Marielle was almost too excited to breathe when the nurse wheeled the swaddled bit of humanity into her room in his transparent bassinet. Despite the pain that shot through her belly when the nurse put the baby in her arms, Marielle bared her breast proudly. The bikini-cut incision would be her personal badge of honour. After eight years of waiting and hoping, she was a mother. She kissed the top of Mark Junior's head while he nursed, marvelling at the strength of the tiny fingers wound around hers. "No hurry," she scolded herself as she played with the zipper of the baby's bunting bag. "Ignorance is bliss." But she couldn't wait. She worked the fuzzy blue covering from Mark Junior's shoulders and pulled up his undershirt. After lunch, Marielle's obstetrician paid her a special visit. He had already made his official morning rounds with his entourage of medical students. "And how are we feeling this afternoon, Mrs. Perkins?" he asked, glancing at his clipboard to verify the name. She cleared her throat. Twice. "He's not -- normal." The doctor's plastic smile intensified. "Oh -- you mean the wings? No problem." He lowered his voice. "No one need ever know. You won't even have to sign another consent form -- it's covered by the fine print." His pen poised over his clipboard. "We'll do him tomorrow morning at ten-fifteen, along with his circumcision." "I'm not sure." "It's perfectly safe. The scars won't be permanent." "Why did this happen?" she asked, more to test him than anything else. "A genetic abnormality," he said vaguely, looking out the window. "I saw a picture of a flying man in a tabloid last week," she said, willing him to look at her. The doctor laughed. "The wings aren't functional." "How can you know that if you keep cutting them off?" "It's what the patients want." He fiddled with his clipboard. "The first case I saw was my grandson. My daughter is still in therapy." "Sorry," Marielle muttered. "Sometimes," the doctor said, "sometimes I dream of going public. But I need real babies to present for study. He paused. "Would you --?" Marielle shook her head. The next day, before the orderlies came to take the baby to the operating room, she signed them both out of the hospital Against Medical Advice. Mark Senior wondered at Marielle's refusal to let him change or bathe Mark Junior. He had been warned of the vagaries of the post-partum female, but how could she not trust him to look after his own son? "Give me time," she pleaded. "He's my first." "He's my first, too," he pointed out, struggling to mask his dissatisfaction. He could hardly wait to return to his office and bask in the felicitations of his colleagues. Scant minutes after Mark's car backed out of the driveway, a slender blond man in Cable TV coveralls knocked on the door. Silently, Marielle let him in. "It's been so long," he murmured between kisses. "Sorry, Landyr. Mark stuck to me like glue." She drew him towards the stairs. "Come and see our son." Arms interlaced, they looked down at the sleeping form. Marielle undid the snaps of the baby's sleepers. The miniature wings unfolded, opalescent like mother of pearl. Landyr picked up the child, tears in his eyes. The baby gurgled. "I couldn't do it," Marielle said. "I couldn't let him be less than he is." "What are you going to do?" he asked, gently bouncing the baby up and down to unruffle the wings. "I want you to take him." "Me?" "Yes. With you, he'll be able to fly. With us...." Her voice broke. It had all seemed so simple a year ago, when she was flirting with the handsome and personable serviceman. It was supposed to be a casual encounter, a discreet substitute for the artificial insemination Mark found so humiliating. How could she have foreseen the enchantment of making love under a canopy of shifting colours? Landyr put the baby down and enfolded her in his arms. "Come with me," he murmured. "I can't," she said into his chest. "You know I can't. What would you do with a flightless wife?" "If you stay here, they may put you in jail." "I'll say he was kidnapped." Her face crumpled. Landyr tried to kiss away the tears. "I'll have no trouble acting distraught," she sniffled. "I've been holding back ever since I saw his wings." Landyr picked up the baby's sleepers. "Are you sure?" he asked. "Completely sure?" Marielle had asked herself the same question night after sleepless night. "When your people and mine have made official first contact," she said, "you can bring him for a visit." His hands paused in their task of re-folding the baby's wings. "It may be a long time." She braced herself to withstand the tenderness in Landyr's eyes as he tucked the wings deftly inside the sleepers and clicked the snaps shut. He would be a wonderful father. Landyr's finger traced the outline of the winged superhero decal over the baby's heart. "Did you choose this?" Marielle nodded. "Tell him . . . tell him I love him." "I will. Every day." Marielle picked up the baby. They walked down the stairs to the patio without fanfare, like a family going for an outing. She kept watch while Landyr stripped off his coveralls and unfolded his wings. They arced high above his head, swirling with the colours of her dreams. She handed over her child and turned away. She did not stay to watch Landyr leap into the air and fade into the welcoming sky. When the police arrived, Marielle was still clutching Landyr's coveralls.
x x x