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Saving My Moon
Saving My Moon
“Hello dear, are you--” the nurse in front of me consults her clipboard, “Sparkle Violet?” She looks at me quizzically.
“Yes. Violet. Just Violet,” I respond “Is she, is it, I mean the baby, okay?”
“She's alive, but we've got her on a heart monitor in the neo-natal ICU. Would you like to see your mother? She's asking for you.”
“Can I see the baby?” I ignore the nurse's request. I don't feel like telling her that the last thing my mother ever said to me was that I was a worthless whore and to get her another whiskey please, because she was getting a migraine. I was seven.
“Of course, come this way.” I follow her down the hall and through three sets of automatic doors. She squirts some Purell into her hands and then passes the bottle to me. I do the same. “I can't legally let you hold the baby since you're a child and are not with one of the parents, but she's too weak anyway. Please stay two feet away from her. You can stay as long as you like.”
“ 'Kay” I manage, as I spot a room with a sign in the window that says “Tyler,” my last name. The one thing that still connects me to her. That, and now, the baby. The nurse opens the door and we step inside. I pause and feel a lump in my throat. I can't do this, I think. The nurse must notice the look on my face because her expression softens.
“I know this must be confusing for you. You don't have to look yet,” she motions to the chair in the corner, “take your time.” You don't know anything, I want to say, but instead, I say, “Thanks.”
“No problem,” she smiles sadly, “I'm at the waiting room desk if you need anything.” I wait for her to leave and then step closer to the set-up. A plastic box that looks like a fish tank sits on top of metal legs with wheels, just like in movies. The baby only takes up half the box and her bare chest is so thin I can see her heart beating unevenly through pale skin. Premature, that's what they said on the phone. My mother called the agency and told them about the baby on the phone. I never imagined getting a phone call from Child Protective Services telling me I have a baby sister. When I think about it, that was pretty stupid of my mother. Didn't she realize they would just take it away from her, like me? Didn't they realize who she was?
She is so pale, just like me: same milky complexion, with same silky black hair on her little round head. Same jelly roll nose and, even though her eyes are closed, I can tell they're huge and probably already as dark as mine. Unbelievably cute. She looks exactly like me, nothing like my mother, who has wavy red hair and tan skin, an oddity. I wonder if this baby and I have the same father. God knows who that is.
What am I supposed to do now? I can't just leave this baby to go into the same, screwed up system as me, where I have been in eleven homes in seven years, and my so-called guardians don't even notice if I'm gone for three days straight. As stupid as my mother is, could she be trying to tell me something? Why else would she have tried to reach me? She doesn't care about me; why would I do something to help her? But, this baby, she doesn't deserve to be punished because her mother is screwed up. I have to do something to help her. This baby didn't do anything wrong. Just like me. I walk to the corner and collapse in the padded chair.
Hours later, I sit curled up in the arm chair that looks more comfortable than it is and try to stay quiet, which is hard since I am shivering loud enough to wake a dead person.The air conditioning is pumped so high, you'd never guess that it's the hottest week on record this year outside. I get up to stretch my legs. I walk to the window and the sun is just barely visible behind the trees in the East wing. I take a deep breath of the filtered air and take in the scent of antiseptic everything and can practically taste Purell. I walk over to the sinks, wash my hands five times, put on some rubber gloves, a mouth mask, and slip on a plastic gown over my shorts and tank top. I pull some scrub cloths over my flip-flops and approach the fish tank contraption. The heart monitor is beeping steadily for once, so I get closer. I peek behind me into the deserted hall, scan the corridor, and then, quickly, pull off one glove. Opening the little latch on the side, I stick my hand into the tank and touch one of her tiny, silky-smooth palms. The little fingers curl around my pinky. Then I exhale, not even realizing I was holding my breath.
A nurse runs by outside the room and I quickly close the latch to the box and back away. But I can't stop looking. And worrying. And before I realize it an idea is stirring in my head. A dangerous idea, pursuing it could probably put me in “Juvie”. But I can't help thinking that the baby's heart is steady and that when she's healthy, they will re-interview my mother and deem her “unfit” again and this baby will get thrown right into foster care, and that there may really be something called mother's intuition. Either that or my mother just remembers how much I used to want a sister and what a softy I was when it came to helpless beings. She must remember that I used to feed baby birds that fell out of nests and beg to keep stray dogs and adopt babies that were shown in the commercials about the starving kids in Africa. And I guess I still have a little bit of that left, because my brain has conjured up this idea, and I've made my decision. I am going to save my sister.
The only thought that allows me to leave the baby's room is that I am on a mission. I slide down the hall and duck into the NICU main supply closet and start sorting through stuff. After a little while, a woman's voice startles me.
“Just what do you think you're doing, young lady?”
“Um, I...uh...I was just...”
“Mmm Hmm. I thought so,” she says calmly. I turn around and face her. A short, chubby little nurse. The kind they put in the children's wing just because of her soothing voice and hug-ability. “Alright, tell me what you're looking for.”
“Oh, nothing,” I stammer. “I should...go.” I climb over the piles of clean sheets and crates of Similac and step out of the supply closet and rush out of view because I'm about to have a heart attack. I start down the hall but the nurse calls out to me.
“You don't have to run away, baby, I can help you,” and I feel my face turning red because either she can read my mind or I am just overly paranoid. I have no choice but to walk back to her.
“Please. Don't tell anyone. I don't want her in the system; the baby. I just want her safe. With me,” the truth tumbles out, and I stand, trembling.
“Now, child,” the nurse breathes, “how old are you?”
“You don't look a day over sixteen,” she sighs.
That's because I'm not, I want to tell her. I turned fifteen last month and for my birthday I found out that I have a sister and now I'm stuck here with the lady's premature, fatherless baby and it's my responsibility to protect her because if I don't she'll turn out like me and the only way I can protect her is to take her away. But instead, I wipe the tears from my eyes with my plastic sleeve.
“Come with me sweetheart,” she says, and I follow her into the cafeteria. “Lets get you something to eat.”
“Okay,” is all I can manage because I realize that no one has ever called me sweetheart before.
Two mini-muffins, one hot chocolate, and a lot of awkward silence later, I stand, once again, in the supply closet, my arms out like hangers, while the nurse loads bags on me.
“Okay, we've got diapers. We've got formula. Swaddle-cloths, pacifiers, baby-caps, and bottles,” she sings. “This should be enough to hold you over for a while.” She loads everything into a giant diaper bag and hangs it over my shoulder.
“Thank you nurse...”
“Call me Lucy”
“Yes, thank you Lucy,” I say, and climb over the piles.
“You take care of yourself.”
“Ok,” I squeak, and head back to the NICU.
Once I get there I notice a folded cot in the corner and a stack of blankets by the sink and I realize it must be around eight in the morning and I haven't slept in 36 hours. The fatigue hits me and I unfold the cot, grab a blanket, and the heart monitor lulls me to sleep in seconds.
I wake up sometime in the afternoon as a nurse rolls a lunch cart towards the plastics wing. I jump up, cross the room, open the door, and swiftly grab a tray of food before anyone notices. I've had a lot of practice.
I eat the entire tray of bland soup, toast, salad, and Jell-o, then settle back into the armchair, blanket wrapped around my shoulders. The rest of the day is a blur of sitting, looking at the baby, and worrying.
Sometime around midnight, I experimentally unplug the heart monitor. I stand and watch the baby for several minutes. Nothing happens. She's staring at me with pitch-black eyes. I can't help but smile. I'm doing the right thing.
“It's time, baby, it's time,” I whisper. I load the diaper bag over my right shoulder, tuck a blanket through the strap, and lift the baby. She is no heavier than a grapefruit. I make sure to put her in the darkest blanket I can find (turquoise), and the darkest cap (light purple).
We breeze through the doorway and down the hall. Getting downstairs is too easy. In the elevator, I realize I could probably pass for a teen mom and getting by the security desk would be a lot easier if I do, so I rip the NICU wristband off the baby with my teeth and peel the blanket away from her face.
As we are about to step out of the hospital, the guard calls out,
“Wait.” I freeze. We're busted. But instead, he has a huge grin on his face and comes over to us. “Who is this cutie?” I realize that she is yet to be named. I see the night sky out of the corner of my eye.
“Luna,” I blurt. “She's my little shining moon.” And I gaze down at her and notice that, despite the fluorescent lights in the lobby, her pale skin is shining, illuminated in the night sky peeking through the glass door.
“Well, you are one lucky girl,” he smiles at her. Yes I am, and Luna and I step into the night.