"Warmth"

WARNING OF DOOM: There's lots of "warm fuzzy" in this. If thoughts of cute cuddly kittens make your head feel like it will explode into candy, then this isn't for you. I'm trying to get out of some stubborn writers block that keeps preventing me from continuing on with Pink Ribbon. -_-

H A H A H A H A H A

It's twelve midnight when her eyes flutter open. She yawns and rubs her eyes, but she doesn't swear or sulk. She's used to it; Waking up from even the deepest of sleep in the dead of night. Her own internal clock doesn't belong to her now. Instead it belongs to another.

Helga lifts her head gently so as not to disturb Arnold, her husband of three wonderful years, as he sleeps from another grueling day of work. Her ears adjust to the silence of their small two bedroom apartment, and her eyes take in the darkness as silhouettes emerge out of the shadows, bathed orange-gray from the street lamp that shines into their window from behind simple blinds.

As she sits up in bed, and moves from under the chaotic sheets to let her feet touch the cold wood floor, she waits for the signal, but nothing comes. Outwardly, her face is secure and serene. Inside she's concerned. Of course she has every right to be. Someone's not following her usual schedule. Perhaps something's wrong? She hopes not.

Helga wastes no time in standing. She stretches slightly in her long green shirt and plain blue boxer shorts that she appropriated from Arnold's laundry. It's perfect to sleep in and covers her modestly enough for the present company. The wooden floor of the old apartment building creaks quietly from under her large calloused heels. But the squeaks are themselves but a whisper, almost as if the old building knows to keep quiet while the people tucked safely inside keep to their own silent vigils, or live peacefully in their dreams.

One step into the short hallway and she looks to her right, into the living area where there is no movement in the subdued light. She can still smell the fading aroma of cooked meat from the hamburgers that Arnold made for their anniversary. It was a simple request she had, but Arnold is a good cook, she couldn't pass up the opportunity to watch him making something for her in the kitchen, and they couldn't really go out tonight anyway.

Helga smiles slightly then steps to her left, and slowly pushes open the door to the second bedroom. It is her office, where she writes her poetry and stories by day and sometimes by night if she isn't allowed to sleep. There is a quiet click as she turns on the small lamp on the night stand next to the door. It is the lamp from her childhood bedroom, and it serves its purpose well as it bathes the room in soft incandescent light.

Against the window is a desk littered with books, notepads, purple pens, and a laptop on its last leg. Perched in single corner of the desk is a large picture of the happy couple on their wedding day. Olga's little boy, Tyler, Helga's nephew, took it with a cheap plastic camera. The angle was all wrong and everything looked out of focus, but in the picture is Arnold looking down at the camera, smiling for its intrepid photographer. She has her arms around him looking over his shoulder, with the goofiest looking grin. Her veil is blowing in the wind and draping over Arnold's combed hair. It is such a simple and childish picture, very unprofessional, but taken with the eye of innocence, and contains one of the most attractive smiles that she has ever seen on Arnold's face. It is her favorite wedding picture, and she keeps grainy copies of it in a shoebox along with her veil and the photographic remnants of her shrine to Arnold.

She sighs this time as she walks into the room, towards the desk, and then stops. Helga can look at that picture all day if she so desires. Arnold's happiness, as well as hers, shines through so much. But she can't right now. She must attend to something.

It is the most beautiful piece of poetry she has ever accomplished. All of her past pen-to-paper expressions of romance and longing pale in comparison to this one simple expression of love. It is as if that day in preschool standing under the rain, and how that one simple moment unfolded into untold happiness in her life, all led to this, her most precious work. And more importantly, Arnold, her Arnold, had a hand in its creation.

The happy mother approaches the pink crib in the center of the room, and peers in. Her heart stills itself at the sight of their little one tucked neatly into Helga's old Yellow-Blue checkered baby-blanket and dressed in hand-me-down baby clothes that she got from Olga.

She reaches in to the crib while avoiding the old mobile hovering above that Arnold insisted they use. It's a ridiculously childish mobile with a pig, a fish, a crescent moon, and some stars, but she pays it no attention. It has sentimental value for her husband and she wagers their child deserves to have it.

April showers bring May flowers…

…was what her mind sung to her whenever they sought names for their unborn child. It was raining when she first met Arnold. The showers were not in April, but they brought flowers nonetheless. So Helga decided on April Stella Shortman, and Arnold agreed.

Helga picks April up out of her crib, and holds her close as the little infant stirs in her mother's gentle, cradling embrace. She looks like her mother in many ways. There's the mop of golden blond hair, and the low hanging ears, the slightly upturned nose, and Helga just knows that April will suffer from an overbite that only future braces will fix. April has Helga's head, but she has Arnold's eyebrows, and his unruly thick hair. April yawns and lets out a tiny whimper, then kicks slightly against Helga's arm.

Helga has a reason for doing this. April is clockwork. Approximately five minutes before midnight it's time for a feeding, and the cries that come from this bedroom are loud enough to wake their neighbors. It's a foregone conclusion that April has inherited her mother's vocal chords. So imagine Helga's concern as she holds her rather docile baby in her arms, her senses tuned in to the health of her child, wondering. Is she too warm? Is she too cold? Does she have the sniffles or the flu? Is she groggy? Helga sniffs around. No dirty diaper.

Is she having a bad dream?

She watches her child intently. Everything seems normal. Helga presses an index finger gently against her little girl's cheek, reveling in the tender, delicate skin that she created with Arnold's help. It feels warm to the touch, but not alarmingly so, from a little heart that pulses out the warmth from within a newborn soul. An eternal flame resting on wick and wax from her own soul's candle, and the candle of her true love. For the child in her arms is lit from their own combined fire. Helga can feel the moisture behind her eyes. It took so long to get here; so long to get to this place.

April is Helga and Arnold's love for one another, made into a living and breathing being.

Helga knows there will be trials for their girl. Preschool, kindergarten, and high school. Her first tooth and her first crush. Awkward acne and body odor. Bully's and saints. Horribly frustrating homework assignments and beautiful jewelry from the mall. Maybe even carefully concealed poetry books and shrines. Sleepovers. Dates after graduation, and after the boy who will have her heart understands what Helga will do to him if he breaks it.

April stirs, yawns, and opens her eyes slowly. "Hey there sweetie." Helga whispers happily as she marvels at the deep green eyes staring back at her. She brings her index finger closer to April's little hand, and feels the tell tale signs of a Pataki death grip as the infant grabs on for support, and then promptly brings the much larger finger to her toothless mouth. "You're hungry aren't ya."

The infant coos and kicks her feet a little more. It elicits a chuckle from Helga's throat as she walks towards the door. "Criminey, somebody needs a midnight snack. You never change, you know that." She stops and looks down at green eyes that are staring in wonder at the ceiling as it passes by. "I swear, just like your father."

"Well that's a relief" Helga looks up in quiet surprise as her husband, dressed in a black bathrobe, looks at her with a warm gleam in his otherwise bleary eyes. "I don't know what I'd do with another Helga around the house."

Helga narrows her eyes at Arnold. "If I didn't have my hands full I'd wipe that grin off your face." She scolds him.

"Sorry my queen."

Helga's scowl fades away as she continues into the living area, with Arnold following close behind. "Shouldn't you be in bed?"

"Yes but I didn't hear April cry. Is she okay?" Arnold asks with a concerned face. He stands behind Helga and looks over her shoulder at the little baby girl gnawing happily on Helga's finger.

"Yeah. I think she's just being moody, and hungry. Could you pull that chair out?" She asks Arnold as she stops by the dining room table. Arnold is quick to action, pulling a chair out from under the table and placing it behind Helga.

Helga sits down appreciatively then starts pulling at her shirt before looking up at Arnold looking down at her. "Do you mind?" She asks with a smile to her face. "This isn't a free show."

"Um. Oh!" Arnold grins sheepishly and walks behind his wife to look the other direction as Helga continues to pull her shirt up around her chest. She gently presses April closer to her, and towards her bosom, until she can feel the sensation of her baby suckling at her breast.

She leans back while holding her child firmly in her arms. There is some motion behind her, then the sensation of the back of Arnold's head resting against hers. They sit like that, back towards each other, Arnold staring into the wall and smiling while Helga pays attention to nursing their little bundle.

"You don't have to stay up." Helga admonishes Arnold. "I know you're tired. You need to rest."

"If you're up, I'm up." Arnold replies. Even now, Helga tries to hide the blush that comes to her face when she hears his unintentionally romantic words.

"You're hopeless."

"And you're tired too. I couldn't see sleeping with you up like this." A pause, then Arnold speaks what's really on his mind. "I've never seen April this docile before."

Helga cradles April's head in her hand and looks towards the closed windows, and ponders idly about the still world outside. Then she rolls her eyes as she realizes something. "Well. Someone did play tickle for about half an hour tonight."

"Hey." Arnold looks to his side and shrugs in defense. "I can't help it if our little Oompa Loompa is as ticklish as her Mother, now can I? I think I got an entire week's worth of drool on my sleeves. You owe me."

"Humph. We're even." Helga snorts quietly.

"How so?"

"I'm performing a motherly duty right now."

"And who cooked the burgers?"

"Oh not this argument… Arnold P. Shor-"

But before Helga can continue, the words die in her throat when she feels Arnold's warm lips press against her ear. "Happy Anniversary." She hears him whisper, then shift, and then feels the back of his head against hers once more.

Silence falls upon them for a brief time before Helga breaks through it to ask a simple question. "Did you ever think we'd get this far?"

There's silence, and then a sigh as Arnold fights fatigue himself, then he says "Before you told me you loved me? No. Before we were, married, of course. But when I proposed, I knew I wanted this."

"I'm just worried, I guess."

"About what?" Arnold asks, with tenderness and concern apparent in his low voice.

"The world that April will inherit. Arnold, not a day goes by when I don't promise her that I will be there for her no matter what. I don't want to put her through what I went through." Helga focuses on an individual and very stray strand of hair on her child's head. It seems to radiate golden yellow even in the subdued light. She pauses on the content look in April's face as the little girl continues to suckle for milk. "I don't want her to suffer."

There's a pause then Arnold responds. "I've, always wanted a family of my own. Now we're a family, and, she won't suffer. I, promise you that. I know you'll be a good mother, and I, can only hope that I'll be the father I never had."

Helga looks up and leans her head back against Arnold. "There's no other man alive that I'd want to be the father of my child. Your parents would be proud."

A pause, and Helga can hear Arnold's attempts to steady his voice. He manages only a weak and quiet admission as he whispers. "She'll never know her grandparents."

It's at that moment the deepest smile creeps across Helga's already content face as she brushes her hand against April's forehead. "She'll know us."

The infant stops suckling. She yawns and clinches her little hands into tight fists. Helga slowly works her shirt back down as she stands up. Arnold stands up too and moves around the chairs to step in front of Helga. They both look down at their child. Helga presses her forehead against Arnold's as she closes her eyes.

The three of them stay like that for a moment, wrapped in the pleasant quietness of their small apartment. "We're three candles in the night. This flame I hold will never parish as long as we are there to light the way." Helga whispers to her husband and to their child.

Arnold lets April grab on to his finger while he looks up and kisses his wife on the forehead. "Ask me again why I married you?"

Helga lets out a sarcastic but quiet laugh. "I thought it was for the hot and sweaty sex."

At Arnold's stunned face, Helga steps away, gently removes Arnold's finger from April's grasp and replaces it with her own. She walks back towards the second bedroom with Arnold following closely behind. Arnold stands in the doorway while Helga gently kisses April on the forehead and places her back in the little pink crib. "There you go my baby girl. Sleep well, at least until three."

Helga takes a few moments to admire the cheeks and nose of their child. Arnold approaches her from behind, kisses her on the cheek, and rests his head on her shoulder while they watch little April fall into blissful sleep. "She's beautiful" He sings slightly into Helga's ear while he wraps his arms around her. "Just like her mother."

Without any other word, Helga leans back, turns around in Arnold's embrace, and kisses him square on the lips. It's only a brief yet comfortable kiss and she breaks it easily. Helga looks at her husband in the eyes and whispers "Happy Anniversary."

"Best one yet." Arnold replies as he watches the mobile above April's crib, the same one that adorned his crib more than two decades previous, sway quietly and serenely.

Helga laughs while slapping him playfully on the cheek. The two young parents walk quietly out of the room, Helga only pausing to turn off her old lamp as they go into the master bedroom, intent on kissing and cuddling the night away.

And as silence descends upon the house once more, the infant April stirs from her light sleep. She moves her arms and legs, intent on breaking the cycle, suddenly feeling alone like any infant would when they awake and their parents are not above them. It's then that a pleasant and warm rustle of air breaks the stillness of the atmosphere in the room.

April opens her young green eyes to look at the mobile above her crib. Those eyes stare in wonder at the still strange and alien world around her. Shapes she cannot name, and feelings she cannot identify, assault her developing senses. She wants to cry for the presence of her mother again.

But before she can even muster up the air in her lungs to break out into a cry, that same small rush of warm and friendly air moves around the mobile and sets it to motion, as if moved by an invisible hand. The strange movement catches April's attention, and she loses herself in the strange but wondrously friendly shapes of old mobile as they orbit around each other, and rock gently above.

It isn't long before the movement, and the warmth enveloping her, lull Arnold and Helga's baby to sleep.

The rooms stills again, with the only sound being the occasional creak of the old building settling in the nighttime air. And on the desk, in the glass of the frame that holds Helga's favorite wedding photo, stands the faint reflection of Miles and Stella Shortman, arms around each other, staring down into the crib.

End

H A H A H A H A H A

Author's Corner:

I know I know. This was all warm, fuzzy, and gooey. Feel free to make fun of me for it. But I had this little idea buzzing around in my head and I wanted to get it out of there. Plus, I needed to exercise my creative centers and get rid of this damned case of writers block. I think I've exercised it enough, now on to Pink Ribbon. ;)

Reviews appreciated, and I will reply.

Completed 9/14/10