My baby girl died. But…
I hear her crying in the grave. They call it grief and force laudanum upon me. The drug weighs me down and slurs my words. Maxim, my love, does not understand my urgency. I cannot go to her grave with this weakness in my limbs. I can barely control the urge to scream. My fury rises in my like a wild animal. My baby hasn’t much time.
Curse the doctors! “Leave my home!” I scream.
I must save her. I cannot sleep. I send her love with all my heart. My soul cries out to a God I do not believe in to keep her until I reach her.
Horror sweeps over me as I awaken to Maxim watching over me from his rocking chair. I rise to climb in his lap and cry silently onto his shoulder. His tears also fall quietly. He whispers in my ear that he loves me so much. I ask the time, how long I slept. Ten am! I must get him out of the house!
“You need to check on your business. The distraction will help you. I’m fine. Really. I need to be alone to speak with God.”
He answers me, “I will go in for a short time. You shouldn’t be alone all day. I’ll be back soon.”
I had felt the tension in his body release when I gave him leave. My grief enhances his. He is glad to be away from me. I know he worries about me. However, he doesn’t believe.
He picks me up and carries me to the bed, tells me to rest. I promise to do so until his return. I watch him wash his face in the bathroom. He comes to hug and kiss me and reassure me again.
“Do you understand that she is dead?” he asks me.
Oh, he is cruel. I cannot lie to him. “I hear her crying.”
“I know.” He does not know. He leaves with the burden of me on his shoulders.
The minute the front door closes, I slip out the back entrance, still in my nightdress. I run to the cemetery, around the edge of town, to escape the eyes of those who would stop a madwoman. I race to save my baby, sweat beading my body despite the frosty air. Cobblestones pinch my bare feet, but I do now slow. God, but it’s a long way. I push on, fighting a swoon, through the chilly mist, past carriages and lamplighters extinguishing the streetlamps.
A baby’s cry stops me at the gates to the graveyard. Another baby. Not my baby girl. I can’t ignore it. I find him in a basket behind the bushes next to the park bench. Abandoned. I hold him close to me, breathing heavily from running, as I rush to my daughter. I place the baby in his basket behind her grave marker. He cries still, but blankets protect him from the chill.
I have no shovel! The sexton’s shed is near, but it is locked. I beat on the door and sob. I return to the grave to dig with my hands. Sob and dig until my fingers are bleeding. My nightdress is filthy and torn, yet the cold does not reach me.
“Sonja!” I jump up to face my angry husband. “What are you doing?”
“I hear her crying. She lives, Maxim. She lives. We have wronged her. Please, I beg you, help me.”
Maxim grabs me, trying to still me. His anger dissipates as the burden of my emotional state falls upon him again. He fails to contain me as I slide down out of his grasp. I clasp my arms around his knees and beseech him to listen. Then I stretch out over her chamber of horror and place my ear to the ground.
“I hear her crying.”
“You hear this baby crying.” He is holding the stranger’s infant. “Whose baby is this? Where is its mother? This is not your baby. You cannot replace her.” He is angry again, and so am I.
“I don’t want that baby. It’s a boy. I want my daughter. Maxim, I hear her crying.”
Maxim drops to his knees beside my prostrate body. We sob together. He puts the baby to the side and lies next to me, pleading with me to let go. He feigns listening as he explains the impossibility of hearing anything through six feet of earth. He stops, his eyes growing larger.
Maxim whispers, “I hear her crying.”
Thank you, God!
He dashes to the sexton’s shed, and finding it locked, kicks in the door to seek a shovel. I stand aside, holding the abandoned child, as he digs frantically. An eternity later, the tiny casket appears over his head. He pushes it over the edge and pulls himself out.
He has become a fellow raving lunatic. He lifts the lid. Our precious baby is wide-eyed and blue. Her fingers are bloody, the proof of her terror in the satin lining hanging in shreds. The scratch marks in the casket’s lid penetrate my heart, which will never heal. Sobbing aloud, Maxim lifts her tiny body and holds her close.
The tiniest baby gasp escapes her blue baby lips.
Lael Braday is a Midwesterner transplanted in the Carolinas, lover of Austrian-American and tuxedo rescue kitties, who seeks an agent / publisher for her debut novel. She can be found on Facebook as the only Lael Braday, Twitter @LaelBraday, and her own website http://laelbraday.com.