Lamentation: What greater love that this? That we lay down our lives for our friends? Or, ... that we go on, when they die. What am I going to do, when she's gone? I'm not up for this. Motherhood. It's what I always craved, wasn't it? So why am I terrified at the prospect of its eventuality?
Nursing, sleeping, pooping. That's all that babies do, right? Oh, and squirming. And fussing, and wailing. We know this as mothers, even as we hold down our professional careers. I have to save the world, and figure out how to do that.
But a diaper changing doesn't wait for a Covenant cease-fire.
Miranda was fussing. Earlier I felt her sigh in release, and I let her be, because I didn't want the movement to disturb Lizzie's precious sleep, but now the baby was uncomfortable.
And when a baby's uncomfortable, she wakes up, and she let's everybody know it until she's not anymore. That's just how it works.
"Unnh," Lizzie groaned, dragging herself up from out of her sleep. "Hafta. Baby, uh."
I barked a very small, silent laugh.
"It's okay, baby," I whispered in Lizzie's ear. "I've got it this time."
"Uh," Lizzie groaned irritatedly, then unwrapped Miranda from her arms as she felt me leave the bed and pick up the baby.
Miranda ... didn't quite know what to make of me. I saw it in her eyes. I saw it in her demeanor. She knew I was different: the feel of the smoothness of my skin, my constant coolness, my alien smell. I saw it in her face: 'not mommy,' her eyes said. She didn't know what to make of all this, and it bothered her.
But she didn't know what to do about either. I think she knew what I was, that I'm a predator, and she's the prey. But I think she didn't think crying about this or being scared would change anything, and in this she was smarter than most human beings on the planet: she knew I was Other, but she also knew there was nothing she could do to save her.
So she just watched me with careful, wise eyes as I picked her up and carried her to the changing station. She watched me pick up her tiny, stubby legs, apply wipe after wipe until her genitals and bottom were pristine again. I then removed and discarded her old diaper, washed my hands, then powdered her privates and put on the new diaper.
That was easy. It was even a little fun.
"There!" I cooed to her. "All done!"
She regarded me.
I didn't like her look. I didn't like her being afraid of me. I was her mother, too, just as much as Lizzie was, even though it was to Lizzie that she was attached, as she had birthed her and nursed her and carried her throughout the day. Of course she was attached to her birth mother.
But I was her mother, too. I loved her, too.
I didn't like her look of caution when she looked at me.
So I decided to change that.
"Who's my good, little baby girl?" I sang happily to her.
Miranda looked at me with solemn baby eyes.
"Who's my sweet, little baby girl, Miranda, is it you?" I cooed. "Are you my sweet, little baby girl? Ooh, and such a pretty baby, too!"
Miranda's eyebrows came together.
I smiled at her and laughed lightly. Then I hid my eyes behind my hands, then pulled my hands away, quickly. "Peek-a-boo!" I sang.
Her eyes widened, and I saw the slightest hint of a smile.
I played the peek-a-boo game with her, over and over, until I saw her smile and laugh at my silliness.
Babies do something other than nurse, sleep and poop.
I felt her smile rock me to my gut and spread warmth through my limbs to my fingers and toes.
But I didn't show that to her. I didn't want to scare her with my devotion.
I can be known to be rather intense, I'm told.
So, instead, I laughed with her as I played the peek-a-boo game, and sang: "Ooh, so funny, Miranda, so funny!"
Then I, very, very carefully, put my lips on her belly and blew her a raspberry kiss.
God, she smelled wonderful! Good enough to eat, in fact. And for me, and for her, that was a very, very bad thing.
But she did not know this. My tickling raspberry kiss surprised her, and she screamed with laughter.
"Oh, good girl!" I cooed, looking up from her belly into her wise eyes. "Good, good girl!"
I picked her up. Her arms reached for me, and that broke my heart in twain, and I brought her back to Lizzie, who was now awake again, watching us with her sad, wise eyes.
"Thank you, Rose," Lizzie whispered.
Miranda attached herself to Lizzie, molded into her, and they became one being as little Miranda suckled at her mommy's breast, comforted again by warmth and familiarity after the strange, different coolness of me.
And that broke my heart, too. Miranda giggled a bit with me, and that was fun: a little variety, a little playtime ... but she knew her mommy, and nothing could replace that.
And I was happy for Lizzie, I guess, that she had that connection, that automatic connection, with Miranda. And I got her to smile, but I had to work for it.
I snuggled up behind the little girl, five hundred years younger than me, who was a mommy, holding a littler girl who was her baby.
Lizzie sighed, being comforted by me holding her.
"Rose ..." Lizzie said softly.
"Yes?" I asked quietly.
She bit her lip. "Never mind," she said quickly.
I could feel her sadness.
"Well, what?" I snapped impatiently.
Sometimes her dithering annoyed me. If she were going to say something, why didn't she just say it?
"It's just that ..." she said.
I held my breath and blew it out slowly. I could feel it in her: she's shy and scared and sad. And I didn't know why, and I hate that, but I knew snapping at her was only making it worse.
"... do you love Miranda more'n me?" she finally blurted out in a whisper.
That took me by surprise.
"Baby," I said eventually. "I love you. I love Miranda. I love you two together. You spend all your time with her, so I thought I'd help and let you get your rest, that's all. That's all that happened. I was just having a little fun time with her. That doesn't mean I love her more than you, not at all, sweetie."
Lizzie held our baby in her arms. Miranda was drifting off to sleep, suckling at her mother's breast.
"Can I say something?" she said in a very small, sad voice.
"Yes," I said.
I didn't know what else to say. I felt it. I felt the ground beneath our feet shifting, like what she was about to say would hurt us or hurt her and hurt me forever.
But I didn't know how to stop it. I didn't know what it was, I just knew it was coming from her heart, ... my heart, ... and I felt that heart breaking.
"Rose," she whispered. "I'm so, so tired, and I'm ... horny!"
She admitted this quickly, and I felt her blush.
"And I want you to take me and make love to me and ..."
She sniffled, holding Miranda.
"But we can't," she continued sadly. "Not now, 'cause Mir's ..."
"And then she'll sleep, and I'll fall asleep, and the moment will pass and it'll be tomorrow and you'll be off to work and then work will be over, but I'll be so tired and ..."
"Baby, ..." I said, because I heard Lizzie sob softly. She was crying big tears, as quietly as she could, sniffling when she gulped in air.
"And ..." she said. "I feel us drifting apart. Not your fault. Mine, I guess or ..."
She held Miranda.
"I just ..." she gasped. "I see you with her, and you're so happy, and ..."
"Sweetie," I interrupted, "I'm happy with you. Really. I love you, and ..."
"No," she said. "No, you're not. Or you never show it. You're always so serious and careful and ... deliberate with me. But when I see you with Mir, you're like ... Rose, you were giggling!"
She paused. "You've never giggled with me. Ever."
"And ..." she said. "She's a baby, and she needs me, and she needs her diaper changed and ... but ..."
Then she sighed.
"But I can't do anything. I can't even think, because she's so needy, and this is so exhausting all the time, and sometimes ..."
She sniffled. "Sometimes I hate her."
She gasped that last one out very, very quickly and quietly.
She held her.
"Sometimes I hate her that you can love her and laugh with her, and I can't do anything, but just be a mom, ... I can't even be me, anymore. I can't even want to want you, because I have to drop everything as soon as she starts crying, and I'm too tired anyway to be any good for you, you know?" she said.
I drew in a breath to answer her.
But she pressed forward. "And I'm just waiting for the day when you don't even look at me. That you don't even care anymore, you just say: 'It's over.' And that's that. And you'll take Mir from me, because she's a 'good, good little girl,' and you'll do what with me? I don't know. Nothing. Just leave me and go someplace else, and I'll die the next day when my body quits on me. And that'll be that. And there's nothing I can do to stop it, 'cause all I can do is just look over the baby, and not have anything left for you, and ..."
"Lizzie, Lizzie!" I said sharply. "Stop this! Stop this right ..."
She didn't stop. She gasped out, right over my command: "And you'll just be like ..."
And that's when she broke, sobbing softly, her body convulsing, as she rocked in place, rocking her baby in her sorrow as she held her gently and tightly.
I held her. I held my baby, holding our baby.
"Baby," I said softly. "I love you. I love Miranda, and I love you. God, I love you so much. And, I guess," I said hesitantly, "I'm so serious around you, because I've lost you before, and I can't make a mistake and lose you again."
Lizzie sniffled sadly, coughing two times.
"I was silly with Miranda," I said, "because I was trying to get her to like me. She doesn't even like me, and I want that to change. I don't know how to be a mother like you are, Lizzie. I can't give her what you give her ..."
"You make her laugh," Lizzie said seriously, "and you laugh with her."
"Yes," I said.
"You never laugh with me," she accused.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"See?" she snapped, "Just like that. You're always just like that with me, and I'm afraid that one day you'll just ..."
"Lizzie," I sighed.
Lizzie was quiet for a while, then pouted angrily: "What?"
"I will love you until the day you die," I said solemnly, "and then, unto Eternity, because when you die, I will die with you. You are my heart, my one and only one, and when your heart stops beating, it stops for me, too. Forever."
I felt the words sink into her. I felt her thinking over them.
"What about Miranda?" she asked.
"What about her?"
"When you say you're gonna die with me," she asked, "do you mean it, like, really? Like you'll be dead?"
"Yes," I said. "Like the last five hundred years. Time will come. Time will go. It will not matter. You matter. Nothing else does. That's what it means when I say I love you. I loved you then. I love you now. I love you forever. Nothing else matters."
"But I thought you loved Miranda, too? Don't you love her enough to look after her when I'm gone?"
I chuckled slightly. "I thought you were jealous of my love for her a moment ago. Now you're demanding it? Which one is it, Lizzie?"
"Both," she said firmly. Then after a moment's thought, she added quickly. "I can choose both. I am a girl after all."
I smiled, pleased. "You are, indeed. A sweet, wonderful, loving, caring, sensitive ... sexy, beautiful girl!"
"Jeez! Rosalie!" she exclaimed quietly, blushing.
"A wonderful mother, too," I added, pride tinging my voice.
"You are, too," she whispered seriously.
"No," I said, "not really. I change a diaper at night and let you get rest. Miranda knows who her mother is... who loves her."
"You love her," Lizzie averred.
"Yes," I sighed. "It's just that I see you gone, and I see me being me, afterwards, and just totally ruining her life by being too strong, and too demanding, and too distant, because I'm too afraid to hurt her ... like I hurt you."
"Because you love her, and she'll die?" Lizzie confirmed. "'Cause that's what happened to me?"
"Yes," I said, "I guess you have the right of it."
"Rosalie," Lizzie was serious now, "you have to try. I don't have all the answers. I'm not a good mother. I just try. You have to try. You have to keep trying after I'm gone. No zoning out on Miranda. She'll need you. She'll need you so bad after I'm gone, and I need you, too. I need to know she'll have a mother to love her after I'm gone. Promise me you'll look after when I'm dead."
I was quiet. I couldn't make that promise. With my heart dead? Nothing would matter.
"Promise me for me, Rosalie, please!" Lizzie pleaded.
"Yes, sweetie," I said finally, capitulating ... for her, "I promise."
"Promise me you'll do your best," she demanded.
I held her into me and kissed the back of her head.
"I promise," I said.
I felt the weight of the promise I made, pressing me down into the bed, a weight heavier than the world.
I was promising to be a mother to a human child. I was promising to do my best.
And I didn't know if my best would ever be good enough.
Lizzie sighed, however, relieved that I did promise this to her.
"Sweetie," I said, "it's three-fourteen in the morning. Get some sleep, okay?"
"Okay," she said weakly.
The day had taken its toll, and the night had, too, and she was already so, so weak and frail as it was.
"I love you, Rosalie Hale," she whispered.
"I love you, my Lizzie," I whispered back, "for ever and ever and ever."
She breathed two breaths.
"I will, too," she said, contemplating her own words, and I felt her marveling at them as she said them. "Even when I'm dead and gone, I'll love you, Rose. I'll love you forever. Do you know that? Can you feel it?"
"Yes," I said quietly.
I loved her. She died, but I got the sense that she loved me, too, maybe, without even realizing it, perhaps. And then she came back, and she loved me, again, and still. She loved me after all this time, and death did not even stop her from loving me.
I did feel it.
"I feel it, too," Lizzie said.
And then I felt her close her eyes, and sleep.