The baby was screaming again. Fourth time tonight. Poor thing probably missed her mother, who abandoned her with Nellie to go to some party. Mrs. Barker mentioned something about her husband, but it was no good excuse to leave her baby at home. Especially left under the care of the Lovetts.
Perhaps Nellie should just let the little thing scream until she shut up. Let her get all of it out. Nellie wouldn't have to come up there that way. Besides, Johanna hated Nellie. Whatever she did only made her cry louder. Then again, Nellie could just be bad with babies. Maybe it was her fault. Maybe this was a sign that it was good none of her babies lived long enough for her to raise.
Albert complained and moaned about regretting not kicking the Barkers out after Johanna was born. He rolled over in bed again. His hand hit her cheek on accident. Nellie gave an "ow", although it didn't hurt.
"Make it stop," he said.
Nellie pushed through her exhaustion to get out of bed and wrap her dressing gown around herself. She stomped up the stairs to the apartment and unlocked the door with the spare key Albert kept. She threw the door open to find a red-faced Johanna pulled up by her crib's bars as she endlessly wailed.
"Oh, what is it this bloody time?" Nellie moaned, stomping to the crib.
Johanna's screams grew louder. Nellie released a groan as picked her up, swinging the babe across her chest. She patted her back. She shushed in the way she'd seen Mrs. Barker do. Only harsher. Well, Nellie had every right to be cross. She was left with a wailing baby.
"Shut up," Nellie said.
She was this close to getting on her knees and begging Johanna to let her rest. Just wait until Mrs. Barker got home. Let her deal with Johanna. Plop the baby back in the crib and pretend to not hear her when Mrs. Barker asked about her. So what if she starved? One less thing on Nellie's plate. And heaven knew she needed it. Not to mention she deserved it.
As if to remind Nellie of her existence, Johanna shrieked again.
"Albert's right," Nellie mumbled, "We should've kicked them out after you were born."
Johana pounded a little pale fist against Nellie's shoulder. She adjusted her hold on the baby.
Maybe they should kick Mrs. Barker out the moment she got home from that blasted party. They were both useless and couldn't afford rent. That way, Albert could find a new renter. This time, Nellie wouldn't fall for one and nearly ruin her life over it.
"Hush, love, hush."
Nellie looked down at Johanna's tear-stained face. Despite herself, her heart lurched for the baby. She was confused and tired.
"It's all right, dearie, I feel the same," Nellie said.
With a lullaby she heard Mrs. Barker sing before (which Nellie croaked out) and a few rocks in her crib, Johanna was asleep. Nellie stepped back. Proud of herself for completing such an impossible task.
Perhaps she did have some of that motherly intuition, after all.