Weeks later, River entered the nursery.
"Good morning, sweetie!" She cooed to her baby girl as she approached the cot.
Freya rubbed her tired eyes and let out a little yawn.
River smiled affectionately. "Let's get you changed, now shall we?" she asked. The baby nodded her head groggily and reached her tiny hands out to her mother, prompting her to lift her up.
River cradled her in her arms, rocking her body slowly as she walked over to the changing table. She gently laid Freya down; the baby kicked her legs and waved her arms with happiness, babbling as she did.
"Alright then," River said as she changed her daughter's diaper, "let's pick you out some clothes!"
River stepped over to the wardrobe and opened a draw. She perused through the clothing; suddenly her face turned grim. She pulled out a pink shirt and held it up. River closed her eyes to try and hold back tears. The shirt read "Universe's Best Big Sister." She had almost forgotten that she had gotten this for Freya. She choked back a sob and crumpled the fabric in her hands.
River looked up at her daughter. Freya's lip was quivering slightly. "Muhma," she repeated, holding her arms out.
"Freya, did you just-"
River's sorrow was lightened then. She approached her baby girl, wiping the fallen tears from her cheeks.
"Sweetie, did you just say your first word?"
River scooped up her daughter and cradled her against her shoulder in a loving embrace.
"Muhma," the infant repeated.
River let a faint smile grace her lips; tears of gratitude mingled with those of sorrow.
"Oh, my sweet girl, I love you so much," River sighed, closing her eyes as she let her cheek rest on her daughter's head.
"Yes, that's right," River laughed lightly, her heart swelling with pride at her child's exceptional progress, "I love you too."
She kissed her daughter, rocking her softly in her arms.
"What-" River said, craning her neck back to glace down at Freya. The little girl's face was contorted in thought, her mind straining to utilize her vocabulary.
Baby loves Mum.
River exhaled deeply, the air stabbing her chest as it exited her body.
"Freya..." she began, but couldn't bring herself to explain any further. How did one tell a child that her sister is dead?
But then, a chubby little hand reached up and landed softly on River's cheek. She gasped as her mind was filled with emotions and fuzzy images…feelings of love, warmth...muffled sounds of laughter, voices…just tiny flashes of senses really, but each and every one so potent and powerful.
River felt Freya remove her hand from her skin; her mouth gaped open at the things her daughter had just shown her.
She could barely believe it: Freya had just relayed the baby's perceptions, her senses.
There was love. So much love. Her baby had felt nothing but love towards her.
The tears came again. River felt as if she'd failed her unborn child. She should have been more careful; maybe then that baby would have had a chance at survival.
Freya stared at her mother, examining her face.
"Muhma…" she called softly, drawing River's eyes to hers. Though so young, they were filled with a deep understanding.
"Bay-beh luh you."
River choked back a sob. She nodded her head in understanding, her lips spreading into a bittersweet smile.
She realized now: Freya wasn't trying to make her feel guilt for losing the baby. No, she was telling her that the baby had loved her; there was nothing but love towards her. No anger, no sorrow…just love.
Freya showed her that the baby forgave her. She had been so happy during her brief existence, that's all that mattered.
It wasn't River's fault. She was loved.
River held her brilliant, beautiful daughter just a bit closer to her chest.
"Thank you," she whispered into her ear. "Thank you."