Posted by on January 4, 2017

Lifeline

Written by “Queenie” Marie Faulk

Illustrated by Polly Lin

July 11, 2015

Today she isn’t screaming like she usually screams. Usually, it’s a pleasurable moan as she cries out for more. Usually, she has had up to ten different clients by now. She only calls them clients when she’s talking to me as if fifteen is too young of an age to understand that she’s a whore. I hate her.

“Is she always this loud?” Vick slouched in the chair across my living room with his varsity jacket on.

“No,” I say.

“That must mean that my dad is smashing harder than all the rest of them.” He smiled as he spoke then mockingly added, “Maybe I should go join him. A Thomson duo! I’ll take the back while he takes the front.”

I don’t answer. I don’t even look his way.

“Don’t worry, Kavrin. Your mom still has a mouth. I’m sure she’ll welcome you in.”

Water formed in my eyes as my blood rushed through every inch of my body making my temperature feel like 150 degrees. I should be used to this by now. I should be used to her screams and moans, and our 24-hour houseguest. And how after every client is another smoke, another drug high, and another whiskey shot. The truth, however, is that I’m not.

My body jumps up and my fist whales into his face. I hate him, and I remind myself of that just before every punch connects, each time with greater force. His face starts to bleed, but I can’t stop. It’s the best I’ve felt in years. I pretend he’s his father. I pretend he’s all of her clients. I pretend he’s her. His body starts to go limp and someone pulls me away. A blow to my face knocks me back and something breaks beneath me. Through the red of my eyes, I see him pull Vick to his feet and they stagger out the door. I should get up, but it’s too soon to leave my new world.

She screams. Back to reality!

The dimness in her room makes it hard to navigate without a stumble or two. Still, there’s nothing any dimness can do to hide her rising belly. I’ve been hoping for a brother. A girl would too easily be devoured by this world, and protecting her might be beyond my control.

“Kavrin,” she says, “get your bag.”

My heart starts to race. Knowing about my bag means she knows that I’ve been stealing from her. Or maybe it means that she knows about my numerous trips to the library, watching videos, reading baby books, and buying supplies; doing her job.

“Hurry,” she says, “I think its time.”

I run to my room and return with haste. The bag unzips and my hands go numb when my eyes land on the scalpel. My mind remembers the cesarean video on YouTube that I could never finish without getting light headed. All the training in the world couldn’t prepare me for what I was now subjected to.

She screams. I don’t know what to grab first. Gloves will have to do.

As I fumble to put them on my hands, she starts to squeeze. I’m not ready for this. She screams louder and squeezes harder. I don’t know whether to hold her hand like the fathers in the videos or to prepare to catch. I see her phone on the desk and remember 911, but when a head begins to emerge from between her legs, my mind tells me it’s too late.

“Breath and push hard,” I tell her, but I can hear shakiness in my voice. A fear that wasn’t there whenever I contemplated this moment.

A head appears. I almost reach for it, but then I think about the baby who was decapitated at birth because the doctor pulled too soon. I wait until the shoulders pass through before taking my turn. I pull out the baby and lay it on the bed. A girl, but I have no time to ponder over her.

Lifeline by “Queenie” Marie Faulk & Polly Lin

She’s not crying. I check my bag. I grab the aspirator and use it to suction her throat and nose. She lets out a squeaky cry and I smile for a moment, but then I realize that I can no longer hear my mother’s agonizing screams. Instead, she lays limp on the bed. The umbilical cord is still attached to both of them. I grab the scissors. I cut the baby free, but realize then that none of the videos ever said what to do about the rest of the cord. I don’t worry about it. I wrap my sister in a blanket and hold her to my chest. I pat and bounce until she stops crying, then I rest.

My mother doesn’t look good. Her face is pale and her breathing is off. I didn’t prepare myself for this.

“Boy or girl?” she asks.

“Girl.”

“Did you pick out a name?”

“Kindle,” I say. Something feels wrong. I’m not sure if it’s because that’s the name that was meant for my brother, the fear of Kindle’s future, or the presence of near death. Water forms in my eyes again.

“That’s a beautiful name. Let me see her.”

I expose her face and an immediate feeling comes over me. Joy, happiness, grief, suffering? I don’t know.

“Give her a bottle as soon as possible.”

I jump out of my seat.

“Kavrin,” she says. “There’s a safe under my bed. Take it, and check the closet. Use it for you and Kindle.”

I nod and start to walk away.

“Kavrin,” she calls. Her eyes widen as she tries to put on a bright face through her tears. We touch for the first time in months as she gently takes my hand. She pushes out “I,” but her tongue only just touches the roof of her mouth before her eyes roll to a close. Her face goes limp. Her hand goes limp. Her life slips away to the unknown world of the dead.

Tears run down my face as I keep a firm grip on her hand and think about what her final thoughts were. It wasn’t her clients. It wasn’t her drug habit. It wasn’t whiskey. It wasn’t money.

It was love. It was me. It was us.