At first Bernard doesn’t know why he’s awake, but then he hears it: The wail of the baby. She’s in her bassinet, in the laundry room. He looks next to him in the bed – it’s empty. Katherine has decamped again. He sighs, gets out of bed, trudges through the dining room and kitchen. Here he tiptoes because the baby might have cried out in her sleep. So he tells himself. The bassinet is positioned next to the dryer, its little hood concealing the baby. He peers around the hood and, incredibly, the baby’s eyes are closed. Now he hears the creak of the attic ladder. He backs up on tiptoe, emerging from the kitchen just as Katherine reaches the bottom rung of the ladder. Her eyes ringed with exhaustion.
She throws him a look. It was the wrong thing to say, evidently.
He tries another tactic. “Did you take something?”
“A whole one,” she replies. Grudgingly.
“Is that what the doctor said?” Bernard doesn’t know the answer. That’s why he’s asking.
She glares at him. “Yes. Why wouldn’t I do as he says?”
“It wasn’t my fucking idea to go there.”
“I know,” he concedes. Then, clumsily, “We’re all proud of you. For going, I mean.” Then he feels immensely stupid for having said this, because she has fixed on him a look of withering scorn. Standing there in her white robe in the dark. Imperious.
“I didn’t want to go,” Katherine whispers, and her voice is so soft that he almost cannot hear her. Then she crumples, kneels on the floor and sobs silently, her hands covering her face. As usual, he doesn’t know what to do. But then the baby wails loudly and he does know what to do. He will change the baby. He will feed the baby. He will rock the baby back to sleep.
Dylan Brie Ducey's recent work appears or is forthcoming in Gargoyle, The 3288 Review, Cheap Pop, Pithead Chapel, Sou'wester, Halfway Down the Stairs, and elsewhere. She received the Carlisle Family Scholarship to the 2015 Squaw Valley Writers Workshop, and her MFA from San Francisco State University.