The delicate melody and brash harmony weave a haunting pattern on the midnight-streaked dusk. Piano notes echo fruitfully on the still air. As Lumina's gentle, nurturing fingers blend the notes into something beyond beautiful, a story of bliss and love is told, an invisible seducer. A charmer.

The pedals on the piano thunk, and I strain my eyes to better see the graceful manner in which she plays. In the mellow, warm light of the mansion's ritzy lamps, I can scarcely trace the shallow scratches and lesions among the hood of the piano, the bent manner in which the pedals are fashioned. Broken. Paltry. And for some reason, it shocks me…naturally, I would expect Romana to purchase only the best quality for her beloved granddaughter…but it comes as a shock that such a sweet tune could be borne from a paltry, old instrument.

My fingers move to touch the quaint lid, feeling the indents and wear from age. Lumina eyes me, but the trust of a young girl enables her to let me observe. The song ends with an elegant glissando that spirals upward, high and clear as it twists through the icy, indigo sky of a clear night in winter.

I clap softly, the sound echoing, hollow, through the high ceilings of the mansion. My shawl drapes lightly over my shoulder, hanging haphazardly from my ballooned stomach. By now, it looks about ready to burst, as swollen as it is. Lumina giggles quietly in her palm, her cheeks becoming flushed and pink in embarrassment. She is always skittering away from the limelight, but I can tell from afar how she yearns for a stolen moment of attention that blossoms from her talents.

"Thank you, Jill." Her voice is sharp and blood, confident despite her childish demeanor.

I shrug it off. "Thank you for having Marlin and I over for dinner." I place a light hand on the creature, harboring inside of me. "Well, Marlin and the baby and I, actually."

She beams, a glitter of excitement twinkling in her eyes. "When are you going to have the baby?"

"Any day now," I answer casually, though my heart races as the words go past my dry mouth.

"Already?" Lumina asks, smoothing her cream colored skirt as she rises from her bench. "Wow. This whole thing just seemed to fly by."

Oh, she doesn't even know how I had wanted the arrival of my child, the sacred time that I could swaddle it in my arms. Anticipation hangs onto me, latches on to me like a fiend. But nerves are also strong and present, along with a scruple of dread. There are so many things that can go wrong, so many things that could affect my child's temperament and personality. I am venturing out in the vast unknown with only my husband by my side, holding my hand.

But even he isn't here as the permanent truth leaks onto me all over again. He's in the next room as Romana loads him with leftovers from supper to carry.

As if he had heard my beckoning, Marlin elbows past the kitchen's door, his arms full to bursting with elegant silver dishes that look as if they are to tumble down, shattering.

"Oh…Auntie!" Lumina cries in exasperation as she rushes forward to ease the weight from marlin's arms. I can't help but chuckle as Lumina stacks the dishes obsessively back into them, brushing them almost sending an almond torte crashing to the plush carpeting.

Romana cackles her signature laugh, a cutesy little titter. "Oh, don't be so orderly, Lumina. Jill's pregnant! She needs the strength to raise her child!"

Lumina draws in her bottom lip and nibbles on it. She is never able to talk back, always has to obey the orders that are thrown at her. I sigh wearily, gaze upon the purple, horn-rimmed spectacles of the old woman, and take charge of the situation for her once more. "Really, Romana, you don't have to give us all the leftovers."

"No, no, no, take them," she insists, jabbing the tip of her umbrella into the ground with every word in fierce, stubborn determination. "You'll need them more than we will any day, my dear." A small grin plays on my lips at this. Always stubborn as she is, Romana has a heart that is in the right place, nevertheless.

"Thank you, " I tell her, finally surrendering and lifting a few small tins from Marlin's arms and cradling them close to me. "We will use them. But we'd best be on our way…it's getting dark out."

"Very well." Romana nods, her jaw set as she strides to the grand foyer doors, her frilly dress trailing behind her. "Take care of yourselves, and let us know if you need any help. We'd be pleased to offer any."

I turn and grant Lumina a questioning look, but she smiles warmly. I give her a relieved smile back. I know it bothers Lumina that Romana always volunteers her without her consent, but it eases the fear in my heart. At least her thoughts will be with us on the day of the delivery, among other tings.

After we say our final goodbyes, it is just Marlin and I and the endless expanse of stars that only the quiet country has to offer.


That night was long and lonely.

My dreams are plagued with visions of limbs, disfigured and detached, writhing on the straw bedding inside the barn. I would swallow my fears and stumble through the empty doorway. Darkness swallows me, and I narrow my eyes, trying desperately to see through the opaque black.

Fear strikes its way into my heart, the same sickish dread that only comes when I know that I am about to do something wrong. Instinct.

And then I see the glittering, empty eyes, dull and yet vibrant. The eyes of a baby that seer my body and scorch my soul into charred ashes. Oh goddess…something is going to happen right now! I can feel it!


And when I open my eyes from the nightmare, about two things are remotely distinct…Marlin's fearful face inches from mine and great, heavy pain that wracks my body all over.

Marlin tries to calm himself, still his shaking. He reaches out to sweep my sodden, sweat-soaked bangs from my eyes. "What is it?" he asks, concerned.

"Oh goddess…" I grip his wrist and squeeze until the oxygen drains his fingers, fades them into ugly purple. "Get Doctor Hardy, quick! The baby…it's coming!"


My severe apologies for the lack of updates. Holidays kicked me into high gear, and I'm afraid that they still have me lodged in their tight fists…though now it seems as if school and other activities are getting in the way…XD