December is always the most dangerous month. The combination of alcohol, loneliness and almost forced cheer caused many to take the final vacation from life. But suicide wasn’t the only monster stalking the streets. There were real terrors slithering out there. They disguised themselves as human but when you dug a little you always hit the scales underneath. This December was a wet, cold and dark one. The air was stiff with the stench of fear, desperation, and despair. In the distance, a homeless man screamed and finally giving up the struggle. Cats prowled the streets looking for a morsel and hiding from rats.
Max and Joe were walking home from counseling when they hear a sound behind them. A trash can fell over and some steps shuffled in their direction. Jean looked behind her and saw a hazy figure lurking in the shadows. They had been protected by the fact Max was pregnant. Normally, no one would mess with a pregnant woman, even if she was gay. Today was not one of those days. Taking advantage of Dr. Gabe’s free services put them in a residential area, so they could knock on people’s doors. She was helping them through Marge’s pregnancy and her insistence on keeping the baby.
Had the pregnancy been by chose, they would have been overjoyed.. But when an unknown man sneaks into a virgin’s bedroom, drugs and rapes her, things get a little complicated. They had met after Max got pregnant. It had been difficult trusting Jo enough to tell her what happened. Until then Jo had been insecure and scared of the father coming back and taking Max away. Dr. Gabe had helped them see through the pain. She had helped them see the good news in the violation. He had also helped Jo through her insecurities.
Dr. Gabe had shown up in their life as if sent. They had bumped into her at the clinic cafe after a doctor’s visit. She had just started talking to them. She had then given them her card and left. Making that first call was difficult.
“Babe we are too poor to have mental issues, therapists are for rich people. Not us” Max said.
“Yes we are poor, babe, but this will be good for us and for little James” Jo had answered. In the end, she won and they made the call.
They were so surprised the first time they walked to her office. It was so different to where they grew up and now lived. The area felt like a place someone could live. It was clean, safe and the air smelled fresh. Even the pavement felt cleaner under their feet. This was a neighborhood, where you could jog, or take a walk. You didn’t have to rush home, just in case you got robbed.
But this afternoon someone was following them. There were steady footsteps coming from behind them. When they stopped walking the steps stopped and when they looked behind them, there was no one. Max was starting to freak out, her breathing heavy, her eyes sparkling as the tears started forming. Fear was clawing its way up her throat bringing the stench and taste of bile with it. Jo had her arm around her and kept her up, trying her best to keep strong, but feeling her reserves slowly depleting, and the taxi rank was so far away.
They knocked on some doors for help. The first few doors remained shut, some houses even turning off the light when they knocked. An old stern looking man opened one of the doors.He took one look at them and closed the door saying:
“I am sorry, I can’t help you, go back where you came from”
Now there was only one house on the streets and the footsteps were getting closer. Whoever they belonged too, was feeling braver, cause they no longer paused when the girls did. They finally got to the door and knocked. The door opened to show an old wizened woman standing in a modestly decorated house. She signaled them in.
“Are you okay, dears?” she asked.
“Hello, sorry we think someone is following us,” Jo said close to tears.
“You are safe here. One of my sons is a police officer. You can stay here as long as you need.” The old woman offered.
“My sons are coming home, so I can only offer the basement, my pets live there but it’s comfortable enough,” said the woman.
“Why are you helping us?” Jo asked. In her experience, no one was just kind.
“Aaaaah” Marge screamed grabbing her stomach.
“Is something wrong? You should lay down” said Jo worry lines forming on her forehead.
“Come to the basement so you can lay down. Ow, my name is Agnes” said the old woman.
Agnes helped them through the house and down a flight of stairs. Jean was getting more worried with every step. “What if, she is crazy?”
She was happily surprised when they were led into a warm rustic basement. There was a fish tank with an assortment of fish inside. A birdcage in the corner was covered with a dark cloth. On the bed a huge tabby snored, there was a small puppy nuzzled in its paws. When Max sat on the bed the pair moved to the carpet, stared for a few minutes then went back to sleep.
Max lay down and seemed to fall asleep after a few minutes.
“Let’s go upstairs and have a warm beverage.”
“Thank you so much”
They went upstairs, had coffee and talked a bit. They were woken up by Max calling for Jo. When they got to the basement Max was moaning, the bed was wet and the animals were all up and alert.
“Ooh dearie, let’s see if Auntie Agnes can help.” She said approaching Marge.
“I used to be a nurse”
She examined Max. When she finished, she told Jean: “ Go to the kitchen cabinet above the stove, get me fresh towels, hot water, scissors, and a clothes peg. Bring those down and then go call the hospital, the baby is coming”
Jo went upstairs got everything, made the phone call and then came back down,
When she came back down, Agnes was holding Max’s hand and humming quietly.
Max was whispering: “Where’s Jo? I need her, I can’t do this without her”
“She is right here, hold my hand. You are strong, you can do this. We are both right here with you.”
What if I can’t, What if he is like his father? How can I handle bringing up a child like that?”
“You will do the best you can, that’s enough. You can bring him up to be whatever you want.
And so “James” was born, in the basement of a kind old lady, surrounded by pets and the women who loved each other more than the hate and violence that conceived him.
Upstairs the door opened and they could hear people moving. The steps got closer to the basement door. Jo’s eyes flew wide open, as thoughts of their stalker breaking in and finding them flew through her mind.
The door at the top of the staircase opened. Jo was frantic now, looking around trying to find a weapon.
“Mom?” a voiced called from the staircase.
Three men walked down the stairs.
“Aaah these are my sons, Mel, Basil and Jasper.
“Mom there is an ambulance outside, what’s going on?”
“They always show up after the heavy lifting the heavy lifting is finished. I have someone for you boys to meet, this is James.”
“Who is James?”
“This is James” Said Agnes pointing to the little bundle lying in Max’s arms. Jo took the bundle from Max.
“She just gave birth? We need to get her to a hospital, Basil, go talk to the paramedics and bring them done” Said Mel. He was obviously the oldest, seeing by how when he spoke the others listened.
Basil ran up to get the paramedics.
“My family has a custom when a baby is born to our family, we give them a gift. Whatever you have can be used as a gift. And since he was born here, little James is kind of like family ” Mel said
“So I only have this ring on me,” said Mel handing over a thick golden ring
Now Jasper spoke: “I only have this bottle of perfume, it was for mom.”
“Jasper handed the bottle over to Jo, who was trying to think of a polite way to refuse the gift. But she didn’t want to insult them, they had been so kind.
The bottle was cylindrical and yellow with a silver cap, on the side it was written “Frackin….” She couldn’t make out the rest.
Basil was helping the paramedics down to the basement. They got down the stairs. One examined Max, while the other spoke to Agnes.
“Basil, you know the tradition, what do you have for baby James?” Mel enquired.
“Well if you wait a minute, I think I actually have something useful, here you go Jo” said Basil handing over a bottle of liquid.
“What is this? What is it used for?” asked Jo
“That is myrrh essential oils. They are used as an antiseptic and to stop bleeding. Also some other spiritual uses, but I think the antiseptic properties are most important” said Basil.
The paramedics took Marge away. Jean said goodbye and thanked Agnes before going with the Ambulance.