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Interlude 1

This. Was. Not. How. It. Was. Supposed. To. Be.
She stood over the crib and looked at the lump.  That was how she referred to the baby in her own mind.  The lump.  She shook a rattle vigorously in the babies face.  Other than a turning away, no response.  She tickled the baby.  No response.  She thought about pinching the baby just to see if she could make it cry, but thought better of it when she realized she'd have to explain any bruises to Grandma Moses.  

Nanny Moses scared the shit out of her.  Nanny Moses was a seemingly ancient woman, six feet tall and of mixed African and Native American descent. She was imposing, and she brooked no back talk when Hannah tried to explain modern child-care theories to her.She took care of the baby with a quiet efficiency, often praising the baby for such calm and quiet behavior.  Hannah thought the behavior was unnatural.  She spent most of her time with the baby trying to get a response.  Any response.

The lump ate, and ate well.  At her last check-up, the pediatrician told Hannah to switch the baby to a cup as it was gaining weight too rapidly.  Hannah had complied.  She knew that Grandma Moses was still giving the baby bottles during the day when she was at school, but she NEVER gave the baby bottles.  The lump cried very little.  It spent most of its time eating and sleeping and staring at the walls and the ceiling.  Occasionally, the lump would coo at her husband Alan.  She never got a coo.  Never got a smile.  Just that placid bovine stare coming from eyes so unlike her own.  The lump had tranquil green eyes that seemed to see everything and absorb it without reacting.  The lump was bald.  The doctor thought that the hair would grow in red.  The lump was already fat.  In short, the lump was NOTHING like her mother.

Oh God, thought Hannah.  I forgot.  The lump fills diapers too.  She gingerly started to change the diaper, trying not to gag at the odor.

This is what I get, she thought.  I was in such a hurry.  I couldn't wait until I could get pregnant on my own.  No.  I had to adopt.  Now look at me.  I'm stuck here with this lump of flesh that is totally unconnected to me. It doesn't love me.  It doesn't care what I do as long as I feed it.  It won't play with me.  It won't respond to me.  Alan loves the lump more than he loves me.  I know he does.  The first thing he does when he gets home late for the library is pick up the lump.  He doesn't even kiss me hello any more.  

She was growing increasingly angry with everything.  She looked at the clock.  Another hour at least until Alan got back from the law library.  She couldn't wait until he had finished law school and passed the bar.  She'd be finished with her own Master's by then, and could start enjoying the life to which she had been accustomed prior to marrying the penniless jerk.  The only reason she had married him was because she knew he was going to go places.  She wanted that life, and the chances of being able to obtain it on her own were slim and none.

They had started trying to get pregnant right away.  Month after month of trying.  Then came the tests.  Nothing.  No apparent reason for her inability to get pregnant.  At twenty, she was getting frantic.  They had been married for two years already.  Her mother talked her into applying with an adoption agency.  She had agreed, anticipating that the process would take time, and that she and Alan would be done with school.  To their surprise, the agency had contacted them within three months of the home visit.  Mrs. Jones?  We have a baby girl for you.  She had been SO excited.  So thrilled.  The first couple of months had been wonderful.  Family came to visit.  Gifts were given.  There was a seemingly endless round of social activity that came with the baby.

Then the visits slowed down and eventually trickled to a stop.  Nanny Moses had been hired by her parents so that she could finish her degree.  Now it was just the lump, Nanny Moses, Alan, and herself.  They had no social life.  All the other young marrieds went out all the time.  Not us, she thought, bitterly.  We have to stay home and save our money.  We can't afford a babysitter in the evening.  We can't afford to go to restaurants and out dancing.

She propped the baby up on pillows and practiced making faces at her.  Nothing.  Maybe the lump was retarded.  What if they had gotten a defective baby?  Her mother, the pediatrician, and Nanny Moses all pooh-poohed her worries.  She knew that this child wasn't normal.  

She was tired, even though it seemed that all she did was sleep.  She woke up, drank her coffee, smoked her cigarettes under the disapproving eyes of Nanny Moses, and went to classes.  Some days, she got to meet Alan for lunch on campus.  Most days, she ate alone.  She could have gone home for lunch, but didn't want to see the baby.  She arrived home at the last possible moment.  Nanny Moses usually had dinner ready.  Once Hannah got home, she left for the day, leaving Hannah alone with the lump until Alan arrived.

She heard the door open and heaved a sigh of relief.  She ran to Alan and started sobbing.  Alan rolled his eyes.  The drama was increasing in its intensity each evening. He was having a harder and harder time leaving the library each evening.  He walked right past Hannah to the baby.  Hannah started in immediately.  "There is something WRONG with her.  She doesn't love me.  She doesn't want me. Nothing I do matters.  She must be retarded or something."

Alan took a deep breath.  "Hannah, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this baby.  Everyone we know talks about how lucky we are that she eats well, and is sleeping through the night."

"But she won't PLAY with me!"

"Hannah, babies this age don't exactly PLAY."

As if on cue, Alan blew a gentle raspberry on the baby's stomach and sang to her. "Ellen, ellen bo bellen, banana fana fo fellen, fee fi mo mellen, ELLEN."  The baby gave him a toothless grin.

This sent Hannah into a fit of rage.  "WHY?" she screamed.  "No matter what I do she just stares at me or turns her head away.  She HATES me.  She KNOWS I'm not her mother."

"Hannah, she does NOT know you're not her mother.  You ARE her mother.  You just need to figure out what she likes."  Alan was thinking that part of the problem was the screeching tone of voice that Hannah used so often.

Alan ate some of the dinner that Nanny Moses had left in the oven.  Hannah drank coffee and smoked.  Alan bathed Ellen, gave her some milk in a cup, and rocked her to sleep.

"Play cards with me, honey."

"Hannah, I'm tired.  I have an exam tomorrow, and I have to finish that paper for Professor Thornton."

"Come on, honey.  I'll type the paper for you."

"I'm sorry, Hannah.  I've got to go to bed."

They slept, as they increasingly did, with their backs to one another.  

In the morning, Alan got up early and went to class.  Hannah drank her coffee and paced relentlessly.  Ellen sat and stared at her mother walking back and forth, back and forth.  Hannah smoked a cigarette, and made a phone call.  She then went into the bedroom she shared with Alan and pulled her suitcase out from under the bed.  She ripped through the dresser and the closet, shoving everything she could fit into it.  She scooped all of her toiletry items into the bag.  She dug around in Alan's dresser for their emergency cash.  There were three twenties in there, and she hoped it would be enough.

Nanny Moses opened the door and walked into the apartment.  She put out the cigarette Hannah had left burning in the ashtray and fanned the smoke away from the baby.  She watched as Hannah left the bedroom with her suitcase.  

"I'm going to have to go up north for a few days, Nanny.  My mother is ill, and needs me to help out.  I'm sure you won't mind waiting for Alan to get home, would you?  I can't take care of Mother and Ellen at the same time."

"I'll wait," Nanny replied.  She knew damned well that Hannah's mother wasn't ill.  She had spoken to her this morning on the telephone about a delay in her last pay check.
Poor Mr. Alan, she thought.  

Hannah grabbed her suitcase and walked out the door, down the steps, and into the waiting taxi.

Nanny Moses picked Ellen up and rocked her.  "What a life you's gonna have baby girl.  Six months old and done left by two mamas already.  Don't you worry none.  Nanny Moses ain't gonna go anywhere.  She gonna stay right here with you and your Daddy until this all gets isself straightened out.

She sat on the rocker and waited for Alan to get home.


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