Author: MissKittys Ball O Yarn
Sheela staggered deep into the field, as far away from the noises inside her father's house as she could get. "Oh how inconvenient you already are," she spoke with affectionate irritation toward the roundness of her protruding stomach. It clenched in response as the baby inside tangled its foot on an organ or two, in preparation to leave its cramped living quarters. It was only a matter of time now, Sheela told herself.
She suspected it would be born soon, as she'd felt her womb contracting in steady intervals during the last few hours. But it had only been in the last hour or so that the pain had grown unbearable and she‘d been forced to leave the cottage in search of a safer place to birth her unborn child.
The field was as good a place as any, she presumed, though she didn't care too much for the windy climate. She supposed it would have to do in any event, as she couldn't afford the luxury of pickiness this close to delivery.
She carried, tucked on her arm the bassinette she'd woven from the bark of a Willow tree some months ago. Though she steadily fought down the hope that this one might be spared.
Sheela folded as another contraction hit with force, but recovered quickly, partially out of bravery...but mostly to save face lest someone be watching from a ruddy window somewhere unknown to her. She didn't suspect this to be probable because it was election day and most of the towns people would have already left to cast their votes in the densely populated capital of Tarn. Hadn't she seen folks loading their wagons that morning? She questioned, but dismissed the notion instantly. It was no matter, because any chance was a chance she could not take
Sheela lay down on the hard earth. The waving tendrils of brownish-yellow grass tickled her bared arms, irritating her and causing her to scratch at her skin in order to relieve the itch. The field, she surmised, had not been one of her better ideas. But it would have to do, she reminded herself hotly as she barred down into another contraction. Perspiration spilled onto her brow, dampening her skin and causing the reddish colored hair of her bangs to stick, darkening its own color into more of a brick red in the wetness of her forehead.
Sheela drifted in and out of consciousness, all the while the child inside her butted up against her cervix as if to push itself into the world...as well as make a statement to its lax mother. Sheela recovered a little, in time to feel the pressure in her womb intensify. And then there was an unbearable pain followed by the immediate need to push. Sheela gritted her teeth and with all the strength in her body she PUSHED.
There was no need to get attached, she told herself. If it was a girl it would be drowned soon enough, if not by her husband, then by her elderly father, she was certain; there was nothing she could do about that. And if it was a boy it would be sold to the highest bidder shortly after weaning; the same as if it were a puppy or some other pitiful creature.
There was a gush of blood; Sheela heard herself scream, followed by a squall from the unfortunate infant. The heady smell of afterbirth and sweat mixed in the air and stung tartly in Sheela's nostrils. For a moment there was silence, save for the sound of the wind driving past them in whips and lashes. In the looming quiet Sheela became frightened that something had gone wrong. Why had the newborn stopped wailing?
Sheela reached between her bunched skirts, her groping hand searching for the placid infant. She felt something beneath her fingers and her hand instinctively closed around the appendage; she thought it might be the baby's arm or a leg at least. Sheela pulled without affection on the thing grasped in her hand; she brought the baby into view for the first time.
It was a girl and hardly the most attractive creature she'd ever seen, it was wrinkled and tinged with a blue cast to its skin; but alive and breathing nonetheless. She wrinkled her nose at the infant "I certainly have seen prettier ones," she said to it with sweet contempt; not sure if she really meant it, or simply needed something to say in the moment.
Still, despite its appearance she had to admit there was something sweet about the way it seemed to look up at her, its foggy eyes blurred and unfocused. Sheela wondered if the baby's eyes might turn out to be green like her own, given the chance to grow into itself--but that was foolish, she scolded. There was no hope for this child's survival and to even contemplate the idea was an effort it futility. Her next instinct was to drown the child herself that she might spare it living long enough to grasp an understanding of life. But deep down she knew she couldn't do that--she didn't have heart enough.
Sheela wiped her hand down the baby's body to clean it as much as she could, before laying it in the Willow-bark basket. "Oh, don't look at me so. Do you think this is my doing? Well, I can tell you most certainly that it is not." Sheela talked to the baby as if it could understand her. "I didn't ask for this," she said, speaking of her life on a grander scale to the infant who merely stared. "And I didn't ask for you!" She said pointedly, the tone to her voice growing as sharp as a knife.
But the baby kicked its feet in response to Sheela's ill tempered words and she could feel her own heart beating in her chest; the rhythm of it caused the ice that had formed there over the years to melt slightly. "What should I call you then?" She breathed out in a sigh. "Mildred?" she said, but stuck her tongue out at the thought. "I know...how about Brunhilda?" Sheela clucked her tongue at the thought. "No, that won't do. You're ugly--but not that ugly." Then Sheela caught sight of the basket in which the baby lay... "Willow," She said, testing the quality of the name. It seemed to fit. "Willow it is, then."
Sheela didn't know how yet, but she knew she'd have to come up with something to save this one...she had to save this one.