A Mother’s Love, by Aaron Z. Hawkins
Claudia Forester had three children, despite the lingering suspicion she had been born into this world barren. While she had not given proper birth to Frank, Jeffery, and Susie, over time, they had accepted her, and she was more than pleased to take them as her own. Like all children, they only wanted food and attention. She often thought about how easy it had been to raise them, how easy it had been despite being a single mother. She had heard how difficult it could be to adopt three young ones, but it had always been a pleasure. They filled the void inside her, and she gave them love. She was truly grateful for them.
Claudia did get lonely for the company of another adult from time to time, usually of the other sex but not always (as she was open to other possibilities). She would take her friend upstairs to her room and shut the door, while her children would patiently play. They would never judge her, for they were very good children.
It was on a warm autumn day when Claudia found out she was not barren after all. She buzzed with anticipation, as her stomach grew larger. As her thoughts turned towards the future, her thoughts of Frank, Jeffery, and Susie dwindled only slightly. Of course, they were there, always following her, always questioning as children often do. They ran around the house, getting into things that they should not and she would scold them and sometimes raise her voice, but they seemed to understand the stress she must be feeling; they were very perceptive children after all.
Winter came and went, and spring poured over the area. The life giving rain only made things worse though, for her children stayed in and were loud and made messes, as children tend to do. She was due anytime and of course, she wanted everything perfect. She needed everything to be perfect and her adopted children understood and would try to watch television on the sofa or play with their toys in their rooms, but they were children after all.
April Fool’s brought more than pranks, as she dialed the ambulance to retrieve her. She then dialed one of her good friends from across the street to keep an eye on Frank, Jeffery, and Susie. She cried with joy that her baby was coming. Her flesh and blood would soon open his or her eyes and see her for the first time. She could not imagine what it would be like, for if her adopted children loved her so unconditionally, then her own child must be twice as sweet.
Albert was born three hours later, yet it might as well have been a prank, because what came out of Claudia was nothing like she had imagined. Wrinkled pink skin, a single wet tuft of hair, and a head that rolled around as she held the thing up to fully examine it. It seemed alien to her. It shrieked. Albert would not take her breast and it did not take a bottle either. However, she could deal with the loud child, because as her nerves would reach the point of snapping, the nurse would sense her distress. They would remove little Albert from her arms, and whisk it away, back to the nursery.
Three days later she packed up her few belongings, took her screeching little Albert in her arms, and road a wheelchair out the hospital doors. The nurse, who had escorted her and Albert, waited with them for the taxi, which pulled up minutes later, a car seat already in place. The nurse lifted the squealing little Albert out of Claudia’s arms and placed it inside. She latched the buckles, wished Claudia the best, and collected the hospitals wheel chair. She disappeared before Claudia could even recite her address to the cab driver.
When Claudia arrived home there was little food in the house, for when would she have had a chance to go shopping? Her adopted children, while very happy to see her (and the new nuisance) after three days, came to her starved, but she was so distraught. They followed her up the stairs and down again, to the kitchen, to the living room, and back.
Claudia paced with Albert in her arms. No matter how hard she rocked wee Albert it would not be calm. In her frustration, she forgot to feed her adopted children and they murmured among themselves as they tried to drift off to sleep, but Albert woke them on multiple occasions as it cried throughout the night.
In the morning, the children waited for Claudia in the kitchen. They would not have a repeat of yesterday’s lack luster care and they were determined to be fed. Albert continued to scream and Claudia’s ears rang, her head rattled and pulsed, and she cried.
She cried to Albert, Please hush.
She cried because there was no nurse to whisk little Albert away to a nursery so she could rest in peace. She had not slept and she found her mind would wander and drift; to focus on anything was an impossible task. She could not handle the pressure. In a single moment, the entire weight of what lay before her rested heavily on her shoulders.
Her other children had kept quiet up to this point, when she was crying out in desperation. They felt neglected and hungry; they fed off her negative energy. They felt tossed aside for this noisy thing.
We are hungry they called out to her.
They screamed and yelled until Claudia could take it no more.
Claudia opened the cupboard and seeing no food to feed and hearing their cries and the cries of little Albert in her arms, she saw no other choice, so she put a large pot on to boil. Soon little Albert was quiet and Frank, Jeffery, and Susie were well fed. They thanked her with wet, sloppy kisses and wagging tails.
Aaron Z. Hawkins is a robot, programed by a handful of the best and laziest computer science majors to smash a keyboard repeatedly for hours a day. His programmers say he loves long walks on the beach, but love may be too strong of a descriptor for a robot. His work has not appeared in Tin House, The Cincinnati Review, or Ploughshares, but smashing away at the keyboard is all he knows.
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Tags: Aaron Z. Hawkins, family, mental illness