I don't own anything you recognize.
Part two of the Antifax duet, a response to the 'Max and Fang have perfect little babies', which occasionally occurs. Because the chances are that they wouldn't, for so many reasons.
It was just after Christmas, the season to be jolly, and I wasn't. Eighteen years old that year, I was married and pregnant. I was going to be a mother, an actual biological mother to a living breathing second-generation bird-kid, after eight years of acting as a surrogate mother to Angel, Nudge and Gazzy.
I knew there were risks of bringing a child into the world, hell, there were some risks that applied to every woman, not just 2 percent bird mothers like me. I'd been warned to excess. Mom had warned me. Jeb had warned me when Fang and I first got serious a year ago that we might not be genetically compatible. We were compatible enough in my opinion, young and in love. The sex was damned good too.
We were married at the start of summer, spent the honeymoon flitting between the islands of Hawaii. I was suspicious when we returned home after a month and a half, but mom confirmed it. Pregnant, three months along, in mid fall. I was ecstatic, and nervous and a whole pile of emotions that I can only remember now, and I don't think that the pregnancy hormones had that much to do with it.
I told Fang first, of course – he had the right to know, being the father. Nudge and Angel were next, and they squealed and hugged me and we went out for some serious retail therapy, and bought tons of baby clothes for the newest addition to the Flock. I didn't even show yet, but Angel was already having meaningful conversations with my foetus. Or so she said
Gazzy and Iggy were told last, but they didn't resent it. Iggy took it with his usual attitude to everything Max and Fang, and gave us quiet congratulations. Gazzy made faces and told us that he so didn't need to know the details.
I laughed at him and leaned back into Fang's arms.
I decided at first that I loved being pregnant – I glowed almost, or so everyone said, and I felt comfortable, as if I had a purpose that was my own – bringing a life into the world – instead of someone else's, which was to save it.
Later I decided I hated being pregnant, when Mom and Dad grounded me and all I could do was waddle around the house like a penguin. At least it was birdlike, but they couldn't even fly. It was awful seeing the others go out and have fun.
My third scan showed the unexpected. Twins. I was carrying twins, gorgeously beautiful, tiny-winged babies, curled up head to toe. I was going to be a mommy, twice over.
At eight months, I went into labour. Just a little bit too early. The strain on my body from two babies with supercharged metabolisms was too much, in the end. It was quick, and painful as hell, delivering my children.
Summer was born first, with blond hair and dark eyes and the tiniest little black chicken-wings that stood out against her translucent blue-tinged skin. She was gone, and there was nothing Mom could do except turn back around and birth my dead baby's sister.
Autumn was identical to her sister in appearance. Blond hair, dark eyes, dark wings. Blue skin.
I cried myself to sleep, and then stayed in bed for a month.
Jeb tested and tested, me and Fang, with both of our consent. Genetic testing, a dozen different types of scans, blood tests – all of his resources. Trying to find out what was wrong with us, with me. He found nothing that was odd, nothing that should cause a problem.
We tried again, we had to. I was pregnant, two months along, by the end of next summer. I was kept under constant surveillance, blood tests every week, ultrasounds every fortnight, strict orders not to fly, and bed rest from five months. I hated the restrictions, but it would be worth it, I thought.
She was a singleton, this time, and very definitely a girl. We named her Eve with three months until her birth. She was born looking like a perfect little angel. Ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes, and two little downy stubs of wing on her back.
At twenty I was the mother of three dead babies. Eve, Summer and Autumn, three headstones out on the farm next to their great-grandparents and that of Total.
Fang and I argued about what we would do next.
Nudge and Iggy got married when I was twenty-one. Nudge was a beautiful bride, half the men in the chapel instantly fell in love with her in that simple white dress, with Iggy's grey feathers braided into her hair. I found out later that month that they hadn't bothered waiting until the wedding – that it was in reality a shotgun wedding.
I warned Nudge, I didn't want her to be like me, I didn't want to see her cry, and sit in her room in the dark, not eating and not speaking to anyone. Her little boy, Mattie, was born seven months after the wedding. He was perfect, ten fingers, ten toes, and very much alive.
Fang left three days later.