Susan D. Harper | Hannah Nolan
The world is full of sinners. Eunice shook her head at the television newsman. Cocking her head to one side, she turned towards the staircase, listening. He was whimpering. She turned back towards the kitchen and caught her reflection in the kitchen mirror. Her hair needed a rinse.
“I am beautiful in the eyes of the Lord,” she whispered.
Stroller wheels rolled over sidewalk grit out front. A laughing child skipped past the front window. The others are out early today. Eunice turned up the television and sat down, pulling her Coca-Cola closer. The midday sun filled the kitchen, reminding her of work left to be done. Taking a drink, she watched the dust dancing in the light instead.
“Adoption is a blessing for us all,” she had explained to the social worker during the home visit early that morning. “It gives both a child and myself the opportunity to be a family. It’s a chance to help those poor children born out of wedlock.” This had been the second of three visits required prior to finalizing the adoption. She had almost made it.
God rewards the benevolent and faithful follower, she told herself. She had to have a girl to make things complete. Then she’d have two children, a successful husband, a nice home. At the A&P, the others would admire her appropriately dressed and well-mannered children. They would smile and wave as she pushed the stroller down the street. They would invite her children to play. They would invite her over for coffee.
It had all been within reach.
Faint cries drifted over the newsman. Eunice’s head began to buzz. Sighing heavily, she lifted the cool glass to her forehead and closed her eyes. She took a sip and opened her Ladies Home Journal. When she looked up again, the sunlight had moved across the floor, and the newscast was over. Cries had swelled to screams. Eunice rolled her eyes and lumbered across the kitchen and up the stairs. Naps were short for him and even shorter for her.
He was standing in his crib, eyes red and swollen. Eunice wrinkled her nose. Soiled himself. She took him out of the crib and cleaned the filth covering his bottom and legs. He continued to scream, making her ears ring.
“Oh hush,” Eunice hissed as she tossed the soiled diaper. Out his window, the others were sitting on pretty patio furniture in the shade of an oak tree. Their children played on a pink play set that sparkled in the sun. Her eyes narrowed. She jerked the cloth diaper together, pinned it, and whisked him off the table. Holding him out in front of her, she looked him over. 14 months. Adopted 14 months ago and still nothing from the others. She put him back in the crib, pulled the blinds down, and jerked the curtains closed. Turning on her heel, she closed the door behind her. Still, he cried.
Back in the kitchen, she couldn’t avoid the others. They laughed and sipped their iced tea. Shrill peals of baby laughter brought the ringing in her ears to a pitch that only dogs could hear. Eunice leaned to the left to watch the bikini-clad blonde next door splash her baby in a baby pool. Eunice’s pounding head felt heavy.
“The birth mother has decided to parent the child,” the social worker had said when she called just an hour after she had left the house. Another illegitimate child doomed to a life of sin. Eunice thought. They’re a dime a dozen with all the bra-burning hippy flower children running around.
She turned and walked across the kitchen, passing the television where two women were discussing the merits of freeze-dried coffee. Their discussion turned into a loud buzz in her ringing ears. She heard no more words, just the screaming from upstairs. Her hands formed fists, the flesh on her left hand sprouting out around her wedding ring. Eunice went up the stairs, breathing raggedly. She went into his bedroom, slamming the door closed behind her.
“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” she screamed reaching into the crib. She needed silence.