Two mornings later, Elizabeth shook Booker awake for a surprise roll call. He quickly lathered soap onto his face and shaved while she braided her hair at her vanity.
"What do you think this is about?" Booker asked, stifling a yawn.
"It's the day before Christmas Eve," Elizabeth said. "They're either going to try to win us over by making minor good news seem like salvation, or else they're going to crush our spirits entirely. Or both, I suppose."
"Well, that pretty much covers all the options, don't it?" Booker dipped his razor in the sink full of hot water. "Maybe they just want to apologize for any pets killed in the last two days."
He could practically hear Elizabeth rolling her eyes at him.
"And yet I'm the naive optimist in this relationship..."
They left their room at the same time as Marie, her sisters, and another whore named Colette, so the six of them walked to the street together. Roll call was divided by neighborhood, meaning they only had to go through a few thousand names rather than several million. Even so, that was still a lot-physically and mentally- for Elizabeth to stand through. It probably didn't help that most of their neighbors gave the "collaborators" of l'Oiseau Chanteur plenty of room.
After a couple of hours of making sure every member of every household was accounted for, the Germans made a speech of some kind. Elizabeth whispered translations under her breath. When she got lost or needed to catch her breath, Marie supplemented. It was mundane stuff, like the curfew being moved to six o' clock and residents needing to sweep the streets in front of their homes. And then-
"'Additionally, the following unemployed men will be relocated and assigned work for the good of their new nation.'"
"'Assigned work?'" Booker whispered.
"Shh!" Elizabeth's little hand was so tight on his wrist that Booker worried she might break it. "Listen."
Booker listened. They were calling out names again, but a lot faster than before. He was pretty sure they wouldn't mess with an American, but he listened to put Elizabeth's mind at ease.
"Joseph Danvers; Philippe Devereux; Booker DeWitt; Pierre Douay-"
Booker stood there, too stunned to move for a minute.
"I told you it would happen in France," Elizabeth said, and then her knees buckled and she fainted straight into Marie's back.
"Yeah, you were right," Booker muttered as he helped Marie guide Elizabeth's body to the ground. "You always are."
Marie continued the translation while she fanned Elizabeth's face. "'These volunteers will assemble in this same spot at five o' clock tonight for relocation,'" she whispered. "'Any volunteers who refuse to relocate will be executed for treason. In the event that a volunteer cannot be found at five o' clock, their families will be executed and their possessions will be distributed to members of the military. Volunteers need not bring extra shoes or clothing. Weapons and alcohol are not permitted. Thank you, volunteers.'"
Booker wasn't sure the Germans had the same definition of "volunteer" as the rest of the world. By the time Elizabeth came around again, the neighbors were returning back to their homes.
"You okay?" Booker asked.
"A little dizzy," she said. "Did I faint?"
"You did," Marie said. "They shouldn't make pregnant women stand so long."
Elizabeth pressed one hand to her forehead and started to sit up.
"Whoa, hey." Booker rested a hand on her shoulder. "Just lie back for a minute."
"On the cold, wet ground?" Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "No, thank you. I want to go inside and change into something dry before I catch my death."
"Then at least let me carry you," Booker said.
"You'll hurt your back. I can walk."
"I ain't that old yet. Come on, Elizabeth. Might not have another chance to carry you again."
"Oh, fine." She held her arms up. "You can carry me."
He lifted her without much trouble and carried her, bridal style, inside the warm house and up the stairs. He set her down on the bed and pulled clean clothes from her wardrobe and chest-of-drawers.
"Here," he said, placing the clothes on her lap. "Get changed before you get sick."
"Booker, what did you do?" Elizabeth demanded, unbuttoning her blouse. "What did you do to make them relocate you, as an American citizen?"
Booker stuck his hands in his pockets. "Huh? I don't know what you're talking about."
"Don't lie to me, Booker," she said. "Hauptmann Adler was acting strange around you all day yesterday. Did you say something to him while I wasn't there? Oh, God, Booker- please tell me you didn't try to fight him!"
"Well, it wasn't a fight, exactly-"
He hung his head. "I'm sorry, okay? I was mad and I didn't think it through. I'm sorry."
"I knew this was all your fault!" She crumpled up her slush-covered blouse and threw it at his face. "How could you be so foolish and reckless, Booker? I needed you, I still need you, and you went and declared a one-man war against the Germans? What am I supposed to do without you? How am I supposed to take care of this baby by myself? I'm too young to be a widow!" She started to cry at that, and it was worse than her being mad at him.
"Look," he said, kneeling down next to the bed and taking her cold hands in his. "I'm sorry, Elizabeth. I know it was stupid. But you're gonna be okay, with or without me."
"Just go," she wept. "I know you've been looking for an excuse to leave me on my own for ages, and you just weren't brave enough to do it yourself. Looks like you found someone to do it for you. I hope it's everything you wanted, Booker."
"I told you, I would never abandon you," Booker said, but he couldn't get properly angry because he was scared that maybe she was a little right. If there was one thing Booker was good at, it was sabotaging his life. He was especially good at sabotaging the parts that affected Elizabeth.
Booker went. He walked out to his work shed and began hefting the furniture up to Elizabeth's nursery, piece by heavy piece. Marie passed him as he was carrying the chest-of-drawers, and by the time he set the rocking chair down, she was arranging the cushions she'd made onto the furniture.
"Those look great," Booker said. "I think Elizabeth likes purple."
"She does," Marie said. "And from the fabric I had, it was the best choice both for matching the walls and hiding bloodstains."
"Bloodstains?" Booker asked.
"All women bleed," Marie reminded him. "Especially right after they give birth. Sometimes clothes and cushions get ruined. Better to wear a dark color in case the bleeding becomes too heavy for the cloths to handle."
"Oh," Booker said. "Right."
Marie filled the drawers with the diapers and pins and baby clothing, and then she left Booker to rearrange all the furniture into the best position. It all fit just right in the little room. He put some of Elizabeth's favorite books on the little table and then arranged the cushions until it looked nice and comfortable.
"Booker?" Elizabeth called.
"I'm sorry about what I said earlier." Her voice got closer to the nursery door. "I know you didn't do anything deliberately. I was just so upset-" The nursery door creaked open. "Oh my God," she breathed. "Booker..."
"Come here." He patted the seat of the rocking chair. "I made it extra short for you. I wanna see if it fits you."
She sat on the cushion, and her little legs reached the floor perfectly. "What is this?" She pointed to the cushioned ledge that protruded out from the side of the chair.
"It's a cradle," Booker explained. "I saw a picture of it somewhere. You're supposed to swaddle the baby up real tight and hold him like this-" He wadded-up a blanket, placed it over Elizabeth's bosom, and then crossed one of her arms over it. "And then once you've rocked him to sleep, you can lay him down next to you..." He laid the blanket on the cushion. "And then you've got your hands free to hold a book or a cup of tea, all while you keep rocking Baby."
"That's amazing, Booker." She clasped her hands together. "I never could have dreamed up anything so clever, much less figured out how to build it."
"I saw it in a magazine somewhere. Oh, but-" He patted the chest of drawers. "We put all your diapers and stuff away for you, too. And look in the crib." He beckoned for her to stand up.
"Ohh, it's beautiful!" Elizabeth rubbed her hands over the soft, puffy yellow blanket.
"Marie made it for you," Booker said. "And all the cushions, too."
Elizabeth stroked her fingers along the smooth wood railing of the crib and then examined her splinter-free digits. "The two of you really did all of this by yourselves?"
"Yeah." Booker was trying hard not to sound boastful, but he didn't think he was succeeding. "Only took about three weeks. I know it's not Christmas yet, but I wanted to see your reaction to it before I left."
Elizabeth sank down in her new chair and buried her face in her hands. The chair rocked a little with every sob that shot through her body.
"Hey." Booker dropped on one knee on the floor. "Hey, I know it's nothin' fancy, but it's a hell of a lot better than what you had when you were a baby. It's not that bad, is it?"
"No, no," Elizabeth laughed through her tears. "This is the best nursery in the entire world. I'm crying because I'm so happy to have it, and because I'm so sad about losing you. I want you to be here when I give birth, and when I figure out how to nurse, and when I don't know what I'm doing at all... I'm so afraid. I don't want you to leave me all alone, Booker."
"You're not gonna be alone." Booker rubbed her arms. "Marie and a whole brothel full of ladies are gonna be here to take care of you."
"But you were the only thing stopping Adler from bothering me at all hours of the night and day. Your presence was what ensured I had a safe room to sleep in at night. When you leave..." She swallowed. "I don't know what will happen."
"Yeah." He sighed. "That makes two of us. But I do know one thing for sure."
"That I'll have lovely furniture in the baby's nursery?"
"I was gonna say that you're gonna be such a great mother that your baby will never be lacking in love or kindness or moralous...ness," Booker said. "Even without me. Hell, he'll probably turn out better without me around. I corrupted you something terrible in the first two months I had you back. If I could turn a Bible-quoting virgin into a stealing, murdering, whoring Madame that fast, it's probably best I don't raise a whole lot of kids."
"Is that why you didn't want me to have this baby?" Elizabeth asked.
"One of the reasons. Guess it doesn't matter now." He stood up and leaned against the wall. "You're gonna be amazing, Elizabeth. You're gonna survive this war, and you're gonna raise a damn fine human being, and you're probably gonna write a memoir that'll outsell the Bible. You're living through history, remember? You're gonna live to a ripe old age, and your children's children's children are gonna beg you for stories about what life was like when Grandpa or Grandma DeWitt was a baby."
A panicked look suddenly stole over Elizabeth's face.
"What's the matter?" Booker asked.
"I don't have any names picked out!" Elizabeth said. "You're about to leave, and I don't know what to call the baby! Quick, Booker- what names do you like?"
"I don't know, Elizabeth. It's your baby. You decide the name."
"But I don't want to name it something you hate!"
"Well, if it's a girl, you should make her middle name Marie," Booker said. "What kind of first names do you like?"
"I like flower names for a girl," she said. "Lily, Rose, names like that."
"Then give the baby a flower name if it's a girl," Booker said. "Just for the love of God, please don't name her Daisy."
"And what if it's a boy?"
"I don't care. Just don't name him after me. Or anyone in Columbia. Name him after a book character, or something."
"Jean Valjean DeWitt?" she teased.
"It's better than Booker Junior, at least."
"I'll figure something out," she said. "But before you go, I have a Christmas present for you, too. It's in the room. Come on."
Once they were locked in their bedroom, she gave him her leather-bound Bible, the one she read when she woke up from nightmares and hugged to her chest when she was afraid. "Open it," she said.
The book fell right open to the Psalms. A photograph lay on top of the open pages. He picked it up and grinned. It was a picture of Elizabeth posing naked on their bed. It was more artistic than obscene, but her naked breasts and half-hidden patch of brown curls still got his blood pumping.
"I think that's called sacrilege," he said. "Storing them in the Good Book like that."
"I think God will forgive me. I had them taken in June, back when we had the money to spare and you could find a photographer. Do you like them?"
"Yeah, they're great." Booker flipped through them. There were nearly a dozen photographs of Elizabeth, both clothed and nude. He looked at the photographs and then back up at her living image. If he didn't know better, he would've thought they were two different people. The girl in the photograph was tiny but looked happy and well-nourished. Her eyes were sparkling, even in the brown-and-white photograph, and her whole face seemed full of laughter and hope. She was smiling in real life, too, but it was the saddest damn smile Booker had ever seen. One bony arm was curled protectively around her stomach. She carried herself like she was exhausted- exhausted, but determined not to go down without some serious fighting. The thought of how much he was gonna miss her hit him all at once, and it hurt so bad he almost yelped. He managed to touch her thin face instead.
"I love you so much," he said.
She wrapped her arms around his waist, resting her head on his chest. "I love you too."
"You're gonna make it," he said into her hair. "If anyone makes it out of this alive, it's gonna be you."
"Are we going to be together again, Booker?" she asked.
He didn't know, so he just kissed her forehead.
She sat him down on the bed and straddled his lap with some effort. "We could make love before you go," she whispered. "I don't think abstinence will be possible for me after you leave. We could make love one last time, since it won't matter in the long run."
The idea of Adler raping Elizabeth's vulnerable, starving, pregnant body definitely put Booker off the idea of sex. He wrapped his arms around her waist, resting his forehead on the ridges in her chest. She stroked his hair the way his mother had done when Booker was little and feverish.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm sorry for fucking everything up."
"I won't let anything bad happen to us," Elizabeth said. "I swear, Booker. Just stay strong, and I'll figure something out. Do you trust me?"
"Yeah," he said. "I do."
"Then you don't have to worry about anything." She kissed the top of his head, the way he'd done to her so many times.
Booker covered her skin with a wetness that they both silently pretended was the result of his kisses.