Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note.
I am zero years old the first time I am dependent on a machine. I am premature, terrifyingly so: only 25 weeks, and with a single, seventeen year old Lucy Rosemary Durham as my mother. It is Halloween and Lucy is convinced that one of her friends has somehow played a trick on her when she goes into labor. Two minutes and eighteen seconds after she reaches the hospital, crying and screaming bloody murder, I enter the world, impossibly small and silent.
Lucy is poor, her parents haven't even noticed that she is pregnant, and she had never planned on keeping the baby. So while I am being fussed over, she sneaks out of the hospital and runs away from home. Three days later, at two in the morning, she stumbles into the middle of the road, nearly sweating alcohol, and is run over by a sleepy eyed truck driver.
But at the time, I don't know any of this. It is several days before I open my eyes, and by then, Lucy is long gone. The first thing I am conscious of is the buzzing machinery and the sterile, glowing white surroundings. The blue shape of a mask is staring down at me, but it disappears at once, almost before I can even process what color it is, calling what I will later assume were excited announcements that the mystery baby had opened his eyes. However, again, at the time, I am aware of nothing but the brightness of my environment and the soothing sound of the ventilator as it lulls me back to sleep.
Some of the first words that babies usually hear are "hi" and "mommy" and "daddy" and "bear" and their name and "I love you". I hear "preemie" and "anemic" and "persistent ductus arteriosus" and "antibiotics" and do not have a name and am loved by no one.
This second to last difference is a bit untrue, as the name on my birth certificate is L Lawliet, as pieced together from what Lucy gasped out after labor. But L Lawliet is not a proper name, and the doctor that wrote it down had not slept in nearly two days, so not even the nurses call me by it. The last difference is a bit of a stretch as well, as there are people who care for me. But nurture from a tired, gossipy nurse or her older, kinder friend is a great deal less precious than the unconditional love of a mother or sibling.
I will admit, however, that this aforementioned friend has some potential.
"He's beautiful," she coos one evening, the sixth evening she has visited me in the past two weeks. The first visit was a coincidence, the second an unconscious desire, and the last four deliberate. She fondles the ebony fuzz lining my scalp with one well groomed, yet unpainted finger, and brushes her knuckle against my cheek. "Such lovely eyes." My newborn eyes may be lovely, but they are incredibly weak; they see nothing but a blur of her face, however she giggles, a carefree, accidental sound, which makes me certain that she is happy.
As infatuated with me as she is, I find it difficult to feel similar sentiments towards her. Though the warmth of her skin is pleasant, the fabric of her cotton top is scratchy, and the fine hairs on her arm tickle, and she has a peculiar fascination with touching my hair, and her incessant babble is high pitched and meaningless—sometimes I wonder if she is actually trying to communicate with me, or whether she is simply unable to think of me as anything more than a toy for her to hold—and nowhere near as relaxing as the ventilator, which knocks me out like I've taken a mountain of sleeping pills.
Consequently, when I am well enough to breathe properly on my own, I have perhaps one of the earliest cases of insomnia. I don't cry or fuss or wiggle miserably in the way that most cranky babies do; instead, I decide that it is all for the better, and take advantage of the extra time awake to utilize my slowly improving vision and investigate my surroundings.
My motherly figure enjoys taking me to the hospital playroom, and I enjoy attending, though our reasoning for such an affinity is worlds apart. She takes me so that I can bond with other infants, plopping me down beside other lumpy babies and chatting with their mothers. I go so that I can learn.
I stare at my feet against the bright blue backdrop of the foam arena, then at the feet squirming beside my calm ones, and catalogue their similarities and differences. I then peer at the lifeless feet of a nearby ragdoll, and decide that my feet are more similar to its, and that I am more similar to the ragdoll. I reach for it, and am rather aggravated when I find that my arms are too stubby to reach it. I then begin to suck at my thumb, and wonder whether it would be possible to fashion some sort of long grabbing device.
A nearby toddler with tubes running into her nose and arm smiles at me. She pushes the ragdoll to me and garbles something unintelligible. Most of the children here cannot speak properly, and I do not want to pick up their bad habits, so, as per usual, I avert my gaze and do not respond to her advances.
But she is persistent and wants to make friends, so she scoots closer and asks, "Dawl?" I don't know if this is a word of her own invention, or the correct term for such an object, but she articulates the word unusually clearly, so I turn my gaze to her curiously. "Dawl?" she repeats, pushing the limp figure further until it is in my reach. I ignore the toy in lieu of watching her mouth form the word and struggling to figure out how to translate this information to my own mouth and vocal chords. I don't want to begin attempting speech until I have completely figured it out, but it is extremely difficult to do so without trial and error. "Dawl?" she offers a third time, and I pay as close attention as possible.
Evidently, I have paid too close attention according to social standards, because the girl's mother suddenly swoops her daughter into her arms with a frantic instruction of "Leave the boy's doll alone!" and several unsettled looks in my direction. The girl is whining and my companion is apologizing hastily, but I am too absorbed in this new pronunciation to care much regarding my sudden rejection.
Warm, frantic arms fold me into a chest, and the hands that cradle me are shaking. The sensation is unpleasant, as I am so small that the vibrations make me tremble as well. I make a small displeased sound in the back of my throat, one of the few noises I make. I use this sound whenever I am particularly irritated, and it usually startles my companion into stopping whatever she is doing.
But this time the trembling only increases, and I am further unable to concentrate on the proper pronunciation for the word "doll." I consider spitting up on her shirt, as that usually makes her set me down, but I do not want to chance an opposite reaction, so I remain as still as possible under the circumstances and wait for the ride to be over.
She hammers at a door, which makes her heart similarly hammer at her chest and against my ear, yet her breathing stops altogether. I hear the door swing open, which restarts her heavy pattern of inhaling and exhaling. "Why, hello Marie. Can I help you?" a familiar voice inquires and I cringe into my companion's shirt.
I do not like this voice because it is not real. This woman doesn't look like a nurse, nor does she act like a nurse, yet she orders the nurses around like she has the authority to, even if she is not one. She doesn't look like a mother, nor does she act like a mother, yet she fondles other babies in front of the mothers to make them think that she can relate to them. She is nothing and everything all at the same time, and that is too paradoxical for me to even consider accepting.
My companion, however, has to accept her because she cares for me, and is desperate for information about me, and this woman claims to have that information. "Yes, please," she fumbles, shifting me to her other hip; I endure the movement in silence. "I think there's something wrong with him."
The woman sighs, and it is the sound of the hospital's automatic doors admitting a fatally injured patient. "Come in, please."
My companion gratefully accepts the invitation and takes a seat in one of the chairs at the woman's desk. Relaxing marginally, she frees me from her suffocating grasp, and lets me lounge against her arm and exercise my abdominals.
The woman sits down as well, keeping her back ramrod straight and her mouth delicately curved. "Would you like to tell me what's wrong?"
My companion thoughtfully brushes her fingertips through my feathery hair. "It's a bit difficult to explain, but I'm a bit concerned for his… Well. I know he's a bit too young—a great deal too young to even be worrying about this sort of thing, but do you know whether you can diagnose…mental…disabilities in children this young?"
The woman is quietly startled. "What would you constitute as a disability?"
Her fingers quicken, and the sensation changes from pleasant to uncomfortable. "Well, not quite a disability, but more of an illness."
"An illness," the woman repeats, and it pleases me to know that she is completely caught off guard.
I yank my head away from her touch, jabbing my fingers irritably into her side. She looks down in surprise at me, and then jerks her hand down onto the armrest. "I know he shouldn't be able to see very clearly right now, but the way he looks at things sometimes. It's downright frightening. actually. The other parents have noticed it too. They don't say anything, but they pull their children away, even the older ones, the toddlers. And he's always so silent. He never sleeps, but he doesn't even make normal sounds."
"That's perfectly normal," the woman assures her. "He's not even a year old yet."
"But he doesn't even try to talk!" My companion sounds near tears, and it is quite frustrating that I cannot discern why. "He doesn't babble and he doesn't whine and he doesn't even cry."
"Most people wish that their babies would be as quiet as yours."
"That's not the point."
"Marie." The woman's voice hardens in an attempt to calm my companion. "You've taken on a great deal being around this orphan so often. As admirable as it is, I have to wonder if the stress is getting to you. We would understand if you decided to make these visits more occasional."
My companion shakes her head surely. "I'm doing fine. I just want to make sure that he is too." She smiles sheepishly. "I've grown quite fond of him."
"It's absolutely normal for a motherly figure such as yourself to imagine that their child is not developing properly, but, I assure you, he's simply a very unique child. All his charts show that he is doing well—doing fantastic, in fact. I'm happy to run some tests, if you feel it necessary to put him through all that…"
"Oh, no! Of course not!" My companion immediately backtracks at the concept of my being in any unnecessary discomfort. "If you say he's normal, then I'm sure you're right."
The woman smiles a peculiar, placating smile. "Wonderful." She leans forward in her chair, releasing an exceptional squeak that hurts my ears, and entwines her fingers in front of her. "Now that we're on the subject, I'd like to speak to you regarding his future."
"What about it?" she asks, almost coos, gazing at me warmly and fondling my hair once more.
"This arrangement at the hospital can only be temporary, and we are going to have to begin searching for a more permanent home." My companion's caresses pause and her brows furrow. "The standard course of action would be to place him in the foster care system until adoptive parents could be found."
"You mean, you're…but… Would I still be able to see him?"
"That would be up to his foster parents, but certainly not as often."
"Oh." She frowns, conflict wavering in the lines at her forehead. "Would it be possible for….me to be his foster parent?"
"There are certain qualifications that you must meet, as well as training, but it's not out of the question."
"And after that, I could adopt him?"
The woman purses her lips in concern. "That is a decision you should consider carefully, but, again, it is plausible."
My companion smiles in relief. "Could I begin applying for being a foster parent now?"
The woman gives a wavering smile. "Of course."
Now that all the emotions have settled down, this conversation is quite boring, and I decide that I will slip in a few minutes of sleep now so I can save consciousness for a more important time.
After roughly half an hour, my companion stands up and jars me from my slumber, making me yawn and blink the drowsiness from my eyes. She cradles me against her chest as we walk back to my room, her watch ticking gently in my ear. I reach a hand up to her wrist, pulling at the cool metal band, and after enough prodding, she hands it to me. I spend the next hour doing nothing but examining the elegant contraption, licking it, holding it to my ear, fiddling clumsily with the dial on the side.
All the while, my companion watches me, eyes shifting in and out of focus, mind shifting in and out of daydream. She murmurs to me sometimes, arranging my clothing on my abnormally thin body—on the BMI, I am in the fifth percentile—and pressing soft kisses to my cheeks.
"I love you," she declares carefully, emphasizing each word, as if to help me understand them, and I turn away from the watch at the prospect of learning her language. "I love you," she repeats, meeting my eyes almost warily. We continue staring at one another for several seconds, but her attempt at communication is futile, and love is far too abstract a concept for me to grasp. I focus on the watch and its tangibility once more, tracking the second hand as it does laps around the gleaming face.
"Do you love me?" she whispers hopefully, but the words mean nothing to me and I am mesmerized by the physical interpretation of the passing of time in my hands.
A tear lands on the tip of my nose and I jump in surprise. Another lands on the watch, and the water magnifies the second hand as it passes through. The drop slips off my nose and onto my lips, where it acquaints my tongue with the taste of salt. I freeze and absorb the flavor, enthralled by its novelty, until it fades. At this point, I bring the watch to my mouth and give it a sloppy kiss, tasting the tear once more.
My companion gives a strangled sob, gathering me off her lap and placing me on the hospital bed, then rushing out of the room, leaving me bewildered with nothing but a watch and a room full of machinery for company, which is quite alright with me.
It has been common knowledge for some time now that ducklings imprint on the first creature they see, be it of the same species or otherwise, and dub it their mother. This is the creature they will learn from, and aspire to be. Seeing as my first sight was a machine, this finding comes as no surprise to me.
Happy October, all! And welcome to my new fanfiction. --bow-- I will be updating with much frequency all through this month, so look for updates soon. Enjoy!
BIGGGGGG thank you to my beta, Scaity, as always, for her fabulous editing, as well as for her patience when I procrastinate.
On another note, some of you may have noticed that I, the author formerly known as twilightguitargirl, am now Blueberry-Valentine, as my interest in Twilight has considerably declined.
Reviewers get a big hug from cute little baby L. :D