always just thought of the state."

"I mean, she named my sister Catherine, too. Virginia and Catherine are not names you'd find in the Lodz ghetto." Ginny's voice was unusually bitter.

"But Leah -- that's always been one of my favorite names" said Myra.

"Yeah, that one is luscious. So is Margaret, your middle name, sweetie-pie."

"Yes, it is. Damn. Well, passing over any hint of using your mother's name, there's my mother."

"Mary? Myra, are you on drugs?"

"What about Maryam or Miriam?"

"Sounds like someone playing mahjong on Venice Beach."

Myra giggled again. "Are you going to crank about every name I mention?"

"I don't know, we'll have to see, won't we? And we can't use Jo, because then her name would have 'Jo-Jo' in the middle of it, with your surname attached."

Myra was laughing now. "Jo-Jo and Juju." Ginny finally began giggling.

"Say, Gin, what about Rosa?"

"I'd thought of that. Or maybe just Rose. I'd rather it be a middle name, though. I've always thought of having a girl named something Rose."

"Yeah, I've always thought of having a girl named Margaret Jo. That was before I switched my last name over to Josong."

"Margaret Jo, that is really nice." Ginny sighed again.

"What's your mother's mother's name?" asked Myra.

"Vivian. No way in hell" said Ginny. "What about your grandmothers?"

"Villa and Hettie. I like Hettie but not for a girl in this century."

"Villa? They named a girl Villa?"

"They weren't educated or imaginative people, Ginny. That's my dad's side."

Ginny set her teacup on Myra's desk and turned sideways so she could face at Myra. "Don't look at my zits" she commanded Myra.

"No way around it, Ginny. I am going to look at your face, with love and desire" said Myra firmly. Ginny laid her cheek on Myra's shoulder and said again "Margaret Jo." Then she sat back upright, a sudden gleam in her eyes. "Marjorie! It's like a collapsed version, and it won't create the double Jo!"

"Marjorie Rose" said Myra, with an exhale of admiration. "That's it, that's it."

"Marjorie Rose Bates-Josong" said Ginny.

"Nuh-uh. It's gotta be Josong-Bates" said Myra. "People tend to shorten hyphenated names, and when they do, they drop the first part of the name. I want Bates on there for sure."

"Why does that take precendence over Josong?" said Ginny.

"Because you're supplying the egg, the DNA that's come down from when your people wandered the desert. I insist" said Myra stubbornly.

Ginny looked stubborn, too. "Okay, the first one will be Josong-Bates, but the second one has to be Bates-Josong."

"Siblings with different surnames?"

"Well, we're using different ones -- you've added my name in front of yours and I've done the same. So we'll have one kid with your hyphenated surname, and one with mine. A happy, mixed up family." Ginny grinned.

"Interesting. It will drive your mother right up the wall."

Ginny laughed. "Then that settles it. Marjorie Rose Josong-Bates."

"I hate to bring it up, but that's only half the job done."

"We don't have to do kid number two right -- oops, forgot. What if I have a boy?"


"What was your brother's full name?"

"Gil David."

Ginny's face lit up. "David? Really?"

"Yeah, so I guess that's out, it being your dad's name."

"Well, not if we insist we're naming him after your brother, not Daddy" grinned Ginny.

"A loophole in the Ashkenazic rule?" grinned Myra back. "A sneaky way to get yourself a son with the name David?"

"You said it, not me" said Ginny.

"But you know, Gin, having a second Gil in my life feels a little -- weird" said Myra slowly.

"Was it just Gil? Not Gilbert or something?"

"Just Gil. My mother's father and his father were both named Gil. Somewhere back in my great-greats was the original, a Scot who was actually named Gillam. Then it got shortened to Gil over time."

"Gillam -- that's a gorgeous name. Gillam David" said Ginny softly.

Myra whispered "Gillam David Josong-Bates."

"Or Bates-Josong. Two for two?" said Ginny.

Myra kissed her tenderly. "Oh, Ginny. We're sending our line forward into time. I can hardly believe I'm getting the chance to do this. Thanks to you and your poor occupied body."

"I'm starting to feel better. What were you thinking about making for lunch?" asked Ginny.

"Whatever you want" said Myra.

"Could you do that wild rice with blueberries dish again? And your roasted walnuts and spinach salad? There's spinach in the garden, still."

"Coming up. What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to get my sketch block and draw you while you cook for our Marjorie or Gillam."

Myra shivered, and kissed Ginny again.

July 1988

When Ginny was four months pregnant and showing a bump that made Myra's heart race, Myra came home one day with four enormous shopping bags from the local discount pharmacy and the hardware store. She set them on the dining table and began emptying them out.

"What on earth have you done, Myra?" said Ginny, coming in from her studio.

"All these things are to baby-proof the house. See, these go in electrical outlets, to keep baby fingers out. These doo-hickeys keep cabinet doors from being opened, and this goes on the toilet seat to keep the lid down. This is a radon detector, I just thought, what the hell. And then all this stuff is from a list I found of what a home medicine cabinet ought to have in it to handle any kind of emergency. And this thing is to suck snot out of their little noses, isn't that disgusting?"

Ginny was laughing. "I don't know where you're going to fit all that in our bathroom cabinets."

"I'll find space. Some of it will go upstairs in the baby's bathroom."

Ginny sat down. "Wow. This is really happening, isn't it? The baby's bathroom -- that makes it real in a different way."

"You're the one making it happen, babe. You are the miracle worker."

"Myra, what if you set up that radon detector and it shows the house is full of radon? What then?"

Myra's face fell. "I don't know. But I'll find out."

"Just promise me if someone tries to sell you some magic beans, you'll walk on by."

"First of all, Jack traded the cow for beans, he didn't buy them outright. And look what happened? All good. No way I'm passing up a beanstalk."

Ginny pulled Myra down for a solid kiss. "You're right. Beanstalks R Us."

First week in September 1988 -- a very hot day at the end of summer. Ginny is seven months pregnant with Margie.

Ginny picked at her lunch, eating only some carrot sticks and a piece of toast. She said she didn't really need to throw up, she just felt off, and the heat wasn't helping. Myra began clearing the table, trying to think of something else she could make that would be small and cool but packed with nutrition. Ginny came in the kitchen while she was putting away the pasta and got a glass of water from the sink. When she turned around, Myra put her arms around her and said "What's the main issue? Protein, carbs, fats -- what's the least or most interesting to your gut at the moment?"

Ginny turned her face away from Myra and said, "Oh, god, Myra, your breath. I don't know what to do about how you smell to me." She pushed back from Myra and then walked around her into her studio.

Myra froze. She couldn't think for a long minute. Finally she walked over to the breakfast bar, picked up her keys quietly, and headed for the door. Ginny had gotten to her work table, then turned around and started back for the kitchen. She saw Myra go out the front door and wondered if she was looking for the paper, which had already been delivered and was on the kitchen counter. When she heard the front door lock, she started for it but by the time she got there, Myra had backed the car out and started down the street.

Myra drove first to Volunteer Park. She parked alongside a stretch of green and just stared at her dash for a long time. Eventually she put her cupped hand in front of her mouth and breathed, then sniffed. She did this several times and could not smell anything at all. But clearly Ginny was sick of her. Their chemistry had failed.

Finally she started the car again and, sticking to the quietest streets she could find, she crept around the hill to Queen Ann and Allie's house. Allie's car was out front; thank god.

When she heard Allie coming toward the door after her knock, it suddenly all hit her. She began sobbing, leaning on the door facing, and all but fell in when Allie opened the door.

"Myra! What's up, are you okay?"

"Ginny's sick of me" Myra said.

"Sick of you? What do you mean?"

"She said I stunk, that my breath stunk, and she couldn't handle how I smell any more. She pushed me away and went to hide in her room."

"Myra, are you sure? I mean, that sounds a little crazy."

"She's been increasingly tired of me, won't eat what I fix her, can't sleep at night if I'm beside her, snaps at me for no fucking reason at all. And yes, I'm giving you a direct quote."

"Well -- did you forget to brush your teeth? Maybe it's just a one-time deal." Allie was baffled.

"Will you sniff of my breath and see? I haven't done anything to it since she told me." Myra sucked back her tears and leaned toward Allie.

Allie was not thrilled about this test, but she leaned toward her friend and took a good whiff.

"Nothing. It doesn't smell bad to me -- I can't smell anything at all, actually."

Myra began crying again. "It's the chemistry, it's turned on us. Oh, god, I don't know what I'm going to do. I mean, clearly I have to get out of her house, out of her way. But I can't leave her in the lurch, she's pregnant and I'm responsible for that baby! I'll just have to find some way to support her without being around her. And I guess be a single parent half the time!" Myra leaned back in Allie's chair, consumed with grief.

Allie was having a very hard time making sense of all this. She just didn't believe Ginny was doing what Myra was claiming. Finally she said, putting one hand on Myra's knee "When you don't know what to do, really don't, I always think that's god's way of saying you need to get more help. You need to look for help in a new place. I'm clueless here, this is out of my league. Where could you get help that would be pertinent to this particular issue?"

Myra was trying to follow Allie's line of thought. "You mean like a relationship counselor?"

"I guess. Or maybe someone who knows about pregnancy, or about chemistry."

"I don't know. The only person I know who's had a baby that I could track down is Patty."

"Now that's an idea, Myra. Call Patty, she might know what's going on with Ginny. Maybe she'll talk to you about it. Here, here's my phone -- try her now."

"What if Ginny's talked to her about how much she hates me?" said Myra.

"Then you'll find that out and that will be more information. What could it hurt?" Allie pushed the phone into Myra's hand. Then she went into the kitchen to get Myra a Coke.

Myra dialed Patty's number. She got the message machine, and hung up.

"What happened?" said Allie, setting the Coke in front of her.

"She wasn't there. I didn't want to leave a message. She's at work, anyhow. And I sure don't want to talk to Jughead."

Allie couldn't help laughing. "Well, you can try her back later. You got a plan, that's the thing. You can stay here in the meantime."

Myra picked up the Coke and took a sip. "I feel like I'm gonna die, Allie. I have to keep it together, because of the baby, but I don't know how I will."

"You don't have to know right now. One step at a time. Listen, would you like to watch TV? Lie down on the couch and put a cushion under your head. Here's the remote. I need to go pick up a project I promised to look at this afternoon -- will you be okay for an hour? When I get back, we'll try Patty again." Allie gave her a hug and a thumb's up, then left.

Myra turned on the TV and channel surfed for a while. Mid-afternoon selections were dismal. She heard a strange tone on one station, and finally switched it off in irritation. She didn't realize it was the "hang up your phone" reminder on Allie's phone, because Myra had not pushed the button to disconnect when she'd hung up on Patty. After a few minutes, she was so numb and wretched, she just went to sleep. The afternoon sun blazed into the room.

When Allie got home an hour later, she didn't wake Myra. She decided to wait until Patty would definitely be home, which wouldn't be until after 4:00. She went back to her desk and began work on her project.

At 4:30, she noticed the time and went in to wake Myra. Myra was confused at first, then, when she remembered why she was here, she went deathly pale. Allie picked up the phone and discovered it was dead. "Hey, something's wrong with this" she said, clicking the button. After a pause, the dial tone returned. "Oops, never mind. Here, call Patty."

This time Patty answered. Myra's voice was so low, Patty couldn't tell who it was at first. When she did, she was instantly worried. "What's wrong? Is Ginny okay?"

Myra told her what she had told Allie. Patty laughed and said "Oh, yeah, I remember that stage. Everything smelled like crap, especially the things I'd always loved. It was awful. I hope you didn't really take this seriously -- she can't help it, it'll pass."

"She told me she didn't want to deal with it. She walked away from me. I'm over at Allie's. She hasn't called looking for me; she's glad I'm out of there, Patty."

"That just doesn't sound right to me, Myra. Have you tried calling her?"

"No. I've been asleep."

"Well, call her and see what's up. Call me back if you need to, or if you need me to talk with her."

"Okay." Myra pushed the button, then dialed home. The phone rang until the machine picked up. Ginny didn't answer, and Myra hung up instead of leaving a message. She didn't want to beg.

Allie watched this and said "You need to go home. You need to go deal with this. What did Patty say?"

"She said it was a stage of pregnancy, the smell thing. She laughed about it."

"Well, there you go. Ginny may be out looking for you. You need to find her and the two of you talk, for god's sake."

"Can I come back here if she's really throwing me out?"

Allie laughed. "I'll believe it when I see it. Now go. You smell fine, you dimwit."

Myra drove home just as slowly as she had gone to Allie's. Ginny's car was in the carport. The house had no lights on. She felt sick with dread as she put her key in the door and opened it; she didn't want to have to face Ginny asking her to leave.

When she opened the door, she saw Ginny lying on the floor next to the foyer wall. She was struggling to sit up, calling Myra's name. Myra dropped her keys and ran to Ginny, saying "Oh, god, darling, did you fall? How long have you been here?"

Ginny looked a little rumpled and disoriented. "Where have you been? Why did you leave me? I didn't know where you were. I tried to call everybody I knew, but nobody answered and Allie's phone was just a busy signal, for hours."

"Ginny, can you stand up? Are you injured?"

"I finally came in here and lay on the couch, but it was too hot in the sunlight. I thought it looked cool over here, in the shadow, on the tile floor. So I came over here and laid down, with a pillow from the couch. When I laid at an angle against the wall, it took all the pressure off my back and bladder, and it was so comfortable. I guess I went to sleep. I knew if you came back I'd hear you right away. Why did you leave me? I was really scared, Myra." Ginny began crying.

Myra sat down on the floor and put her arms around Ginny cautiously. "You told me to leave, Ginny. You told me I stunk and you couldn't stand me any more. I've been out of my mind, trying to figure out how to deal with it."

Ginny wailed "I never said that! I said your breath smelled bad to me, and I didn't know how to deal with it -- how could your breath smell bad, when I love your mouth so much? What's wrong with me, what's happening to me? I said I didn't know what to do, and you just stood there, and I started walking around because my back was bunching up again, and when I got back you'd just walked out. You left me alone with it, with everything!"

"Oh, god, Ginny. I think we really missed the boat on this one. I thought you were throwing me out."

"I would never do that, Myra. I love you more than anything, and especially now, I am so fucking fucked up, I don't know what all is happening to my body, I'm starting to feel helpless and if you don't help me, I don't know what I'll do!" Ginny was in full sobbing now.

"Shhh, it's okay, I'm here, I'm always going to be here. Well, unless you throw me out, and now, after today, I might not even listen to you if you do that. I'm your girl, Ginny. I'm sorry I misunderstood, I'm so sorry."

"How could you think I'd throw you out? Even if your breath really did smell, I'd just ask you to brush your teeth, you moron."

"It hit deeper than that, Ginny. I thought our chemistry has disappeared."

"You moron, you're such a moron" said Ginny, crying and laughing at the same time. "Where did you go all this time?"

"I went to Allie's -- well, first I went to the park, then to Allie's. She didn't know what to do, but said I needed to get help. I thought of Patty and I tried to call her, but she wasn't home. So I went to sleep on Allie's couch. I think maybe I'm the one who disconnected her phone. Then finally I got Patty and she said she remembered having this same problem when she was pregnant, the smell thing. Then Allie told me to come home."

"Don't you ever leave again without me knowing where you are. Promise me, Myra."

"I promise. Oh, Ginny, I want to kiss you, but I guess I need to go brush my teeth first."

"Come here, you fucking moron" demanded Ginny, and she pulled Myra's mouth onto her, kissing her hard. "It's my smeller that's fucked up, not you! Why would you even think that -- oh, I get it. It's class shit, isn't it?"

Myra stared at her. "Well, hell."

"Oh, honey, no wonder you want all stupid on me. You thought I was calling you the stinky little poor girl, didn't you? Oh, sweetheart, as if that could ever happen." Ginny began kissing her again, and Myra finally responded.

After a while, Myra said "Let's get you up off this floor."

"Yeah, I'm kinda worried about being able to manage that" said Ginny. "Here, you stand in front of me and let me pull myself up on you -- ooof, okay, whew. My god, look how dark it is. No wonder I'm ravenous. Do we have any of those crab cakes left?

"I'm sure we do, but can you eat them now?"

"I fucking don't know, Myra, I'll just have to try. You're just going to have to hang with me, honey. Right now I want crab cakes and peanut butter and some of that grilled asparagus from last night. And a banana."

"Okay, let's get you a plate."

"Just hand me the jar of peanut butter while you're warming up the crab cakes, okay?"

Ginny dredged her forefinger through the nut butter and plopped it into her mouth. "Oh, yum, that really hits the spot."

Myra bustled, getting the rest of Ginny's requests ready. She poured her a glass of lemonade which Ginny gulped halfway down, then began picking up food from the plate Myra had set in front of her, ignoring the fork in favor of using her fingers. "Aren't you going to eat with me?" she said with her mouth full.

"Yeah, I'm just not sure what I want. Not asparagus with peanut butter and banana, I know that much. Is it going to ick you out if I make something for me?"

"No meat. Nothing with a strong meat smell. Otherwise, give it a try."

Myra sliced a big ripe tomato and reached into the fridge for bread and cheese. When she got back to the cutting board, two slices of tomato were gone and Ginny was grinning at her.

"Need more? There's another tomato" said Myra, grinning back.

"No, that's enough. I'm going to look away while you smear mayonnaise on that bread. Tell me when it's all together."

"Okay, you can look now. I'm going to have a glass of milk with this, do you want any?"

"Yes, a small glass sounds good."

Myra sat down at the breakfast bar next to Ginny and let herself thrill to how well Ginny was eating. Ginny got full, and sat back in satisfaction.

"Do you need to call Allie?" said Ginny suddenly. "Do I need to call Patty?"

"Oh, shit. Patty's okay, she just laughed at me, but yeah, I'm sure Allie's wondering what's up."

"You eat, I'll call her. We can talk about what a moron you are" giggled Ginny.

After she got off the phone, as Myra was finishing cleaning the kitchen, she said "Now I'm all hot again. I think eating turns up my thermostat, I have no stability any more. I'm going to run a cool bath in the tub and sit in it for a while."

"Okay. I'll feed the animals and -- do you want me to come in there?"

"Only if you brush your teeth. Just joking, Myra. Of course come in, you can wash my back."

Myra wound up washing her hair and her chest as well as her back. Then she helped Ginny out of the tub -- Ginny was really starting to have trouble managing certain moves -- and dried her off tenderly. Ginny crawled into bed, pushing away the quilt and lying on the sheets in the dark room. "Ahhh. This feels good. Except -- I can't lie on my back more than a minute any more, it starts hurting. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I'm going to have to sleep on my side for the next two months, I think, Myra."

"I'll lie on my back and you can prop that baby up on me, lay your head on my shoulder" said Myra.

"Come show me. Oh, that's nice. Except you're so hot. Take off your clothes, Myra."

Myra laughed. "That will not cool either one of us down."

"I know, you moron. I can't believe how horny I am all the time. I mean, the book said some women do have that reaction to the hormones, but most just go off sex. But not me. I want you every day, at least once."

"And this is a problem -- how?" Myra lay back down, naked, next to Ginny.

"Mmm. Your breasts fit perfectly in my hands, have you ever noticed that? I'll suck on yours if you'll suck on mine."

"We'll have to take turns, Ginny, given the position."

"Do you really want me, Myra, or are you just being nice to me?"

"For fuck's sake, Ginny -- when have I ever said no to you? When have I ever not wanted you?"

"But it could happen now, with my body occupied by an alien and not behaving anything like it's supposed to..."

"Not a chance. Now you're the one being a moron. Here, you stay on your side and I'm going to take a turn on your breasts."

"Oh, god, Myra, that's it, that's what I needed. I want your mouth down on me, sweetheart -- what you are doing?"

"Put this wedge pillow thing between your knees, that way I won't suffocate."

"Oh, yes, Myra, oh keep going, this ache is so intense.....Ahh, aaahhh -- oh, shit, Myra, I'm sorry. Oh my fucking god."

Myra had rolled over on her back and was shrieking in hysterics, hardly able to draw breath before the next spasm of laughter.

"Myra, I had no idea I needed to fart, I swear, it just blew out of me, oh, fuck, sweetheart, right into your nostrils, wasn't it? Oh god, please tell me you don't hate me!"

Myra, gasping, said "I -- don't -- hate -- you. Ginny, that was the funniest thing ever. I am having the time of my goddamned life with you, Ginny Bates. Let go, let yourself see how fucking funny that just was!"

Ginny began giggling. "Well, I am officially out of control. You poor angel."

"Ginny, I'll tell you something if you promise to never, ever tease me about it."

"For real?"

"For real. Okay -- I don't think your farts smell bad. I really don't mind them at all. Not before you got pregnant, and not now that you are popping like a string of firecrackers all day long, every time you bend over. In fact, when I go in the bathroom after you've taken a dump? -- I don't mind that smell either. It smells familiar, and homy. I actually think you're shit don't stink." Myra was still laughing.

"Oh, honey -- and here this same day I told you you had bad breath! I don't know if I deserve you, Myra." Ginny sounded like she might cry again.

"Of course you do, Ginny. You went out and found me, found exactly the right match for you. You would not've gotten pregnant with me if you weren't sure of me, you're way too sensible to make that kind of romantic bonehead move. You deserve me and I deserve you, and let's just have a good time with it when we can."

"Okay. Are you willing to go back down on me?"

"Let me laugh just a little more."

"Here, I'll kiss you while you laugh. Oh, Myra, your forehead smells like my fart, you poor darling."

"Nothing poor about me, Ginny Bates. Now, where's that pillow?"

At eight months, Ginny was peeing so often, she cut back on how much she drank in hopes of having to go to the bathroom less frequently. She didn't tell Myra about this strategy. A week later, Myra woke up in the morning to the sound of Ginny groaning in the bathroom. She was out of bed in a flash.

"Ginny? What's wrong?"

"Oh, fucking hell, Myra, my ass is hurting. I just crapped and it feels like I'm on fire back there. It hurts so bad I want to cry." Ginny was pale.

"Here, let me help you up. Sounds like hemorrhoids. I got 'em once on a long camping trip. Don't sit on the pot any more than you have to. Come in here, lay down on the bed and let me have a look."

"Hell, Myra. I'm not sure I wiped good enough."

"Okay, hand me the wet wipes."

Ginny was crimson with embarrassment. She pulled over a pillow and buried her face in it, lying on her side. She could feel Myra gently parting her buttocks.

"Yeah, it's a 'rroid, honey. Not a big one, but I know it must hurt like hell."

"What do I do?" said Ginny. "Do I need to go to the doctor?"

"Hang on, I think there's something in my pharmacy buy-out for this. See, I told you it was a good idea."

Myra came back from the bathroom with two items. "These are medicated pads, which I'm going to wipe on your little butthole, they should be soothing right away."

"God, yes."

"And then there's good old Preparation H. Needs to be applied a few times a day, or any time it's hurting. Just relax, honey."

"Myra, how will you ever see me as an erotic object again after this?"

"Oh, Ginny, don't be silly. Your hotness is not detracted from by physical ailments."

"Bet you never see my ass the same way."

"No, every new memory just adds to how close we are, Ginny. How is that, feel better?"

"It does. I'm not sure I can reach that area any more, Myra. I think you're going to have to be my -- applicator."

"No problem. Just ask me. Listen, Gin, you need to drink a lot more water, because constipation can cause this. And I bet it's related to your eating so much more dairy, now that you can't have fish. Maybe we can switch some of your daily protein over to chicken or turkey or, even dare I say it, beef, instead of mostly cheese and beans. Keep all the milk, you need the calcium, and the yogurt, of course. And up the greens, especially spinach."

Ginny told her how she had cut back on liquids.

"Well, better you should have to carry around a little bucket to pee in than risk making this worse, that's my opinion, Ginny. I'm going to wash my hands. You lie there and let your woo-woo calm down. I'll come back and kiss you and whisper sweet nothings in a minute."

("Mothers", painting by Alice Neel)

27 November 1988

When they got up on Sunday, Ginny said "I'm a little crampy, keep needing to pee. I wonder if I've got another bladder infection trying to start up."

"Crampy where?" asked Myra

"Not my uterus, honey. And we're out of cranberry juice."

"I'll go get us some."

"No, Myra, let's just go out for breakfast. I'm tired of turkey, I'm restless, I don't want to lie around all day. We can get some juice on the way home."

They got dressed and went to Ginny's favorite brunch place. As soon as they were seated, however, she had to go pee again. She peed in the middle of the meal, and then just before they left. She ordered cranberry juice with her meal, but Myra was started to get worried and asked if they needed to find an open clinic.

"No -- I'm not running a fever. If I'm not better tomorrow, I'll call my doctor."

Myra ran into Rainbow and picked up two bottles of juice while Ginny waited in the car. They were only a couple of blocks from home when Ginny said "Oh, hell, I think I'm pissing myself."

"You can't hold it in?" said Myra.

"There's a trickle coming out of me. I'm not using my bladder muscles, though, it's weird" said Ginny.

"Could it be your water breaking?" said Myra, her voice excited.

"It's not a gush, it's not like something flooding out. But it won't stop" said Ginny.

"Oh, god, this is it!" said Myra. "All that peeing today, and the cramps -- I think this is it!" She pulled into their driveway.

Ginny looked at her in amazement. "I think so, too. Oh, Myra, what do we do?"

"We go to the hospital. If it is your water breaking, you could give birth any time within the next 24 hours. If it's not, then something's up with your bladder and we need to know."

"Within 24 hours...Myra, I am suddenly terrified." Ginny's face was all Myra could look at.

"I will be with you every second. But yeah, you'll be the one on the roller coaster, love of my life, and you absolutely can do this. Ginny, stay in the car, I don't want you standing up right now" said Myra.

Ginny laughed. "It's not gonna drop out of me and bounce down the sidewalk" she said.

Myra had to close her eyes against this image. Her hands and feet were icy. She said, willing herself calm "I'm going to go in and get your bag. I won't be but a second."

"Myra -- called Dr. Desai, get her. And the hospital" said Ginny as Myra got out of the car. The air was phenomenally cold as she sprinted to the front door. She had trouble opening it, then once inside, she looked around for a second, thinking "Next time we come home, it will be with our baby." She had to close her eyes and breathe again.

The animals -- we could be gone for days she thought. She ran to the pantry, got Alice's bag of cat food and dashed over to the sideboard in the dining room where they kept Alice's bowl so Juju couldn't get at it. Alice's usual bowl was way too small. She grabbed the blue willow bowl they used to serve mashed potatoes in from the shelf beside her and filled it to the brim with cat food, emptying the bag. She picked up the water bowl and ran into the kitchen to refill it at the sink, knocking over a dining chair on the way and hastily setting it back upright behind her.

Instead of taking Alice's water bowl back to the sideboard, Myra left it on the breakfast bar. Alice was sitting on the dining room table, watching with keen interest. She looked back and forth between her food bowl and her water bowl, sensing the separation as a potential booby trap. She craned her neck around the room, trying to find where the danger would swoop down on her.

Myra reached down to the floor at the end of the breakfast bar and grabbed Juju's bowls. She dropped the water bowl into the sink and grabbed a big mixing bowl out of the cabinet -- Juju was too short to drink from the toilet if she ran low. Myra ran a gallon of water into the bowl and set it down on the floor next to the stove, spilling a little on the flagstone. She reached into the dishwasher for a bigger food bowl, coming up with a Tupperware salad crisper. She set this on the floor next to the cabinet and poured food into it until it almost overflowed. Juju sat in the hall, staring at Myra in frank concern.

Myra ran around the breakfast bar and pulled out the Baby Notebook, flipping it open to find the phone numbers she needed. She called Dr. Desai first and got her receptionist. "I'm calling for Ginny Josong-Bates, we're going into labor!" she said.

"Dr. Desai is currently in surgery" the woman began.

"Listen, just take down the name and tell her as soon as possible to meet us at the hospital. If she's not there in time, she'll fucking get replaced" said Myra and hung up. Then she dialed the hospital and got patched through to the birthing center.

"My partner's water just broke, we think, and we're heading in" said Myra.

"Do you have a reservation for the birthing center?" said the woman on the line.

"We do, but it's not until next week, but they said we could come in when we needed to" said Myra.

"What's the name?"

"Ginny -- I mean, Virginia Josong-Bates. That's J-O-then song, then Bates. No, her name is not Jo Song-Bates. Her name is Virginia, that's her first name, then Josong, spelled J-O-S-O-N-G -- not, it's not Chinese. Then hyphen, then Bates. It's a hyphenated name, my god, it's not 1965, surely you've encountered a hyphenated surname by now! Yes, I already acknowledged our appointment is for next week, but sister, this fucking baby is NOT aware of your fucking schedule, and we are on our way in!" Myra hung up the phone. She picked up the notebook, stuck it into the front flap of her overalls, and tried to think.

The bag! She rushed around the corner of the breakfast bar, her foot connecting perfectly with Juju's food bowl in a field-goal kick that sent kibble up into the air all the way against the wall of the hall, then outward in beautiful arc. Juju ran franctically ahead of the Science Diet shrapnel. They would find stray pellets of dog food for years in various spots around the middle of the house.

As Myra was registering what was occuring, her right foot slipped on the overflow from the water bowl and she went down on her ass like a Douglas fir felled in the forest. The water bowl flipped over neatly between her outspead legs, soaking her crotch and ass. She lay for a few seconds, moaning at the impact, then dragged herself back up and held onto the counter as she refilled the water bowl. She left the kibble -- she was frantic about the time and surely Juju could eat her food off the damned floor.

After putting down the water bowl down and once safely away from the drenched flagstone, she bolted for the door and got to the car as Ginny was starting to get out on her side. "What the hell have you been doing?" said Ginny. She looked at Myra more closely. "Did you wee on yourself?" she asked incredulously.

Myra was starting to wheeze. "No -- accident" she gasped. She fished her inhaler out of a pocket and used it. "Got the notebook" she breathed, and opened the car door to toss it on the dash.

"I'm going in, I want to change" said Ginny. "No, Myra, I can walk just fine, I'm not Doris Day and you are not James Garner."

Myra followed her into the house. Ginny looked at the scene in the kitchen. "Fed the animals" Myra said, still short of breath. Juju was nowhere to be seen. Ginny had to sit down suddenly, she was laughing so hard. "Oh, god, it feels different inside me. This baby has moved" Ginny said, still laughing.

Myra knelt in front of her, as if she might be required to catch something.
"Sweetheart, you need to take a chill pill" Ginny grinned, deliberately using Allie's phrase. She leaned forward awkwardly and kissed Myra's forehead.

"Oh, shit, I didn't call Allie!" said Myra.

"Well, you do that and I'm going to change. I see the bag is still by the bedroom door. You need to change, too, Myra, before we go anywhere public. Just keep breathing -- isn't that your line? -- and let's enjoy this part of our adventure."

After changing, Ginny went ahead of Myra to the car, carrying her bag despite Myra's protests. Myra forgot to close their bedroom door, which gave Juju and Alice a chance to spend several days sleeping on Myra's pillows. The dining chair Myra had knocked over was set back up at just the perfect spot for Juju to jump up on it, then leap to the sideboard, which allowed her to empty Alice's cat food bowl before they returned. Alice was furious about it, and got very hungry but refused to eat any of Juju's kibble broadcast throughout the main rooms. Myra forgot to open the pet door to the backyard when she locked up, so Juju, with a case of diarrhea brought on the rich cat food, tried to keep her deposits mostly to the newspaper left on the floor beside Myra's desk.

Ginny let Myra drive to the hospital but only if she promised to focus clearly on the road. "Don't look at me, you're gonna have lots of opportunities to do that once we get there" she warned. She did allow Myra to drop her off at the entrance nearest Labor and Delivery while Myra went to park.

When Myra got into the waiting area, Ginny was still filling out forms. "As far as I can tell, I'm not having identifiable labor pains yet, so I'm not a rush item, apparently. Will you pull out the notebook, I need some information from there."

As Ginny went to turn in the forms, Allie showed up. "That was fast" said Myra.

"How is she?"

"The same. She claims she's not having labor pains, but she keeps wincing and says her back is aching intermittently."

"Hey, Gin." Allie gave her a good hug. "About ready to not be a cargo hold for a while?"

Ginny laughed. Myra stood up and said "I'm going to go call your family, Patty, Sima and Chris, and anybody else you want me to."

Ginny reached into her pack and pulled out her change bag. "Tell them I'm okay, Myra. Seriously."

"I'll stay here, keep Ginny entertained" said Allie.

"No, I'll do the entertaining. Wait till you hear about how Myra reacted when my water started breaking..." Ginny began.

Myra walked quickly to the pay phone. She called Cathy first and got her at home. When she talked about the details of Ginny's symptoms, Cathy said "Yeah, that's labor. She just doesn't want it to be. She'll eventually wish it was all like that. But it could be tomorrow before she delivers. I'm going to check into flights."

"You don't have to do that, you know, Cathy" said Myra.

"Yes I do. I'm not going to miss this. Don't worry about picking me up, I can get a cab. But please be sure to call me if you go back home. Do you want me to call Mom and Dad?"

"Yeah, that would be great. Do you suppose Helen will finally make the trip to Seattle to see her newborn granddaughter?"

Cathy sighed and said "I'll do my best. Give me the name and phone number of the hospital again, I've got paper handy."

Myra left messages with both Patty and Sima. Hefting the change purse in her hand and thinking about where to get more if she needed it, she started back for the waiting area. When she got there, she felt cold when she saw only Allie.

"Where is she?" she asked.

"They brought out a wheelchair and took her on back, saying something about getting her examined. I waited here for you. It's around the corner -- "

Myra had taken off at a dead run. Allie yelled at her back "MYRA!"

Myra stopped and looked around, still in mid step. Allie walked up level with her.

"A huge wild-eyed lesbian galloping through the halls of a hospital is just asking to be brought down with a tranquilizer gun" said Allie. "Walk with me like a normal person and you'll get there faster."

Myra took a breath, then fished out her inhaler as she began following Allie. The room Allie took her to no longer had Ginny in it -- the nurse said they had taken her elsewhere and gave them directions. Reversing some of their steps, they finally opened a maroon door and found Ginny, already in a gown, sitting on the edge of a bed with a scared look. As soon as she saw Myra, relief flooded her face and she reached out a hand. Myra had Ginny leaning on her in an instant.

"What took you so long?" she said.

"It was only ten minutes, Ginny" said Myra. Suddenly she was calm and confident. "How's it going?"

"I am in labor, after all. The contractions are ten minutes apart, they say. But I want you to time them. It's not bad; I can handle this. But they want to put a monitor on the baby's head." Her voice went up in worry on the last sentence.

Myra squeezed her. "That's SOP, Ginny, absolutely not gonna hurt our little eggplant in there. Think of it as a kinda of phone line from her to us out here -- she'll be telling us how fast her heart is beating, if she's having a hard time, and we'll know right away."

Ginny looked a little better. Allie was amazed at how instantly they could switch roles -- if Ginny was in trouble, Myra became the hero, and vice versa at the blink of an eye.

Myra put the change purse into her own pack and said "You want some ice chips? Might as well find out where they are around here."

"Don't leave me again" said Ginny. "I mean it."

"Okay, I won't."

Allie said "I'll go look for ice." She picked up the cup on the bedside table and walked out.

"I talked with Cathy, she's going to call your folks. She's on her way, sooner or later."

"I'm really glad, Myra. But everything goes through you from me, okay?"

"That's the plan. Do you want to lie back? Oh, never mind, here comes the monitor, I think."

Following the tech into the room was Dr. Desai, short and grinning. "Hi, Ginny, Myra. Let's find out if this is real or a false alarm."

Ginny got into stirrups and Dr. Desai did an exam. "Yes, you've passed your mucus plug and you're almost 2 cm dilated. Once we get the monitor on and get a reading, I can tell you more."

Myra stood leaned against the head of the bed and kept her eyes on Ginny's face. Ginny's hand was wrapped between her two. She kept murmuring to Ginny "Doing great, my amazon, my best girl. You are so beautiful right now, and so strong. Everything's okay."

Dr. Desai said the fetal heart rate was "reassuring", which was exactly how it felt to Myra to hear that. She asked again if Ginny wanted to have an epidural, and Ginny said not yet, not if she could help it. Allie came back just as they were moving Ginny to the actual birthing room. "The ice better be closer to the new digs than it was to here" she said. She put a chip in Ginny's mouth.

The suite was impressive, with several chairs, a couch, and a little rollaway bed at the far end, in addition to the big birthing bed. Myra opened the drapes and they had a gorgeous view of the Sound. Everyone got introduced to the nurses and techs who would be on shift for the next several hours. At one point, Dr. Desai said quietly to Myra "My receptionist said you swore at her."

"I'm really sorry, I don't remember but I apologize sincerely. Please tell her I was a little nuts at that time, she didn't deserve it."

Dr. Desai looked at her keenly. "Are you over being nuts?"

"Permanently. I'm here for Ginny."


Allie said "I'm going to reconnoiter, so I can be the authority on where to find ice, vending machines, phones, and the cafeteria. Plus I need to pee."

"There's a bathroom right there" said one of the nurses, pointing to a door on one wall.

Myra walked over to look at it with Allie. "Sweet. There's even a tub, Ginny" she said, coming back. Allie came back after a while with a thumb's up signal. She had a Coke and a newspaper. "You're going to read?" said Myra, a little surprised.

"No -- this may be the edition of your daughter's birthday" said Allie, giving her a little punch. She let Myra have some Coke.

Ginny was hooked up to an IV with normal saline. In a few minutes, Myra nudged Ginny and said "Let's talk a walk. Walking will help." Side by side, Myra pulling the IV pole, they strolled a square of hallways through the birthing center and hospital, chatting about the nurses they'd just met and always returning to Ginny's body, how she was feeling at the moment. They continued to do this intermittently over the next two hours, walking through contractions that were slowly gathering intensity, like watching a hurricane blow in on a sunny day.

After a couple of hours, Sima and Chris showed up. By that time, when Ginny had a contraction she was not chatting her way through it; instead, her face got serious and she tried to change position but never found anything that helped. Myra had her Casio out and was timing everything, sitting halfway behind Ginny, talking to her softly. After a contraction passed, Myra wiped Ginny's face with a towel -- just light beads of moisture -- and Ginny gave hugs to her friends. They stayed for half an hour, not saying much. Chris always had a tendency to panic in hospitals, and she had warned Ginny and Myra both that she could not be counted on except in an absolute emergency. Before they left, Pat and Patty arrived also. Pat had Truitt in a carrier on her chest. Patty sat down on the other side of the bed and held Ginny's other hand. She spoke to her quietly and Ginny was able to listen to her.

Pat, though, talked loudly and authoritatively about her expertise with Truitt's birth, and everyone else in the room worked hard at not hearing her. After a few minutes, Sima and Chris left, promising to come back the next day, asking Myra to call with any news. As they walked out, Allie stood up and asked Pat to show her where the vending machines were. One of the nurses grinned as Pat escorted Allie to the door.

"What do you think, Patty?" asked Myra. "You can say the truth."

"It looks good to me, but I'm only someone who's had a baby" replied Patty.

"That's more than any of us" said Myra. "At least for now." She grinned at Ginny, who said "Here comes another one" in an urgent tone. Myra clicked her watch button. After it was over, she kissed Ginny's cheek and said "They seem to be six minutes apart right now."

Patty said "Once they get -- harder, and more often, she's not going to be able to think about anything at all outside her body. She can hear instructions and will do anything that might help relieve what's going on, but otherwise the rest of the world won't exist. Except for you, if you can stay connected with her. You need to not bring anything at all to her to deal with. I don't care what happens out here, you focus on her and her alone."

"Her and the baby" said Myra.

"No. Just her. The medical staff will focus on the baby. You can't really help there. But you are Ginny's umbilical cord, so to speak. After the baby is born, you can shift attention to her, too. Not before, no matter what happens."

Myra looked at Patty's intense face and said "I got it." She felt scared for Ginny, but not for herself. Ginny leaned her head on Patty's shoulder for a minute. "Thanks" she whispered.

"Well, I need to get Truitt home, a hospital is no place for a baby" Patty laughed. "And you all could use Allie back in here, I know. If this turns out to be something other than the normal delivery it looks like right now, call me immediately. I will leave Truitt with Pat at home alone if need be. And you can also call me just to ask questions, for what little I know."

"You already helped a lot" said Myra. Patty gave Myra a long hug and said "It's the most amazing thing in the world, Ginny. You're gonna be so unbelievably happy." Ginny's eyes filled with tears.

When Allie returned, she said "They've got you hooked up to your dinner, Ginny, but I'm getting hungry, Myra. How's about you?"

"Not especially, but I need to eat. If you'll make a run -- get whatever they might have in the way of whole grains, beans, plus another chunk of serious protein. No smelly meat. Broccoli and carrots, for sure. Milk plus juice."

"No Cokes?"

"Not at this point." Another contraction started and Myra forgot about anything except Ginny.

Dr. Desai returned for another exam. She said Ginny was beginning transition, which was when the baby shifted position and some other things occurred, Myra didn't register the details because she was watching Ginny's face. Ginny was beginning to look freaked out. Dr. Desai said transition could be difficult but was usually brief. Ginny said she felt sick to her stomach and like she might pass out. Nurses responded, but Myra held her position beside Ginny. Allie returned with food after a while and just sat at the far end of the room, eating slowly.

Ginny's transition turned out to last two hours. By the end, she was exhausted and weepy. And getting past this stage meant she was heading into all-out labor. During a breather, Myra said "I really need to pee, honey." Ginny held onto her hand and looked at her with an unreadable expression. Finally she said "After the next contraction."

Which was 45 seconds later. Allie came over and took Myra's place as Myra raced to the bathroom. Despite her hurry, Ginny was breathing hard and starting to lean forward again as Myra got back to her. Ginny grabbed her and said "Oh, god, Myra, I don't know about this." There was a clear note of panic in her voice.

Once Myra coached her through that contraction, she said "Think about Rosa, Ginny. She did this twice without anesthetic, without much help at all. She was built like you, she was younger and much less experienced than you. You can channel her."

Ginny nodded and asked for an ice chip.

An hour later, just past 10 p.m., Cathy and David walked in the door. Ginny was in the middle of a contraction and gasped but couldn't say anything. Allie grabbed David in a hug and introduced herself to Cathy, but Cathy zeroed in on Ginny. Dropping her purse and coat on the floor, she sat down beside Ginny, facing her, and said "I'm here, I'm all yours." At the end of the contraction, Ginny began crying, hanging onto Cathy and then her dad. Allie moved their luggage and belongings out of the way. Myra said "Gin? I'm going to stay here in the room, but I'm leaving you to them for ten minutes, okay?" Ginny nodded reluctantly. Myra walked down to the couch and checked out the dinner Allie had brought her three hours earlier. Allie had gotten a bowl of ice and kept her drinks cold.

"I'm afraid the rice and beans are room temperature. So is the brox" said Allie.

"I don't care, it looks great" said Myra. She wolfed down the meal, never looking away from Ginny. Six minutes later, she took another bathroom break, brushed her teeth, and bustled back to Ginny's side. Ginny leaned against her heavily. Her face was both flushed and drained.

David moved to the foot of the bed but was pushed gently aside by a nurse. Finally he went and sat down next to Allie.

"I wasn't in the room when Cathy had her kids" he said. "And for sure I wasn't when Helen had ours, she had cesarian sections."

"I've never seen a birth either" said Allie. "Let's be buddies for this, okay?"

He shook her hand, smiling wanly.

By 11 p.m., Ginny was in a zone that reminded Myra of Painterland with extreme pain. The sounds coming out of Ginny during the worst contractions seemed to dig into Myra's flesh. However, Patty's admonition stuck in her head, and she refused to pay attention to anything but Ginny. "Me and you, Ginny Bates" she said inside her head and sometimes out loud. She was so close to Ginny that she could tell some changes Ginny was experiencing by how her muscles pushed against Myra. Cathy was on the other side, just as calm and encouraging as Myra. Myra was beginning to fall a little in love with Ginny's sister; they were quite a lineage.

Later, it wasn't just Ginny who couldn't clearly remember the last two hours. Myra also experienced it as a fog of being in the intense moment, with Ginny in near agony. Ginny held out against pain medications or anything except Pitocin and ice chips. They changed her position, they rubbed her back and calves and anything they could reach. Myra kept Ginny's face and neck wiped off, and ice chips in her mouth when she could close her mouth against the pain.

At Ginny's earlier request, Allie had set up their video camera on a tripod, and at this point she kept a tape running continously. Ginny kept progressing, slowly and arduously. "You are my hero" whispered Myra, "You are so tough, all those Kegels are paying off, I am so proud of you, you are meant to be this baby's mother".

When Dr. Desai said "Crowning", Ginny screamed and Myra's heart seized up for a moment. "Ginny, Ginny" she thought. She looked only at Ginny. Allie told her later she and David were standing out of the way but near enough to see Margie's head squeeze through Ginny's cervix. She said she'd never look at Ginny the same way again. David was hanging onto her arm so hard she realized she was helping hold him up.

Margie had wide shoulders that almost snagged in the birth canal, but Dr. Desai moved Ginny and then pushed on her stomach in a way that shocked Myra, and the nurse said "Shoulder's free". Dr. Desai returned to between Ginny's legs and Myra kept watching Ginny's face. Ginny's breathing was frightening, rough and hard and focused all at the same time. Then something in Ginny's body shifted, her whole body shifted, and she grinned like a baboon, wide and feral, breathing out with a push and another scream. Right after that, Dr. Desai said "Myra? Myra? We need you to cut the cord."

She let go of Ginny's hand and Ginny let her go, leaning over onto Cathy with a grunt. Myra moved to her right and looked at where Dr. Desai was looking. The cord was a lot bigger than she had expected, and her hands were shaking as she pushed the odd-shaped scissors together. Then she looked up the cord, and there was a baby girl, covered in multicolored goo and opening her mouth wide to scream. All of her was jerking, her tiny arms and legs. She looked furious, and whole, and red underneath the goo.

Myra went back to Ginny, saying "She's beautiful, oh my god, she's beautiful." Within seconds, they had placed her on Ginny's chest, and they both stared at her. Margie was flushed and clearly unfamiliar with how to have a straight back or room to swing her arms. Ginny started crying with an incandescent smile on her face. Her hair was completely soaked and dark, and she was still having to gasp for breath, but she cupped her hand behind Margie's head and said "You're here, I waited for you all my life, my angel".

They took Margie away to be checked and weighed and other things Myra didn't watch. While they had her baby out of reach, Dr. Desai delivered the placenta and put it in a container. Myra and Ginny had asked for it, so they could plant it under a tree in the back yard for Margie's birth. She also stitched up two tears that had occurred during the birth, one at the bottom of Ginny's vaginal opening and another at the upper right that extended just a fraction to the labia. Ginny didn't register any pain at this point.

They brought Margie back soon, wrapped and not covered in goo. They put her in Ginny's arms, facing Myra, and Myra stopped looking at Ginny's face any more. Margie's eyes were closed, and one side of her head was a little mashed. Her hair was dark and scanty. Despite the ordeal she had just worked her way through, it was clear to Myra from her features that she was almost a dead ringer for Ginny.

She could feel David behind her, but she couldn't bring herself to move aside yet. She leaned in over Ginny, filling her view with Margie. Ginny was still crying lightly, but also crooning something in Yiddish. She heard Cathy join in for a bit.

Then Ginny pulled Margie right up to her face and said "Hi, Marjorie Rose. It's me, your Mama." Margie tried to open her eyes. Myra knew from her reading that Margie couldn't focus much, only from 6 to 12 inches, but she was trying to see -- she knew that voice. Ginny kissed her forehead, both cheeks, and her chin. She turned and kissed Myra, and handed Margie to her. "This is your Mama, too" she whispered.

In all her life, Myra had never felt anything comparable. Her heart was racing, and Margie fit her arms perfectly, as if they had been designed for this one thing. She said "I'm going to love you every second of your life, Marjorie Rose. It's a glorious world out here, and we're going to show you every last beautiful scrap of it we can."

Margie's expression kept changing from second to second, as if she was trying out each muscle in her face. Margie kissed her the same way Ginny had, and Ginny reached for her back. It was hard for Myra to let go, even to Ginny. She lay her cheek against Ginny's so they had the same view of Margie.

Dr. Desai said to them "She was born at 3:14 a.m. on November 28, 1988. Her weight is 7 pounds 5 ounces, length 19.5 centimeters, Apgars 9 and 9. Great job, Ginny. If all continues to go like this, you'll be able to take her home day after tomorrow."

After a while, Ginny could bear to let David, Cathy and Allie have turns at holding Margie. Margie had dozed off by the time she got to Allie. Allie's expression was something Myra had never seen before. That's when she finally starting crying, watching Allie look down at her daughter with adoration. She lay down on the bed next to Ginny and cried for a while. Ginny was too tired to even look at her, but that was fine, anything Ginny ever did was going to be fine from now on. She had just made a new human being. Myra was never going to get over that.

The nurse offered to put Margie in the bassinet and move it next to the bed so she could sleep. Myra and Ginny said in unison "No."

Myra explained "We're not going to put her down for the first 24 hours of her life. We want her to be held in somebody's arms the whole time, so her first day of life is one of complete love and support, no separation."

"Count in for shifts" said Allie. Cathy and David added their names.

"For now, I'd like to sleep but I want her beside me in my arms, between me and you" she said to Myra. "Will you make sure when I go to sleep, she's still supported?"

Myra didn't need to answer, it wasn't really a question. Ginny scooted over, wincing, and Myra made a space that was Margie-sized between them.

The rest of the family took bathroom breaks, got drinks, and sat on the couch, talking. Allie changed out a tape. Ginny went right to sleep. Myra literally could not imagine what her body had just experienced, even with a uterus and all of her connection to Ginny. Myra had one finger on Margie's tiny chest and the other arm under Ginny's head.

After an hour, Margie woke up a little. Myra talked to her softly. "Here you are, out in dry air and open space. Must be kinda strange. You're gonna love it, though. We will always be this close, as close as you want us, as you explore. There are things out here that will give you unspeakable joy, like music, and poetry, and wait till you see your Mama's paintings. And chocolate. And the ocean. And we're not all big out here, some of us are tiny like you and being born just like you, right now as we speak, and they will be your friends and lovers. You already have so many people who will do anything on earth for you. You are a rose in bloom, Marjorie Rose."

Ginny rolled over more onto her back, moaning a little in her sleep. Myra picked Margie up and sat against the head of the bed, her eyes locked on Margie's face.

"So, to begin with -- music. Here's a song that exactly describes you and how we feel about you." Myra began singing, to Margie's instant interest.
"Thunder is shaking the roof of my car
I would go through a desert for you
My thoughts are flying to where you are
I am crossing this desert for you
Tonight I'll be with you and warm
To lie in the circle of your arms
I would go through a desert for you and for me
I would go through a desert for you

The sky had been falling
When I heard your voice calling
Me by my name, calling me by name
Out of the corner of my eye
I saw you blazin' brightly by
You're such a shooting star
That's what you are, such a shooting star"

Ginny woke up and pulled herself painfully upright, joining in the chorus. In fact, she really finished the song because Myra had started crying again. In years to come, when they played the video of Margie's birth for her on each birthday, this was her favorite part, her mothers singing about how she was their shooting star.

Over the next day and a half, everyone in the room took turns holding Margie, singing to her, telling her about the wonders she had been born to partake in. Ginny rested and eventually discovered sitting was excruciatingly painful, requiring lowering herself onto an inflatable doughnut and being very cautious about her position. Myra dozed on the daybed when sleep completely overran her; otherwise, she was either in bed next to Ginny, murmuring about how amazing she was, or holding Margie, or, preferably, both.

Allie left the following afternoon to check on Myra and Ginny's house briefly, then go home, feed her cat and get some uninterrupted sleep. However, she wound up spending over two hours cleaning up Juju's messes, washing the sheets on Myra and Ginny's bed, lighting some scented candles to deal with the rank odor in the house, and, while waiting for the sheets to dry, running to the store to fill up the refrigerator for the returning mothers. By the time she got home, she was only able to grab a couple hours' sleep. Back at the hospital, she regaled Cathy and David with the tale of Myra's frenzy and the animals' response. They responded by giving her a five hour stretch on the couch, saving the daybed for Myra.

Cathy, in particular, turned out to be essential. When Ginny started trying to breast feed in the first hour at the instruction of the lactation nurse, Margie was a biter and Ginny's nipples almost immediately began to crack open. Cathy's patient coaxing was all that kept Ginny coming back for another try.

Finally going home was not the Hollywood event Myra had anticipated. The sidewalks were dangerously icy, so she went cautiously into the carport and sprinkled salt while everyone waited in the car with the heater on for a few minutes. Ginny was still having trouble walking, with her painful nether regions, and Myra wanted to be the one to carry Margie in the door but finally let Allie do it because she couldn't leave Ginny to walk by herself. Ginny immediately said "What is that smell?" and Myra said to Allie irritably "You put artificial odors in the house while we were gone? Why would you do that, what if the baby is allergic?" Cathy smoothly intervened, telling Myra there was a back story and getting everyone to focus on getting the bedroom set up as a nursery. Not that much remained to be done.

All Myra could bear to do was sit on the bed with Ginny and Margie. Allie took Cathy on a tour of the house. When Cathy had a chance to actually look for a few minutes at Ginny's painting of Myra with her "Hands on Fire" over the fireplace, she sat down on a chair and got a stunned expression on her face. David said "I've been telling you."

"Daddy -- this is like -- like a masterpiece" she said quietly.

"There's more. Look in the far bedroom upstairs, and in the hall."

"Did she always have this ability, do you think?"

"To me, it looks like something she was born with, yes. Not to toot my own horn, of course. But finding her heart's desire in other ways unlocked the gates."

Cathy marveled, too, at the colors of the walls and the endless shelves of books. As she wandered around, Allie and David began collaborating on lunch. Myra finally checked the phone machine, took down messages and carried the list in to Ginny so they could plan returning calls. After lunch, they finalized their baby announcement and Allie took it to a printer's along with Margie's first photograph. Ginny dozed, nursed Margie, ate, and then dozed again. She only noticed what Myra put right in front of her.

That night, Myra came out of the cocoon for a little while. She left Ginny asleep on the bed, Margie in a soft-sided carrier beside her for safety, and came into the living room where the rest of her family were watching the news. Allie pulled her down beside her, lanking one arm over Myra's shoulders.

"God damn but ain't it something" said Allie. David turned off the TV.

"You know, Allie, I have a womb but I can't imagine doing what she just did. I never have, even though I always wanted kids" said Myra. She looked at Cathy and David. "Am I hopelessly biased, or does Margie look just like the baby pictures I've seen of Ginny?"

They nodded happily.

"Leave it to Ginny to make an exact reproduction" laughed Allie.

"I don't know how on earth we'd have managed without each and every one of you" said Myra. "I know we've sucked you dry, but I'm petrified about going on without you living here permanently. Could we just form a collective and have our first meeting?"

Allie laughed. "Been there, done that. No more trying to reach concensus about whether to use wheat-free tamari sauce. You will be okay, Myra. In fact, I'm going home in a few minutes and sleeping a full night in my own bed. I'll be back tomorrow for dinner, but you got lots of other folks to pitch in. You need to make a list of all those callers and organize 'em into shoppers, launderers and the like. People love it when you accept their help in a specific way. And be sure to get Ginny's body worker, Nancy, or whatever she is, in here for a look-see."

Myra held Allie's hand, not wanting her to leave just yet.

"I'm here for the week" said Cathy. "Michael knows what it's like, he's sending you all his love and picking up the slack at home as his way of supporting you."

"I had told Helen I'd be back in a couple of days, but I'm going to call her and say I'm staying as long as Cathy does" said David.

A week didn't sound long enough to Myra, but she didn't say it; she knew she should be grateful for anything. Allie finally stood up to go, Myra walked her to the door, giving her a long, long hug.

"You're one of us, you know that" she whispered to Allie. "She's your baby, too."

"With my people, calling me 'Auntie' includes everything" replied Allie. "I know." She kissed Myra, noting that Myra smelled like baby powder.

David had taken the bedroom upstairs, next to what would eventually be Margie's room. Cathy was settled into the spare room downstairs. After Allie left, Myra was inexorably drawn back to watching Ginny and Margie. The others went to bed, and the house fell silent. Ginny's sleep was steady, except at that the slightest fuss from Margie, she would come instantly awake. They slept in shifts between feedings and changings, Margie between them until, after the dawn feeding, Myra walked around the bed and slid in behind Ginny. Ginny spooned back into her with a luxurious sigh and went into an even deeper sleep.

The next day, visitors began arriving. Ginny would wake up, get positioned on her doughnut, and receive everyone with a look of ecstatic pride on her face. When this wasn't going on, Myra had Margie in her arms, walking around with her in the house and yard, chatting or singing. David took it upon himself to manage the diaper flow, rinsing out the organic all-cotton brand they'd selected, running the washer and folding dry nappies for hours each day. Cathy showed Ginny how to run a breast pump and continued to coach her through feedings which remained extremely painful.

Myra had read an article about teaching sign language to babies and persuaded Ginny to give it a try. "She'll be able to talk with us as soon as her brain can grasp language" said Myra, "Instead of having to wait until her vocal apparatus develops. I think it might bring her language sooner." Ginny grinned and said "Which is the light that illuminates your world, I know."

During the last few months, they had practiced a limited vocabulary with each other until they had it down pat, and now when they said certain words to Margie, they accompanied it with a sign: Mommy, love, home, sleep, diaper, tired, hungry, eat, milk, hot, cold, more, hurt, wash, aunt, yes, no, hug, play, dog, and cat. They planned to add on words as her world experience increased. The aunties and David began trying to pick up the signs as well. Then Chris began inventing new signs for everyone's entertainment, such as "horizontal oppression" or "voodoo economics".

That first night at dinner, Ginny opted to remain in bed to eat so she didn't have to sit up completely. She insisted Myra go out and eat with the others; she would have Margie to herself, Myra thought. As the rest of them gathered around the table, Myra asked "Will she want to be more active on her own, or does she need encouragement?"

"Ginny? She'll hit the ground running when she's ready, I wouldn't worry. She's not depressed in any way, she's just depleted. And very tender. It'll change in a week or two" said Cathy.

"Helen didn't get out of bed for six weeks" mused David. "But she'd had abdominal surgery, back in the days when a C-section was much more risky."

"And Ginny has your temperament, not Helen's" added Cathy.

"Be sure to say that to her if you get a chance" prompted Myra with a grin.

Cathy paused, then said "There's a lot of things I need to say to her. I...It was hard when Ginny was born, hard on me. Not sibling rivalry in the classic sense, but...Daddy, you're just going to have to hear this. There wasn't enough attention in that house for a child to go around as it was, and with a new baby -- I loved Ginny, I was glad to have a sister, but I was needy already. Once I got into high school, it was easier for me because I could get out, get human connection elsewhere. And I got married to Michael right out of high school. Which was not a mistake, don't get me wrong -- we lucked out, I know that, we were a good match. But I left Ginny high and dry. I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry for how I've missed knowing her, especially now that I'm getting a chance to see how...complicated and...emotionally rich her life is. I want another chance at being her big sister. I'm going to ask for that."

Myra's eyes had welled up. "She'll say yes, in a heartbeat. I welcome you, too, Cathy."

Cathy smiled wetly. "I get not just my baby sister, but two other sisters in the bargain, don't it? She squeezed Allie's hand shyly. Myra couldn't read Allie's expression.

David had been silent, staring at his plate. He said, in a hoarse voice "I am so sorry, Catherine. I -- don't have any excuses, just ignorance and -- the role a husband was supposed to play in the fifties. Which we all know now was..."

Cathy leaned over and hugged him. "We know. Well, follow my lead, it's never too late to make a change."

Sometimes it is thought Myra, but she didn't say it. Not then, and not later when she repeated this conversation to a weeping Ginny. Sometimes help only arrives after you've saved your own damned life.

The next day, Myra asked Ginny if she wanted to go over a schedule of help she'd drawn up for when they were on their own, but Ginny just looked overwhelmed and said "I can't. Not right now." So Myra took it to the dining table and got Cathy's input.

"How long until we're back to -- well, it'll never be normal again, not our prior version of normal" said Myra.

"Six weeks, I'd give yourselves six weeks" said Cathy. "Can I make a suggestion that might be out of line, I don't know, with your political beliefs?"

Myra nodded.

"Hire some help. For things like cleaning the house, keeping up with the laundry -- hire a service. You can get friends to do grocery shopping and making some meals to share with you. But if you can afford to pay for help, save your friends for visiting with Ginny, especially if they know anything about having a baby. Spend the time of folks who love you with them, in addition to just you and Ginny bonding with Margie."

Myra thought about it. "A lot of our friends have not been around babies, and this is their first chance. That's really what they want to do most, and it would be great for me and Ginny, and for Margie, to have that be the focus. You're right. We don't have a regular extended family, full of experienced mommies and grammas. I mean, there is a big chunk of the lesbian community who are mothers, at least a third, but those folks have tended to be less radical and and more middle-class, not our inner circle. If our circle gets a chance to plug into Margie right away, she'll have that the rest of her life here."

"Can I add something to that?" said Allie.

"O' course".

"You're being a shero. Which you're good at, and you have to be the one right now. But you need some emotional support. Besides us" said Allie.

"I was planning to go to my Friday meeting" said Myra.

"Besides that" said Allie. "Call Leesa, schedule a session. It would be good if you could get Ginny out to her, too -- "

"She won't go. Not right now. She won't be able to leave the baby for even an hour" said Cathy, remembering.

"Okay, so you get therapy for both of you and bring it home. Plus go to one of your spiritual outlets" said Allie. "And that's something else you can schedule your friends for, Ginny-sitting while you're gone."

Myra looked scared. "I don't want to leave them, either. I need to be there for them."

"I know" said Cathy. "I know. But somebody has to bring in fresh air to breathe."

"Look at it this way, you'll still be the hero" grinned Allie.

"...Okay. I'll go call Leesa now, see if I can get in to her office this week while you're still here" she said to Cathy. "I'll talk with Ginny after I have a definite time. She's gonna...Well, I'll deal with it."

Leesa had a slot on Thursday afternoon. After hanging up the phone, Myra peeked into the bedroom. Margie was radiantly asleep, her best trick. Ginny had just come back from the bathroom, groaning as she found a comfortable position on the bed.

"Could we talk for a sec?" Myra asked.

"Will you rub my head while we do? I'm fighting a headache" said Ginny.

"Drink that glass of water, and then I'll make your keppe better. Good job. So, I met with the brain trust out there, and I've come up with a schedule. I've called a maid service -- Cathy's idea -- and they are coming tomorrow to get oriented, will start on Monday. Cleaning and laundry. I've stressed no commercial cleansers, and I'll keep this bedroom clean myself, they won't set foot in here. They can come every other day for two hours, or more if need them."

"Okay" said Ginny, surprising Myra.

"I've got a line-up of our friends to come play with you and Margie, rub your back for you, adore the child, and have dinner with us. Chris and Sima are going to shop for us at the Co-op and Pike twice a week, I think Sima knows how to pick produce like you. This will also start next week. We'll have tons of alone time, but dinner with people we love every other night. Besides Allie, of course -- Allie is a given."

"What if I'm too tired to visit?" said Ginny worriedly.

"Then you'll sleep, and I'll get to hang out with them. And Margie."

"Okay. I'm so tired, Myra. I've never been tired like this."

"You should be, you just made Margie. And you're feeding her a kajillion times a day. Cathy says your energy will return within six weeks. So enjoy your sloth while you can."

"Okay. What else is on that list of yours, I'm starting to nod off."

"Therapy. I need some. I want to go to my meeting on Friday, and I've scheduled to see Leesa the day before. I want to see her at least twice a week, as well as keep up with meetings."

Ginny came wide awake. "You're going to leave me here alone?"

"No, absolutely not. I will make sure you and Margie are covered for the hour or so I'll be gone. This week it's your family. Next week it'll be Patty or Sima or Jen. Somebody competent, I assure you."

"I'm not ready, Myra. I -- it just scares the living shit out of me." She began crying. "I know I'm clinging, it's not like me, but I am so unbelievably dependent on you right now, we both are. It feels life or death. I can't believe how vulnerable I feel, mostly because Margie's life is in my hands" -- Ginny began wailing. "She's completely helpless and it's up to me, to us, to make sure everything is okay for her, every minute of the day, it's almost more than I can stand."

Myra held her close. "I know, I know. She really is that helpless, and it really is up to us. But everything's okay, honey. We're up to it. And I'm not ever going to leave you alone with it. This is not me leaving you, okay? This is me going out for some help. I feel overwhelmed, too. I need to recharge my batteries."

"And I can't do that for you right now!" wailed Ginny.

"No, you can't. The deal we made is you have the baby and feed her, remember? That's a full-time job. My job is to do the rest with you. And make sure I'm in good shape for it. Just like you have to keep drinking lots of water, I need to keep my emotional balance."

"Allie put you up to this, didn't she?" cried Ginny.

"Yes, but I was headed there anyhow".

"Well, dammit, okay, I know she's right. But just tell me you're not leaving the house because you hate how boring I am or the smell of baby poop or something like that!"

Myra began laughing with an edge of tears in her voice. "Ginny, my god -- I am freaked about the idea of not being with you two! I adore you so much right now, I'm not even sane on the subject, if I could physically join my body with yours I would do it in an heartbeat."

Ginny giggled suddenly. "We'd have to get a wider toilet." Myra began giggling with her.

Ginny said "Okay. But I may cry again."

"Fine with me."

"This is just out of line, Myra, the level of insecurity I feel. I can understand now why women put up with fuckers, just to have occasional support for them and their little ones. Not that I'm comparing you to that, I mean, you're just the opposite. But it sucks to be this scared. And if it's this bad with someone like you taking such incredible care of us..."

"Yeah. Makes my heart ache for all those mommies out there." She kissed Ginny soundly and said "Okay, you're okay, we're all okay. Get some sleep. I'll be back in with more water and to do a diaper check in a couple of hours."

"And a snack. Something like custard without the sugar."

"Got it."

"In fact, could you bring me a banana right now before I nap?"

Myra got her a banana, a glass of milk, and a celery stalk filled with organic cream cheese, as well as refilling her jug of water. She sat with Ginny, talking grocery lists out loud, as Ginny ate and nodded. Then she pulled the blinds and took the plate back into the kitchen.

The following Sunday afternoon, after David and Cathy left with Allie driving them to the airport, Ginny melted down spectacularly. Her crying was so loud that it woke up Margie, who began fussing in a way they'd never heard. Myra got Ginny to lie behind her, weeping onto her back and shoulders, while she held Margie in front of her. After a while, as Margie's crying progressed, Ginny got quiet and Myra stood up to walk Margie around. Listening to Margie cry was qualitatively different for Myra than listening to anyone else cry. She was supposed to do something, she could feel it in the cells of her body. Ginny kept calling out suggestions, things they had read in books about comforting a baby, changing position, helping her pass gas. Ginny tried feeding her, they checked her diaper and her temperature -- nothing stopped the crying. It lasted over an hour. By the end, Myra was a sodden heap of frustration. She handed the finally sleeping Margie back to Ginny and collapsed on the bed.

"Okay" whispered Ginny, "Does this mean we never get upset in front of her?"

"I don't know. I can't imagine that would be right. Maybe it's just coincidence. I guess we just wait and see if this happens again if one of us hasn't cried."

"Oh, god" said Ginny. "I feel like I can't physically bear it when she's upset, like it actually hurts me."

"Same here. We see the pediatrician tomorrow, Dr. Dikranian -- let's ask her about it all."

"And Patty. I'll ask Patty."

"Good idea. But don't do it in front of Pat, I don't trust her about emotional stuff."

"I miss Cathy already."

"And your dad, the diaper superhero. That's going to eat up another hour of my day, even with the maid service doing the actual washing -- there's processing the shit before it can be laundered."

"My shit processor Myra."

They laughed quietly together.

"I can't remember, is Allie coming back?"

"No, she's going home."

"Just us. What do we do now?" asked Ginny.

"Are you hungry?"

"You never need to wonder."

"I'm going to heat up that rice and chicken casserole and cook some cabbage. I need to make a couple of calls, too. Okay if I put on NPR while I'm cooking?"

"Find music, not news. Something baby friendly, no rock. Will you be within earshot?"

"I'll leave the bedroom door open. Do you need a tide-me-over before I start?"

"Some juice would be great. And a piece of toast."

"With cashew butter?"

"I love you beyond words, Myra Josong."

"Back atcha, Ginny Bates."

(Pregnant Woman, sculpture by Sigrid Herr

6 September 1990 (Thursday) -- Ginny is pregnant again, since late April 1990

When Chris and Sima arrived for dinner, Margie charged them and got swept up into Sima's arms. Chris walked into the kitchen, where Myra was finishing Monte Cristo sandwiches. Myra glanced at the Saran-wrapped plate in Chris's hand as she leaned back for a hello kiss and said "Whatcha got there?"


"Holy moly -- homemade?"

"Yep. Sima."

Myra whispered "Will you hook me out a little piece right now?"

Chris grinned and put a morsel in her mouth.

"Heavenly!" said Myra. Ginny came downstairs with a basket of laundry, calling hello.

Chris said "Should I set out plates?"

"Yes, and bowls, we've got French onion soup to go with this. I think we should serve buffet style, Northern Exposure is going to start before we're done eating, so we might as well begin in the living room."

They could hear shrieks of laughter coming from Margie in the living room. Ginny joined them, after starting a load of clothes, and said "Shall I set out the cucumber salad? And you sliced tomatoes, right?"

"The last of the glorious summer big girls, yes. Look, Ginny, they brought halvah!"

"That will be a first for Margie, she's never had it. It'll be like crack in her system."

"But good crack" said Myra, nudging Ginny.

"Allie here yet?"

"Nope" said Myra. "Listen, Chris, isn't this weekend something happening with your nephew Ricky?"

"His Little League team has regional playoffs on Saturday, yes."

"Well, I want to go with you. I figure I can take Margie, she can work the crowd for unauthorized junk food and baby schmoozing. Would you like that?"

Chris grinned. "I'd fucking love it."

"I get a kick out of Ricky. I like how he keeps memorizing those corny old vaudeville routines."

Ginny spoke up. "You want me to go, or do I stay here?"

"Up to you, honey. I guess it depends on how you're feeling and if you want some down time. Okay, that's the last of the sandwiches, let's get Margie washed and start dishing this out."

As Ginny began for Margie, the front door opened and Allie walked in. Margie started screaming Allie's name. Ginny said, over the clamor, "Dinner's on. Why don't you take her to wash her hands, since she's going to be glued to you anyhow?"

"My pleasure" said Allie, picking Margie up.

They left the big armchair and hassock for Allie, since she'd be responsible for feeding Margie. Chris and Sima took the sofa, Ginny grabbed the loveseat and Myra sat on the floor in front of her. In between bites of sandwich or soup, Margie would tear off and run around the dining table, into the kitchen, and back to the living room, pulling up short in front of Allie again.

"The table manners of a wolverine" commented Ginny. "You know what would be the perfect addition to this meal? Tuna."

"Poor baby" murmured Myra.

"Hey, which reminds me" said Ginny excitedly. "I just talked with Patty, and guess what? She's two weeks late for her period. They're going to the doctor tomorrow for a blood test."

Myra goggled. "Wow -- both of you could be having babies in 1991! They could grow up together."

"When is your due date?" said Chris.

"January 9th or thereabouts. We're going in for a 22 week sonogram on Monday, and that will verify dates yet again" said Ginny, hand on her belly.

"Plus maybe give you a gender, right?" said Allie, chewing and waiting for Margie's next circuit.

"Yeah" said Myra.

"You hoping for a boy, one of each?" asked Sima.

Chris laughed.

"Not actually" said Myra. There was a sudden silence in the room. Margie broke it by shrieking just as Allie gave her a spoonful of soup, spraying soup on Allie and herself.

"Oh, for shit's sake, Margie" said Ginny, handing over a napkin. Margie giggled and tore off running again. Allie wiped herself down and said "I don't think you need to worry about boys, not with the girls you produce."

Myra grinned with Allie. As Margie rounded the back of the dining table, one of her hands snagged a chair which went over on its side with a loud crash. Myra startled, but a second later Ginny yelled out "Whoa!" Myra looked at her. "The baby jumped at the noise!" said Ginny.

Myra put her hands on Ginny's belly. "Really? Are you sure it wasn't just reacting to you jumping?"

"No, I didn't jump, I was watching Margie and I saw the chair going over. And it was definitely in reaction to the bang." Ginny's face was amazed.

Myra put her mouth next to Ginny's navel and said "Can you hear us in there, little one? Are you joining us for dinner?"

"Whoa" said Ginny again, her face even more shocked. "It moved again. Oh, my god, Myra, it heard you!"

She and Myra stared at each other, flooded with emotion. Then Myra said softly to Ginny's belly "I love you, little garbanzo. I love you and I can't wait to hold you in my arms." Ginny put her hand on Myra's head.

Margie, cruising in for another bite, stopped and said "Wat are doin'?"

"We're talking to the baby in Mama's belly" said Myra in a gooey voice.

Margie had heard a lot about this alleged baby, but wasn't really buying it. "I'm your baby" she said, not quite challenging.

"You are" said Ginny, "and we love you, too. But there's another baby inside me."

Margie came over to Myra and shoved herself into Myra's lap. "You love me" she said, pushing Myra's face away from Ginny's belly.

"I do love you, Margie, ever so, ever so" said Myra, laughing. Chris said "I see trouble on the horizon".

"Yup. Immaturity sucks" said Ginny.

Freed to eat her soup a non-syncopated schedule, Allie dug in for a few bites, then said "Well, I have news. I think I've sold a book cover!"

Everybody cheered, even, belatedly and cluelessly, Margie.

"Oh god, Allie, that's HUGE!" said Ginny. "Is it that children's book you submitted for?"

Allie's face was luminous. "Yes. I mean, the contract is not completely signed, but it's been verbally okayed, and there's no reason for it to fall through. My name will be on the cover!"

Myra set Margie on her feet, got up and walked over to Allie's chair, bending down for a long hug and a kiss right on the mouth. She was fighting back tears. Margie had trailed along after her and wanted to kiss Allie, too.

Myra walked into the kitchen and came back with the bottle of sparkling apple cider they kept in the back of the refrigerator, along with six glasses. "This is cause for celebration!" she declared, opening the bottle and pouring drinks for everyone. "A toast, to Allie Billups! May her name appear on covers everywhere!"

Sima broke out into "For she's a jolly good lesbo" and everyone joined in, except Myra was pretty sure Margie was singing "For she's a jolly good leggo". Which was likely just as high a compliment for Margie.

As they passed around halvah and turned on TV, during the opening credits to Northern Exposure, Chris said "Elaine Miles, who plays Marilyn Whirlwind, you know? -- I hear she's raising a ruckus to have her character's heritage accurately portrayed, instead of just generic redskin."

"What is Marilyn Whirlwind?" asked Allie.

"Tlingit. Which I don't know much about, but I hear she's researching it and asking for changes" answered Chris.

"Right on" said Myra. "Did you hear that from your sister?"

"Yeah. From folks on the rez" said Chris.

"Is she related to you in some way?" asked Ginny.

"Not that we know of" answered Chris. "She's only half Nez Perce, the other half Cayuse. But she was raised on the Umatilla reservation."

Sima squeezed Chris's hand, not so much at the words as at the almost imperceptible tone. And the long history behind it. Myra looked at Chris for a minute, their eyes meeting. Then the show started and they focused on the TV.

On Monday morning, Ginny and Myra got up together and took turns feeding and dressing Margie. At the OB clinic, Myra let her play in the toddler area, praying all the bright plastic toys were scrubbed with disinfectant regularly. They joined Ginny in the exam room, because it was sonogram day. Myra held Margie, who kept up such a whine to go back out to the play area that Myra could hardly hear their new baby's heartbeat when it came into the room. But Ginny's face was transcendent, and that finally got Margie's attention. "Wat are doin?" she suddenly asked.

"Can you hear that sound, Margie, going ka-whoosh, ka-whoosh, ka-whoosh?" asked Myra.

Margie thought Myra's imitation was hilarious, and said "Do it agin, Mama."

Myra was focused on the monitor, and she bent her face next to Ginny's so they had the same angle to view. Margie began trying to reach Ginny's arms. Holding onto her was inordinately taxing. Still, Myra spotted it at the same time as Ginny.

"Hey!' said Ginny.

"Is that what I think it is?" said Myra.

"It is" smiled Dr. Desai. "You are, without a doubt, having a boy."

"Look, Margie" said Ginny, her voice almost cracking with excitement, "That's your brother!"

But of course Margie saw nothing at all like a brother, or even a person, and her face plainly showed she wasn't sure why Ginny was pulling her leg. Dr. Desai printed screenshots and also made a copy of the tape. She declared Ginny in superb shape, and gave them a due date of January 14th.

Once they were back in the car and Margie was strapped in, Ginny turned to Myra and said "You're a little too quiet."

Myra paused, her hand on the ignition. "Could we go somewhere and talk? Like, someplace that will entertain the spider monkey back there but still give us some respite?"

Ginny thought for a minute. "How about Bainbridge?"

"Oh, Gin, I'm not up for ferry rage -- "

"It's 11 a.m. on a Monday, and we're going opposite the commute both ways" said Ginny. "Maybe we could get into Bloedel Refuge -- I'll go call, see if we can get a last minute reservation." She got back out of the car and walked back into the clinic. Margie, for once, was occupied looking out the window at a construction site nearby. Myra pulled out the sonogram photo and studied it.

Ginny came back triumphant. "We're in luck, 3 p.m.! Let's get lunch at Nola first, and maybe I can entertain her for half an hour while you have at least a peek in Eagle Harbor Books. Then we'll all chill out at the Reserve."

"Sounds perfect, Ginny." Myra drove them toward the ferry docks.

By the time they reached the reflecting pool, Margie was worn out and could be persuaded to take a nap in Ginny's arms. Once she was solidly asleep, Myra shrugged out of her pullover and laid it on the velvety grass as a blanket for Margie. The sudden peace washed over them.

Ginny snugged herself into Myra's side and said, quietly, "So. It's a boy."

Myra squeezed her hand and said "I wish I weren't disappointed. I feel despicable for wishing it was another girl."

"Well...tell me why it will be different, Myra."

"You know why, Ginny. We live in a vicious patriarchy."

"Is that all that's bothering you?"

Myra turned to look at Ginny. "All? Isn't that enough?"

"I'm not minimizing it, just sounding out what the edges are for you" said Ginny. They sat in silence for a while. Margie's open-mouthed breathing was audible over the trickle of water somewhere nearby.

"I'm remembering a conversation I once had with Gil" said Myra.

Ginny waited.

"I'm pretty sure he was high" said Myra. "I mean, his eyes were red, and he kept laughing about everything. But we often had our best talks when he'd just smoked something -- he'd open up more, seemed like."

Ginny didn't comment.

"Anyhow...This was after his divorce from his first wife, and I was asking him if he's been dating anybody. And, as usual, I was digging, trying to find out how he was feeling, and he was fighting it. But then he said -- 'You know, Deedee' -- "

"Deedee?" asked Ginny.

"Yeah, it's what he called me when he was first learning to talk, he couldn't say sister, it came out like Deedee, and that stuck."

Ginny was grinning from ear to ear. "Deedee. Okay, go on."

"He said 'I'm not stupid. Most guys aren't. We know chicks don't really want us. We're clueless, we're scared shitless by emotion, we don't clean up well, and we're bastards in bed. But the game is, we pretend like you can't resist us and ya'll go along with it. Except deep down, inside, we know better. Our best chance at getting you to stick around is to play house with you, let you be our mama all our lives.'"

Ginny stared at Myra. "Wow. He just came out with it, like that?"

"Yep. And it just about broke my heart, because I had no argument for him. I do think the het system is built on women pretending to need men, pretending to themselves and to guys. No wonder men are so ragingly insecure and choose to never grow up."

"Well, Myra, we found the secret passageway out of that lightless basement, didn't we, angel?" said Ginny.

"We did. But, Gin -- we're about to have a son."

They looked at each other, level and wide-eyed.

"How am I going to keep him away from that drek?" said Myra, her voice very low.

"Not I, Myra. We" reminded Ginny. "For starters, we give him everything we're giving Margie. All the self-confidence, the tenderness, the tools for expressing his emotions. We don't give up on him."

"What happens when he hits school, and I do mean hits?" asked Myra. "The other boys are going to eat him alive. Not to mention little girls who've already learned their end of the sickness."

"We'll figure it out day by day" said Ginny. "We don't have to work 40 hours a week like most parents, we have an extended family of brilliant women, we have recovery programs -- we can do this."

"Gillam David" whispered Myra, bending over to put her mouth to Ginny's navel. "I love you, Gillam David. You come grow up with us, okay?" She pushed her face against Ginny's belly, and Ginny reached out both her hands to hold her there for a moment.

During the first week of November, Ginny told Myra over lunch "I talked with Daddy this morning. He and Mother want to fly out here and spend Thanksgiving with us, then stay through Margie's second birthday. They want to give her a D-O-L-L-H-O-U-S-E."

Margie, her eyes fixed on Ginny's face, said "Wat is dat? Wat did you say?" She put her hand over on Ginny's, trying to charm the riddle out of her.

Myra finished chewing before answering. "As long as it's not plastic and all girlified, I think that'd be a great gift for her."

Gift was a word Margie understood. "What gift? For me?"

"You have a birthday coming up, sweetness, when you turn two years old. And people are going to give you presents." Ginny was trying to coax cabbage in Margie.

"When? Now?"

"No, not for three weeks." But units of time had no meaning for Margie, just now and not-now. And not-now always irritated her. Before she could act out, Ginny removed all plates and cups within her reach. Margie began banging on the high chair tray.

Raising her voice to be heard, Myra said "Did you explain to him about how we don't do the glutton thing, that we'll be spending the day cooking for others? He and Helen can help take care of Margie while we're in the kitchen."

"Oh, hell, I forgot. I was so distracted by the you-know-what. I'll call him back after we eat."

"You-know-what" repeated Margie, zeroing in on that word.

Myra giggled. "I cannot imagine Helen going along with that. But you give it a try, honey."

Margie went back to banging on her tray. Myra held up her hands and said "Margie -- do you want to see me pull my finger off?" A trick that never failed to amaze.

Once distracted, Myra took over feeding Margie.

After lunch was cleared away, Myra sat down on the living room floor with Margie and pulled out the Cusinaire rods she'd found at a vintage toy store. Margie already knew the basics of making equations using these colored bars, and the concentration involved in playing with them always left her ready for a nap. After she got drowsy, Myra coaxed her into lying on the couch in a patch of weak sunlight and listening to the story of Umai sailing her canoe to the Ocean Beyond The Ocean. Once she was sound asleep, Myra pushed a chair up to the edge to keep Margie from falling onto the floor and went back to her desk.

As she was pulling out her notebook, Ginny called from around the wall "They've decided to eat with Cathy and her family, then fly out the day after Thanksgiving instead."

Myra muffled her chuckle.

As it turned out, Helen got some kind of mild food poisoning from Thanksgiving dinner -- David said they suspected the stuffing, though no one else in the family was affected -- and so it was just him who arrived Friday evening. Myra picked him up on her own; Ginny was so pregnant, and Margie such a handful, it was easier for them to wait at home with their friends, having shabbos dinner. When Myra returned from the airport, everyone was still there. Ginny made David a plate while Myra put his bags in the back bedroom.

Margie remembered him, which pleased Ginny. Myra noticed that Margie did not ask where Helen was. David insisted on holding Margie as he ate, and Myra had to give him props, he clearly knew how to multitask with a child on his lap. She suddenly could imagine Ginny as a little girl, glued to her Daddy at dinner, ravenous for attention. She set aside the anger it sparked in her. He was here now, after all.

During dessert, they discussed birthday plans, spelling out words they didn't want Margie to understand. Margie got rapidly frustrated by this, and Myra didn't blame her. She persuaded Margie into her lap and taught her how to sing Bingo, reducing the spelled-out name by one letter each time and substituting claps for them. Margie caught on right away and adored the feeling of inclusion. After they'd run through it a few times, during a lull David said "Her bubbe and I found just the thing for her in the F.A.O. Schwartz catalogue, and they have a store here, so could we maybe we go down tomorrow and get it for her, let me play with her and -- it -- all week?"

"F.A.O. Schwartz?" said Ginny in dismay.

But Margie thought this must be another spelling game, and began singing and clapping "F-A-O-swors!" All the aunties cracked up and joined her. Ginny looked at Myra, and Myra shrugged. David was watching them, and focused on Ginny's face as she gave in, saying "She's never been there, she'll go batshit over that store and you should be there for it, I agree."

"Thanks, David" Myra added.

The toy store outing would have been bearable if Christmas shoppers had not been out in full acquisitive force and if Margie had not developed diarrhea right after they got there. Myra walked to a nearby drugstore to buy wipes and toddler diapers while Ginny sat with a wailing Margie in the car and David made his purchase. Margie calmed down once she was changed, and didn't object at all to wearing a diaper.

"Oh, god" said Ginny. "It was so hard potty-training her, I think she'd be happy to go the rest of her life letting other people clean up her bowel movements."

Myra walked to a nearby trashcan with the used wipes and Margie's underwear. When she got back to the car, David was there, unloading a cart laden with boxes huge and tiny.

"That was fast" Myra remarked.

"Kids don't wait well" he answered. She patted him on the shoulder and said "Hold your breath when you get in the back seat." He laughed.

Margie's diarrhea continued the rest of the day, but they kept her in diapers. She was oblivious to anything but the miniatures Ginny helped her unwrap, and then to the dollhouse once Myra and David got it assembled. David kept her engrossed in play for hours. Ginny sketched them for a while, then made yogurt and cottage cheese. Myra got uninterrupted time at her desk.

Allie came back over for dinner that night, which Myra fervently appreciated. They fed Margie rice, a soft-boiled egg, and applesauce, then a sippy-cup of warm Sleepytime tea, and she dropped off by 8 p.m. on Myra and Ginny's bed -- she was going to sleep with them, in case she started a fever. Myra turned on the baby monitor, shut the door to their bedroom, and came back downstairs to join the rest in the living room.

Looking at the three-story dollhouse with its fabulous furniture disgorged over the foyer, Allie grinned and said "I've been making her a mobile of the solar system for her birthday. Does this mean I need to upscale and give her a home planetarium?"

Myra said "Hand-drawn art by you IS upscale, Allie Billups. Keep it simple. I'm giving her a dress-up box full of stuff from Goodwill."

Ginny patted David's hand and added "But the dollhouse clearly rang every chime she has. Getting to control the destiny of tiny creatures is apparently right up her alley." She put her hand on her belly and looked at Myra. "We'll have to run interference for this one, to keep him from being tyrannized by her."

David's face registered surprise, then caution. "Him -- do you know, then -- ?"

Ginny grinned at him. "Yeah, we waited to tell you in person. It's a son."

Myra was watching David for signs of unseemly patriarchal gloat. But, the truth was, David liked girls as much as boys, so he was just happy in the ordinary way.

Ginny went on. "And -- we're going to name him after Myra's little brother. So he will be Gillam David Bates-Josong." She came down heavily on the David and gave her father a huge wink as she did.

Now David's face lit up beautifully, and Ginny's matched his. When they were both happy, Myra could see the strongest resemblance between them. She felt a pang of missing her mother and her brother. You never stop needing your family.

After a few fervent "mazel tovs" to Ginny and Myra, David turned to Allie and said diffidently, "Nu...are you planning to have children, also?"

Allie snorted in surprise. "You mean, breed? No, I'm like Myra, maternal without the rattle of eggs inside me."

Myra said "Allie's pretty much tied up with what we're popping out into the world, god help her. Margie'd trade us in on Allie in a heartbeat, and I'm sure the next one will feel the same way about her. Which is not to say we hope it ever comes to that, don't mistake me, god." She raised her eyes upward.

David looked confused. Ginny reminded him gently "If something should happen to Myra and I both, Allie is our legal guardian and heir."

Myra watched David digest that one. It was a mix of disappointment -- which he fucking well better show -- but also understanding.

Ginny said "While we're on the topic, there's something we need to discuss. I have to ask you something -- huge." Now David looked just plain scared. Myra wondered if he ever got that scared going into court, and guessed probably not -- Ginny's demands were far worse than anything the mere justice system could manufacture.

Ginny went for the thrust direct. "We are not going to circumcise our son."

She let this sink in for a minute. David's face had gone pale. Thank god Helen wasn't here. Ginny continued "We will raise him as a Jew, and we believe he will be a Jew, as much as any other male in our family. We will not accept a penalty of kareit for our son. God will include him in her covenant. And, when he is old enough to make decisions for himself, if he chooses circumcision, that's fine. But we believe it's barbaric to force it on an infant."

David flinched a little twice during this speech, once at kareit and once at barbaric. He stayed present, however. Clearing his throat, he asked "Is this part of -- lesbian practice?"

Allie couldn't hold back her laugh. "No, David, some of the dykes I know would tend to go the other direction." Myra found this hilarious, although Ginny gave them both stern frowns.

Ginny explained "I can't say it's completely unrelated, Daddy, because I think lesbian mothers are profoundly attached to their children -- we don't have kids by accident -- and our community encourages us to question every custom, see if it's right for us and our beloveds. But the anti-circumcision movement is universal in this country, not just lesbians and not just gentiles."

David said "I've heard of it, this theory. It's come up at Temple."

"Well, here it is on your doorstep now, Daddy. Our son, your grandson, will be a Bates. And Cohanim. We intend for him to have a bris, with everything except the cutting. We want his way in the Jewish community cleared for him, and we need you to help with that. I'd like you to begin with our family, with Mother and Cathy and Michael -- I don't know what Michael will say, his brother being a rabbi and all. But we want you to advocate for your grandson now, before he is even born."

Myra wondered if Ginny had used the word "advocate" deliberately. She saw David's brain kick into gear. She suddenly could imagine him as a public defender. And he seemed to understand the trust Ginny was placing in him, a trust that Myra didn't honestly share. After a minute, he put both his hands on Ginny's and said "I'm yours. Consider it done."

Once again, Myra saw the resemblance between him and Ginny. He may have taken the coward's path with regard to Helen, but still he was clearly the source for Ginny's ability to see the right thing to do and say yes in a heartbeat. Myra let out a cheer as big as Ginny's. A second later, Ginny pulled her hands free from David's and put them on her belly, saying "He's cheering too! Come here, Daddy, feel your grandbaby give you a high-five!"

David 's eyes filled with tears when Gillam moved underneath his hand. So did Myra's, in spite of herself.

David said, hesitantly, "I don't have many memories of my father. He was more of a -- visitor. It was Zayde -- Louis -- who acted as father to me and Sam. He took us to prayers, and organized our bar mitzvahs, although Ze'ev was there for mine, of course. But...I've never been sure this is a memory. If it is, then I remember my own bris..."

Ginny was very still, looking at him intently. After a couple of breaths, he went on. "It comes up, still, at least once a month, always during prayers at Temple. Always when there are older men with big beards and hats nearby. It's just a flash, where I'm looking up at Ze'ev, except he's only an outline with a blur in the middle, really. I'm not sure how I know it's him. And there's loud praying all around me, in men's voices. My mouth goes sour, and then there's a burning, searing pain in my -- well, my groin. And I feel like passing out."

Ginny pulled her belly towards herself, protectively. Myra fought the urge to cry. David shook his head slowly and said "I never trusted Ze'ev. There's a thousand reasons for that, both real and those handed on to me by Ma and her parents. But since I was grown, I've wondered about that memory." He met Ginny's eyes and said again, with emphasis, "Consider it done."

"'Talkin' bout revolution'" sang Allie softly. Myra laughed, and then everyone joined her.


On New Year's Day, Ginny woke up feeling out of sorts. She deliberately made enough racket getting showered and dressed that Myra woke up, too, rolling over blearily.

"I just heard footsteps, I have to go check on Margie in her room" said Ginny. "Would you mind doing breakfast today? And I'm not very hungry, nothing heavy for me."

Myra didn't say anything, just sat up and began heading for the bathroom. She'd been up till 1:00 the night before, first having trouble getting Margie to sleep, then sitting up with her friends until midnight, and finally sitting at her desk trying to catch a poem before it vanished completely. But she'd only managed one stanza. She had a headache from lack of sleep. Still, she couldn't possibly feel as crappy as Ginny looked.

She made toast, boiled some eggs, and cut up fruit. She'd planned lemon sole for Ginny's share of the lunch everyone would be coming over to share later -- with glazed ham for the rest of them. She put sweet potatoes in a pot to boil, and began black-eyed peas soaking. Margie arrived in the kitchen like a bottle rocket. Myra got her to sit down at the table and try eating by sprinkling a wisp of confectioner's sugar on Margie's toast, refusing to notice Ginny's disapproval.

As she peeled Margie's egg for her, she remarked "So, puddin', last night when you went to sleep, the year was 1990. This morning, though, it's another year, 1991. Pretty cool, huh?"

"Can we have pudding? For the New Year?" asked Margie adroitly.

"No, I've already got pies planned" said Myra. Ginny ate half a piece of toast and an egg, but none of the yogurt. She even passed by the blueberries, which set off an alarm for Myra. She felt Ginny's forehead and said "Maybe my hands are cold, I'm not sure -- you might have a small fever."

"I feel absolutely bloated, and like my kidneys are tender" said Ginny.

"It's so cold out there, but maybe some time in the hot tub?" suggested Myra.

"I'd rather just soak in our tub. Light some candles, sip that tea Nancy gave me" said Ginny.

"I'll play with her, romp her around for a while, then when I need to focus on cooking, I'll put one of those videos David sent into the TV. At least until the others gets here."

Ginny raised no objection, not even a stern expression, which was a second alarm to Myra. It was another two weeks until Ginny's due date, but if Ginny didn't look better by afternoon, she was calling Dr. Desai's service, holiday or not.

She left the dishes in the sink, hauling Margie into the living room for a long bout of Skin the Cat, followed by Margie's version of hide-and-seek. This involved her peeking blatantly when Myra went to hide, then making a beeline for where she had seen Myra hide. The real fun, though, was Myra's popping out at the last second to yell "Boo!", sending Margie into delighted screams of terror. Margie could never be persuaded to go hide herself, it was all about tracking down other people.

A couple of hours later, Ginny waddled into the kitchen in a robe to refill her teapot. She lifted the lid on Myra's pot of rice, messing up the cooking process but saying "That looks good, could I cadge a bowl of just plain rice before you make the hopping john?"

"Sure thing" said Myra breathlessly, trying to squeeze into the pantry before Margie came barreling after her. She didn't quite have the door shut before she saw Margie's fingers clamp around the edge. Myra pushed the door back open, yelling "Yaahhhh!" into Margie's face. Over the squeals, she heard Ginny say, "Well, shit."

Myra stood up, saying "I'm sorry, did I startle you?" She saw a spill on the floor next to Ginny and pulled Margie toward her, wondering if Ginny had dropped her teacup somewhere. But Ginny was opening her robe and staring down at her now-wet thighs.

She lifted wide eyes to Myra's and said "That's -- my water just broke."

"Holy fuck" said Myra. "No, Margie, stay over here, the floor's wet." Myra couldn't help but start grinning. "Happy New Year" she whispered.

"It's too early" said Ginny with fear in her voice, which wiped the grin from Myra's face.

"Go sit down" urged Myra, "I'll clean this up. And call Dr. Desai."

"I'm going to wash" said Ginny, pushing past her toward the bathroom. Myra hauled Margie into the living room and put on the first video she could find. She washed the floor hurriedly, her brain trying to remember dates leeway and what she'd read in books about accuracy. Still distracted, she dialed Dr. Desai's service and, remarkably calm, she thought, insisted they get in touch with her, explaining the circumstances. She called Allie and Chris, neither of whom answered -- probably on their way. Then she called Patty, who did answer, and asked if Margie could come to stay with them overnight if they had to go to the hospital.

Ginny came back from the bedroom before she was off the phone, wearing sweatpants and a long-sleeved jersey that had once belonged to Myra. She served herself a bowl of rice and sat down at the table, her face tight.

"Are you sure you should eat right now?" asked Myra hesitantly.

"Until I'm told different" said Ginny. "I feel lightheaded."

"In that case -- will you drink some milk, or juice?" said Myra.

"Milk" answered Ginny. Myra was pouring it when Chris and Sima walked in.

Eventually, an hour later with Myra, Ginny and their friends in a stew of indecision, Dr. Desai called back and talked with Ginny for several minutes. After Ginny hung up, she said "She's not convinced it's labor. I'm having no pain except that kidney tenderness, which might be just my kidneys. I'm to stay off my feet, no stimulants, no stress, and call her back with any change. Oh, and no sex."

Myra turned red and didn't look at Chris. "Okay. Well, then, you wanna be in bed, on the couch or a daybed?"

"On your daybed, if someone will keep me company" said Ginny, standing with an effort.

"I'll visit with you" said Sima.

"Gin -- what if it does turn into labor?" asked Myra, her throat tight.

"She says there's things they can to to slow it down, once they put a monitor on the baby and see if it's really too early" said Ginny, letting Sima walk beside her as support.

Myra and Chris worked together in the kitchen while Allie did small jobs and kept Margie entertained. Right before 2:00, Allie put shoes on Margie and they walked across the street together to escort Ms. Schevitz back for dinner. Ginny ate some of her sole, as well as sweet potatoes and green beans. Her color looked better. She passed on dessert and went back to Myra's study, Allie accompanying her this time.

When David and Helen called at 4:00, Ginny stayed on the phone a long time, talking first to David, then to Cathy who was with her parents. Myra heard her laughing, which loosened the bands around her chest. She sent a plate of leftovers home with Ms. Schevitz for her dinner, and the rest of them settled in front of the TV while Chris scanned the channels, looking for something that wasn't either sports or insipid. They wound up watching a series of "I Spy" reruns on some oldies station, and Ginny joined them after her call, continuing to laugh at Allie's caustic commentary about Bill Cosby.

After a late dinner that cleaned out all the leftovers, Chris and Sima headed home, begging to be kept in the loop. Allie played Hi Ho the Cherry-o with Margie until Myra marveled at her patience. Ginny dozed off, covered with a quilt on the couch, a mound of vulnerability.

Myra steamed some milk and persuaded it into Margie, which finally pushed her into sleepiness. Once she was in bed, Myra went to the kitchen for a final clean-up. Allie joined her, saying "I think I'll bunk in your spare room tonight."

"Oh, god, Al, that would be great. She swears there's nothing like contractions, and she's not a novice, she's got great knowledge of her own body, but I'm -- "

"You look ghostie" said Allie. "Listen, you go on to bed with her. I'm going to sit up and watch something with car chases in it."

Ginny had to get up three times during the night to pee, saying she still felt bloated. Myra woke up each time and walked with her to the bathroom, mute and stretched raw. Right before dawn, Ginny went into a deep sleep and, recognizing the sound of her breathing, Myra was able to relax as well. They woke up at 8:00 to the phone ringing -- Patty checking in. Myra listened as Ginny said there wasn't any real change.

Allie was at the table with Margie when they got up, eating cereal. Myra made herself a bowl as Ginny insisted she wanted to start with just tea. Eventually Myra talked her into toast with apple butter and a little cottage cheese. As Ginny was finishing this, she said "I know I'm being weird. I feel weird. Mostly, I want to lie an as comfortable a position as I can find and not think about anything."

"We can do that" said Myra, wishing she could take drugs to get through the day. "Go back to bed. Or wherever you want to be."

"Are you sticking around today?" Ginny asked Allie. Allie looked apologetic as she said "Ah, I have plans unless you need me to change them", switching her gaze to Myra.

"Nope. Go on while it's this easy. Yeah, I'll be a single parent all day, but you know what? It's the last hurrah for Margie to be alone with a mommy all day. She may not understand but I do. We'll make the most of it." Even as she said it, Myra felt her energy lift a little. Margie was grinning at her from the high chair.

Ginny kissed Myra sweetly and walked heavily to the bedroom, shutting the door with a click. Allie got Margie dressed while Myra cleaned from breakfast. When they came back downstairs, Myra had coffee in a to-go cup for Allie. Allie said quietly to Myra "You worried sick, or what?"

"I have my moments" admitted Myra. "But maybe it's just that she's 35, having her second kid in the dead of winter, and all the novelty has worn off. We all know it's about to get a lot more hectic around here. And she's big as a blue-ribbon watermelon."

Margie thought this was funny. After Allie left, Myra pulled pots and wooden spoons out onto the floor and let Margie make an unholy noise while she started chicken soup with all of Ginny's favorite vegetables.

Myra thought Margie could use some outdoor time, but it was drizzly and wickedly cold. Plus she was afraid to leave Ginny for any extended period of time. Finally she bundled them both up and they walked around the block with Juju. They played with Margie's wooden train set, strung beads, did a few rounds of Simona Dice, and it was time for lunch. Myra carried a tray in to Ginny, along with that day's mail. The lines had disappeared from Ginny's face, which was a good sign.

After lunch, Margie and Myra sang along to a few of her records, pretended to be various insects hopping and buzzing around the house, made gingerdykes, and glued macaroni onto papier mache boxes and painted them. This required a scrub-down to remove all the paint, and Myra opted to fill her and Ginny's big tub with bubble bath, sending Margie upstairs to grab her bucket of boats and dinosaurs for water play. By the time they were dried off and dressed again, Margie was long past due for a nap. Myra decided to keep her going as long as she could and opt for a very early bedtime instead.

Dinner was a veggie frittata, and Ginny joined them at the table, eating a normal portion. Myra loaded the dishwasher while Margie chatted with Ginny. She gave Margie a frosted gingerdyke with more warm milk, spelling out "early bedtime" to a shocked Ginny, and settled on the couch with a blanket and books from Margie's babyhood. Her ploy worked. Twenty minutes later, Margie was down for the count.

Myra carried her to bed, fed the animals a last treat, turned off all the lights, set the alarm, and grabbed a poetry journal she hadn't read yet as she crawled into bed next to an already dozing Ginny. Ginny pushed her rump back against Myra, and Myra spooned her from behind, putting her hand over Ginny's bulbous abdomen. Despite her fatigue, she felt a momentary surge as she thought, once again, that two lives were in bed with her, not just one. In a matter of days, the braid would come unraveled and Ginny would be only Ginny again, forevermore. She fell asleep with the light on, her journal unread.

The next morning, Allie returned for breakfast, bringing cornbread and maple-cured bacon she cooked in the microwave between paper towels to keep the smell from bothering Ginny. Myra sliced some havarti to go with Ginny's cornbread and fruit. In the middle of her first cup of tea, Ginny said "I have to go again" and shuffled to the bathroom. She was absent a little longer than usual, and when she returned, she said quietly "I felt like I needed to move my bowels, but -- it didn't work. And then I had what I'm pretty sure was an early contraction."

Myra went straight to the phone and called Dr. Desai. She'd apparently left instructions for them to be patched through, because Myra was told to hold and a minute later Ginny was talking to Dr. Desai. When she hung up, she said "She wants me to go on in. No rush, she'll meet us at 10:00 in the birthing center."

Myra couldn't eat another bite. Allie took Margie upstairs to get her dressed. Margie's overnight bag was sitting next to their hospital bag by the door, had been for two weeks. Myra fed the animals, put out fresh seed for the birds, and turned off the pool heater. She checked the fridge for anything that might go bad in two days, and suddenly remembered to call Chris and Sima. When she was done, she walked into the bedroom. Ginny was standing next to the bassinet and changing table in the corner, fingering the edge of a buttery-soft onesie. Myra stood behind her, her forehead on Ginny's shoulder, her arms on Ginny's hips. She said "Every single day, I think I'll never forget this day, how good it's been in some regard. But I bet it's actually true for the 24 hours coming up."

Ginny turned and pulled her into a belly-blocked hug. "I'm just plain scared" she whispered.

"Me, too. I think that's an intelligent response" answered Myra.

The phone rang and Ginny went to answer it -- Sima, returning their message. Ginny sat down on the chair in the corner to talk with her for a minute. Myra stripped their bed, putting on clean sheets and making it crisply. By the time Ginny got off the phone, Myra was ready.

They went by Pat and Patty's to drop off Margie, who seemed to be assuming this visit was simply an extension of the New Year holiday. At the hospital, Allie parked while Myra walked in with Ginny and got them registered. When Allie found them, Mrya handed her a plastic arm bracelet, saying "I told 'em we needed an extra spouse's ID. They were too shocked to argue." Which made Ginny giggle, a big relief to Myra.

Even bigger relief was Dr. Desai bustling in, ten minutes later but with a real grin on her face. She warmed up the speculum in her gloved hands as she got a repetition of the last day's symptoms from Ginny. She didn't say anything as she finagled a fetal monitor in past Ginny's cervix. Once that was operating, she focused on the exam.

"You're 4-5 cm dilated, 100% effaced. Vertex presentation" she finally said, still looking between Ginny's legs. "We have medications that may arrest labor..." Her voice trailed off as she looked at the fetal heart tones tracing.

"Is he all right?" asked Ginny urgently.

"Occasional decelerations, but it's in the 140 range" said Dr. Desai.

"How early is he, really?" continued Ginny.

"I can't say definitively, but my estimate is five to seven days" said Dr. Desai.

"If he's born right now, what risk is he going to run? Will he be premature?"

Dr. Desai pulled off her gloves and looked at Ginny and Myra. "I think his lungs are fully mature. If not, we could give him surfactant. Otherwise -- I can't make predictions, Ginny, I can't say anything about him until he's here. But I'm not going to insist we do everything we can to delay birth."

Ginny and Myra looked at each other for a long while. "He's not given me on iota of trouble" Ginny said softly. "He's so responsive to us; I think he's just eager."

Myra wished she were not being asked to help make this decision -- for a split second, then she set that aside. She was the mommy. She said "I trust you, Ginny, you and your body. Whatever you think, I'm with you."

Dr. Desai said "You're already fatigued, Ginny, you haven't rested well for days -- "

"And I'm not going to, either, with this hanging over me" said Ginny. "Don't give me anything -- no Pitocin, either, not yet. Let me listen to him and see what happens in the next few hours. Let's get it quiet and dark in here, no stress."

"All right" said Dr. Desai, not completely approving. She began giving orders.

Myra kissed Ginny's cheek and said "I'm calling your family. And Patty." As she went down to the phone by the couch, Allie moved in to hold Ginny's hand.

Myra explained the situation to Cathy. "I don't know what to tell you, about coming now versus waiting for more progress" she said.

"I'm like Ginny, I can't just sit around waiting" said Cathy. "And I know Daddy's on pins and needles. We'll be there as soon as we can, and if turns into an early visit, that's fine."

Patty promised Margie was safe with them for as long as it took. She did, however, express doubts about going ahead with delivery. Myra tried not to let the fear into her core. She asked to talk with Margie, who said two words and then was off the phone again to play. She left a message at Chris and Sima's, asking them to check in on Juju, before returning to Ginny.

"Let's go for a walk" said Ginny. With Myra on one side, Allie on the other, they patrolled the hospital. Ginny's contractions built steadily and more swiftly than Myra remembered with Margie. They found a central courtyard with a fountain where they sat for a while. New Year's decorations were still up. Myra put her mouth next to Ginny's navel and said "Whatcha think, little guy? Are you ready to meet me?"

"He says yes" Ginny answered.

On the way back to the room, Allie peeled off to get lunch for her and Myra. Not long after they'd finished eating, Allie carrying the food containers out of the room, Dr. Desai returned for another check-up.

"You've dilated another centimeter, and you're at zero station" she said resignedly. "Okay, this looks like it's going to happen."

"Told ya" said Ginny at little breathily, rolling through a contraction.

"I'm calling in a neonatalogist" said Dr. Desai. "If there's anything different at all, he'll be taking your baby to NICU. And -- you may need a cesarian section, I'm telling you now."

"I won't" breathed Ginny. Myra felt sick to her stomach.

Cathy and David arrived before 5:00. Sima and Chris were there but left soon, saying they'd spend the night at the house with Juju.

Myra lost track after that. This time, Ginny's transition period was brief, arriving after hours of Ginny refusing an epidural, vocalizing her way loudly through serious pain and effort. The baby also never faltered. He was born at 9:17, screaming his head off, a new voice, reminiscent of Margie but definitely distinct. He was whisked away by a big man with hairy arms to the baby station nearby. As Dr. Desai delivered Ginny's placenta and Ginny grunted in Myra's arms, Myra tried to listen for the Apgar scores. She couldn't hear them, but then the doctor said something to Dr. Desai that included the word "jaundiced".

"Let them hold him first" said Dr. Desai. Myra stood up, a visceral wave of protection passing through her entire body, as Gillam was carried to them. He had stopped crying but his face looked frantic to Myra. And a little yellow, underneath the flush. He seemed smaller than Margie had, and when she heard his weight -- 6 lb. 14 oz -- Myra realized he was significantly smaller. Ginny held him tightly, whispering his name over and over, and his kicking legs relaxed. Myra put her arms around them both, saying "It's okay, son, this is the world, you're with us."

Dr. Desai said "They're taking him to NICU, to draw a bilirubin and begin phototherapy. He's got jaundice, which is common and not serious. As soon as we can get some milk from you into his system, Ginny, that will help. And the phototherapy, a few hours each day."

"I don't want him living apart from us" said Myra.

"Just an initial treatment while they set up a light bed in here" said Dr. Desai.

"Not without me" said Myra. She looked at Ginny, who managed a nod. "I'm going with him, he's not to be separated from one of us."

As a nurse came to carry him away, Dr. Desai said "Go with her, then" and Myra kissed Ginny fervently, saying "I'll be back as soon as I can" before hurrying after Gillam.

The NICU had two disturbingly tiny babies with brutal tubes going in their flesh and diapers. No other parents at the moment. Myra stayed close to the nurse, talking softly and nonstop to Gillam, as the vernix was washed from his skin and soft patches were placed over his eyes. "Gonna have to wait a bit on learning with your vision" said Myra, "but you keep listening, I'm right here and you know this voice, don't you, angel?"

Myra had to look away when a needle was pushed into his perfect flesh to draw blood. His shock was absolute, and he screamed. Myra simply picked him up, then, ignoring the nurse, and kissed his cheeks over and over, apologizing. He calmed quickly.

Once he was on a pallet beneath the light, Myra put one finger inside his tiny hand and placed her other palm flat against his feet. "That's me, Gillam, you draw from my current, a complete circuit from me to you" she murmured. He didn't look nearly so frightened, and the ferocity of her guard shifted abruptly to a kind of ectasy, looking at his face, those Ginny-like cheeks and dark, drying hair. He had the same features that Margie had at birth, but his face looked wider, his chin a tad more pronounced. And while his intensity was no less than hers, his inner fire was different. Even now, at one hour old, he was unique.

She began singing softly:
"Love you forever and forever
Love you with all my heart
Love you whenever we're together
Love you when we're apart

And when at last I find you
You voice will fill the air
Sing it loud so I can hear you
Make it easy to be near you
For the things you do endear you to me
You know I will"

She could sense the nurses and techs listening to her, but also the other babies. She kept singing, even after Gillam went to sleep. Every time she looked at him, her own uterus contracted. She felt high, as high as she had ever been.

After an hour, Allie found her, arguing briefly with a nurse at the door until Myra called out gently "She's family, look at the bracelet on her arm". When Allie got there, she put her hand softly on Gillam's chest, looking dumbstruck. She whispered "Ginny's not able to rest, she needs to know he's okay from one of us."

"He's fine" said Myra. "His bilirubin is not that elevated, and in another hour or so, we'll be coming back to the room, they said."

"Your pupils are way dilated" remarked Allie.

"Baby love" answered Myra. When Gillam woke up again, Myra fed him a small bottle of Ginny's expressed milk, his first meal. He fit in the curve of her arm as if grown inside her own body. She talked to him softly, nonstop, and he was definitely listening.

By the time they got back to the room, Ginny was close to hysterics despite Cathy and David's best efforts. When she had Gillam against her chest and Myra's arm around her back, she couldn't say anything for a while except "Thank god, oh thank god." Once he was asleep again, Ginny consented to let the others hold him as she wept in Myra's arms. Eventually she, too, was able to drop off into utter exhaustion, Cathy on her other side holding Gillam.

An hour later, Cathy said "Diaper change time, I think." Myra walked around the bed to take Gillam, and Allie joined her as Myra said "He's going to be pooping more than usual, and they warned me it might be runny and green, because his liver is pumping out the bilirubin." After one wipe, Allie exclaimed "Holy moly! He's -- like, hung."

Myra laughed wildly, in part at the expression on David's face. "No, it's just the birth hormones swelling his little jewels. Don't you remember, Margie had a big old yoni, too, that first day or so?"

"I don't remember" said Allie. "Maybe I didn't look." She was embarrassed now.

"Well, Gillam's not shy, are you, beauty?" murmured Myra. She completely agreed with Ginny, he had been unable to wait any longer to be born and that summed it up.

The next morning, Cathy and David went to the house to get some sleep, then retrieve Margie from Patty and Pat. They brought her for a visit around dinner time. She had no interest at all in Gillam, and once it became clear that Myra and Ginny weren't coming back home with them, she cried and became angry, inconsolable. Allie wearily went home with them, to sleep with Margie that night. Myra curled beside Ginny, one hand stretched into the light bed she'd pulled beside them, touching Gillam, and slept.

Ginny and Gillam were both discharged the next day, mid-afternoon. Myra had already arranged for a phototherapy set-up to be rented and delivered to the house that morning. Gillam would need a check-up in two days, but they expected him to have a normal bilirubin by then. Allie and Cathy came to drive them home, David staying with Margie.

When they came in the front door, Juju rushed the front door, barking her hello. A few seconds later, Margie appeared from upstairs, also barking and dropping down to all fours, trying to wag an imaginary tail. Juju went silent in confusion and began licking Margie's face. But Margie noticed that Ginny's arms were full, and went silent also, standing up and pulling at Ginny's hand to lean down so she could see.

"This is your brother" said Ginny in an enraptured tone. "Remember him from the hospital? This is the baby who's been in my belly this year, and now he's come home to live with us."

Margie stared critically at Ginny's belly. Allie and Cathy, carrying bags, made their way around the two of them. Myra squatted down beside Margie and said "His name is Gillam. Gillam David Bates-Josong."

"No, Josong-Bates" argued Margie.

"That's your name, and Mama's name. But my name, and his name, is going to be Bates-Josong" said Myra. "Can you say Gillam? Welcome home, Gillam."

Margie ignored her, tugging at Ginny's hand. "Pick me up, Mama."

Myra stood and picked up Margie, who protested at first until Myra leaned in close to Ginny, allowing Margie to look down on Gillam.

"Gillam, this is your big sister, Margie. She will play with you every day, and teach you all about the world."

Margie leaned her head on Ginny's shoulder and put a hand down to Gillam, not quite touching him. He was blinking, trying hard to focus and take in what was going on.

David had gone into the kitchen and put on the kettle. Myra said "Let's sit down on the couch, and you can hold him."

She had to restrain Margie, to keep her from clambering into Ginny's lap on top of the baby. "Sit here" said Myra "and be still, and you can hold your brother."

Margie obliged, a little impatiently. Myra arranged Margie's arms and hands, and Ginny cautiously put Gillam into his sister's embrace. Allie had pulled out the camera and was taking photos.

Margie's face was a puzzle. Finally she said "Can we play now?"

Ginny laughed. "He has to get a little older. Right now, he's just like you were when we brought you home from the hospital two years ago. You had to learn how to move your body, and get bigger, and then you learned how to talk. But when you were this little, we had to do everything for you, just like we'll have to do with Gillam."

Margie had had enough. She thrust him to her side, where Myra, anticipating this, had waiting hands. Myra pulled Gillam close to her, and Margie finally had unobstructed access to Ginny's lap. Ginny winced a little and said "Easy, Margie. No standing or jumping on me, you need to be still because I have owies from giving birth."

Margie clasped her hands around Ginny's neck and said "You're my Mama."

"Yes, I am. I will always be your Mama" said Ginny, hugging her back. "I sure missed you, I'm really glad to be home."

Myra, in the meantime, was lost to anything but the joy of holding Gillam close to her. He seemed to press against her in a way Margie never had.

And this was how it went. Ginny's time holding and feeding Gillam was imperiously regulated by Margie, who suddenly became much more interested in claiming Ginny's arms than she had before. Ginny nursed Gillam, took her turns playing with him and singing to him, despite Margie's heavy-handed attempts at interference, but she allowed Margie to claim her, too. Myra thought she secretly relished Margie's renewed attachment to her. And this meant that Gillam was hers to carry and adore, much more than she had had access to Margie. This baby was hers.

He was not a cryer like Margie had been, either. Occasionally he would tune up and need to vent whatever it is that babies are working out, and he fussed predictably when something was wrong. But he was easily comforted, and in fact seemed to be intensely responsive to human contact, a cuddler. He smelled different than Margie had, too. Under the standard baby smell, Margie had always had a slightly strawberry hint to her natural odor. But Gillam was pure vanilla.

Myra really couldn't get enough of him.

When Gillam was a week old, that Thursday morning Cathy's husband Michael, with Nate and Noah, flew into Seattle to join them. At the last minute, Helen came down with the flu and couldn't make it. Or so David told Ginny, who looked away from him with a set jaw. Myra rented rooms for her in-laws at a nearby B&B, and pored over meal plans with Cathy. Sima and Chris showed up with a beautiful old wooden captain's chair they had stripped down and refinished, which Sima announced was Elijah's chair for Gillam's bris. Ginny wept as she sat down in it, holding Gillam.

Michael had offered to act as mohel, since no actual circumcision was required of him. Friday morning, David and Michael left to immerse in a local mikvah. Patty, now five months pregnant, took Cathy to a mikvah as well. Even after these departures, the house was still full of people -- Ginny's nephews, Allie, Chris, Sima, and Truitt who was put into the upstairs hallway with Margie so they could romp. Ginny sat on a inflatable doughnut in Elijah's chair at the end of the breakfast bar and talked Myra through making challah the Ginny method. Ginny's nephews were in the backyard, persuading the winter earth to yield to their shovels as they dug a hole big enough to plant the six-foot tulip tree Myra and Ginny had chosen to commemorate Gillam's birth.

After a hearty lunch for ten adults and three children, Allie took everybody out for an afternoon of seeing Seattle. Chris and Sima went shopping for dinner, Patty took Margie home with her for a bit, and Myra let in the cleaning crew she'd hired. Once they were under way, she lay down with Ginny upstairs, Gillam sleeping beside them. "To be named on shabbos, it's a mitzvah" murmured Ginny as they drifted off.

At 4:00, everyone had returned, their laughter echoing up the stairwell and waking even Gillam. Pat came back with Patty and the children. Nancy arrived, then Poe and Jen, Alveisa, Petra, and Ms. Schevitz from across the street. Myra checked the enormous rib roast started in the oven by Chris before they all trooped outside and formed a semicircle around the hole Nate and Noah had dug.

"Hell of a time of year to plant a tree" Chris whispered to Pat.

Ginny was holding Gillam. Margie kept yanking at Ginny's jacket, so Allie picked Margie up and whispered something in her ear. After that, Margie behaved herself. Myra resolved to demand Allie's secret.

Sima and Chris led prayers in two different languages, and at her signal, Myra stepped forward with Gillam's placenta, frozen in waxed paper, and placed it into the hole. Sima poured in a cup of wine with another prayer. Chris and Alveisa muscled the tree into place, holding it upright as Nate and Noah began spading dirt back into the hole. Once it was filled in, everybody shouted "mazel tov" at Gillam and went back inside to get warm. Except Chris and Pat, who began fashioning a plastic wrap over the tree using bungies and clothespins to protect it from freezing.

Myra and Jen began cooking in earnest. Poe offered to join them, and turned out to be a dab hand in the kitchen. They were crowded, but in high good humor, and Myra found herself really enjoying Poe.

Four loaves of challah came out of the oven and were placed on the top of the sideboard to cool. Ginny held court in Elijah's chair with Gillam. Margie's cousins took her and Truitt back upstairs to play tag and other raucous games.

At 5:00, Myra called out "Fifteen minutes". Ginny stood carefully and walked upstairs with Gillam, to dress him in the dark rose velvet onesie she'd designed and had Belva make for this ceremony. Patty got the children washed up and Margie dressed in her outfit of cerulean velvet. Ginny came back down leading Margie, leaving Gillam upstairs with Allie. Patty handed out kippah. The men, Sima, Jen, and Patty put on tefillin and tallit. David's was very worn and glittered with gold thread.

Myra pulled three massive salmon from the broiler and let them sit on the stovetop. Everything else was ready. She turned off the oven and burners, washed her hands, and stepped into her study to change into her eggplant velvet shirt which would match Ginny's. She walked to where Ginny was sitting, now in a chair beside Elijah's chair, left empty. Myra stood beside Ginny holding Margie who was suddenly solemn. Cathy had the video camera running, and its whir was the only sound as Allie appeared on the landing, holding a wide-awake Gillam whose cheeks matched his clothing.

Everyone shouted "Baruch haba!" as Allie came downstairs. She handed Gillam to Ginny, who stood and helped Myra and Margie hold him for a moment before passing him on to David. Gillam was passed in turn to everybody in the room, even Truitt, so they could look down into his face and bless him. When he was finally returned to Ginny, he was serene and radiant. Myra bent down to kiss him, her heart full to bursting. She remained squatting, holding Ginny's hand, Margie sitting on her bent knee.

Michael stepped forward, and David knelt in front of Ginny, holding Gillam's feet lightly. Margie leaned forward and put one of her hands over David's, and he nodded at her. Michael began prayers in Hebrew. Myra had studied them and recognized them all until the end, when Michael began saying something unfamiliar. It was unfamiliar to Ginny, too -- her expression registered surprise for a minute, as Michael spoke, then tears began leaking from her eyes. Michael paused, bent forward and placed his cupped palm over Gillam's groin. He said a sentence in Hebrew, stepped back, and David repeated what Michael had done. Then Noah and Nate each stepped forward and repeated the action and the prayer. The only word Myra was sure she recognized was Cohanim. Ginny was crying in earnest now. Cathy was crying as well.

When David stood up again, kissing Ginny's forehead, Sima said bracha over the non-alcoholic wine on the dining table and began pouring it into small wineglasses. Ginny stood up, with Myra, and they pressed close together as David gave Gillam his Hebrew name, David ben Maryam v Leah ha-Kohein. Michael led the naming prayers as Sima handed out wine. Myra used one hand to wipe the tears from Ginny's cheeks, and Ginny kissed her tenderly. Then they both leaned in to kiss Gillam on each cheek, and Margie pushed in between them to kiss Gillam's face, too.

Cathy burst out in Simen Tov und Mazel Tov, and by the third repetition everyone was singing along. Then Sima turned to the challah on the table, said motsi, and the room erupted into cheers as people crowded forward to tear off pieces of bread and begin filling their plates. Ms. Schevitz had brought chickpeas, which were a big hit. Margie scampered off to eat with Allie, and Myra fed herself and Ginny from a shared plate dominated by salmon -- Ginny's first in nine months.

After a few bites, Myra said quietly to Ginny, "What was that final prayer that Michael said? You didn't know about it, did you?"

Ginny swallowed and looked near tears again. "He declared Gillam to be a Jewish male, in covenant with Yahweh to the fullest extent, and declared him a descendant of the line of Cohanim. Then all of Gillam's male relatives swore that they knew this to be true."

Myra looked at Gillam, who was watching her face intently. She wanted to cry now, too. She handed their plate to Ginny and pulled Gillam into her arms. He nestled against her, and she breathed in his smell. "Thank god you are my son" she whispered to him. "Thank you for coming to be my son."

Before dessert, Sima declared it to be sunset and lit the shabbos candles, picking up Margie to help her. Everyone sang "Shabbat shalom" and people began demanding turns at holding Gillam. Myra gave him up reluctantly, and instead went into the kitchen to oversee the slicing of blueberry pie and raspberry torte. After a few minutes, she heard Gillam's cry and started for him, but Ginny already had him and was lifting her shirt to let him nurse. He latched on and placed his tiny closed fist against her breast as he ate.

A week later, with all the Denver family flown back home, Patty came over for the morning. Myra seized the chance to go grocery shopping, but Truitt and Margie clamored to go with her. Margie needed to get out of the house, so Myra relented. She took them to the library first, leaving with a stack of books. The next stop was Pike, where she bundled them up and was grateful for the lack of crowds on this chilly day, so the children could run free through the market. She bought bread and a few pastries, without time to bake right now, and let each child pick one cookie from the display case.

After she was loading groceries into the car, Margie said "Can we go to the merry-go-round?" This was the old-fashioned disk they turned themselves, in a nearby park.

"Great idea" said Myra. At the park, they scrambled onto the merry-go-round and held on with little mittened hands as Myra began pushing, progressing to a run before she finally leaped onto the platform herself and lay down, the cold metal seeping through her clothes into her back and thighs, the pewter sky spinning above her looking like metal itself. Margie and Truitt lay down also, laughing the clear, pealing laughter of childhood. When Myra was too winded to push any more, they played on the swings, the teeter-totter, and the slide. Margie wanted Myra to lift her up to the horizontal ladder at the jungle gym and let her hang by her arms. Myra tried to explain that Margie's mittens would not give her enough traction to hold on, but finally just had to show her how it wouldn't work. Margie began pulling off her gloves, and Myra said "Your hands are gonna freeze". Margie persisted, and when Myra held her up so she could grasp the metal rungs, it was only two seconds before Margie let go, bawling. "It burns!" she cried, "How can cold burn?"

Myra cradled Margie's hands between hers and blew warm, steamy breath onto them, kissing her bright pink palms until the pain vanished and Margie wanted to squirm away. Myra managed to hold onto her long enough to get her mittens back on.

When they got home, Ginny had hot water for tea waiting. As Myra hauled in the groceries and books, Patty took her leave, thanking her for wearing Truitt out. Margie was exhausted, too, but fighting it in the way she did by running around aimlessly and looking for trouble, anything to stay awake. Myra showed Ginny the muffins she'd bought, a dozen each of bran and almond-blueberry. Ginny's eyes lit up, and Myra said "Which one shall I toast for you?"

"The almond-blueberry" said Ginny. "With cream cheese." Myra made three, one for Margie as well, and steamed some milk for Margie's hot cocoa. While the muffins were toasting, she showed Ginny the chicken livers, ground turkey, quail, winter chard, porcinis, and imported beefsteak tomatoes she'd found.

"Mmm, stuffed tomatoes" said Ginny. "And fried chicken livers."

"Dinner" agreed Myra. "Plus dry braised green beans, I want something spicy today."

Ginny had begun nursing Gillam, and Margie demanded to sit in her lap as well. Ginny made room, and Myra set Margie's cocoa in front of her. Becoming still, however, while leaned against Ginny's warmth was enough to flip Margie's off switch. She only drank two sips of her cocoa before her head was lolling on Ginny's shoulder, her eyes drifting shut.

Myra and Ginny went silent. Myra set the plate of muffins on the table, pulled Margie's cocoa over next to her tea, and sat down next to them. She fed Ginny, whose arms were full, until Gillam was done nursing. Then she took him onto her shoulder, feeling a thrill down her entire body at how he pressed against her, the instant twinning of their heartbeats. Ginny ate Margie's muffin as well as her own. When all the crumbs had been pressed up by her fingertips, she whispered "I need a nap, and I could take them with me."

"Lie down on my daybed" said Myra, "You and Margie. I'll keep him. When she wakes up, she's going to need a real lunch. For that matter, we do too."

"There's cream of broccoli soup left over from last night" said Ginny. "You could lie down with us."

"No, I'm going to work at my desk, read my mail at least. Maybe Gillam will mind-meld me little baby lines that I could get down on paper."

They left the plates on the table and walked, each holding a sleeping child, into Myra's study, the lights off, the windows fogged from the warmth of their collective breath.

Copyright 2007 Maggie Jochild.

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