Sometimes he won't stop crying, Mamma. And then sometimes he stops and looks at me with eyes that don't belong in the head of a newborn... his sweet head, soft and warm, and those cold eyes peering out of it. And then he's like something else. Something that isn't a baby. And I don't know what to do. And I don't know if it's the thing you told me about, or something else.
Shaina didn't consider herself unusual. She put on a white hairnet and went to work at Sandee's cafeteria on Rivermont like a half dozen other women in her neighborhood... check. She picked up a two dollar lottery ticket once a week (no more than that, Mamma had been firm about it)... check. She lived with her Aunt Lucia and a couple of underage cousins... check. Hair done at Celie's once a week, bags under her eyes, and one illegitimate child by a man she was better off without. Check, check, check. Dead Mamma, daddy also probably a man they all could do without. Check.
She woke each morning and looked into the mirror and mentally added the years to her face, then she'd look down and mentally pencil in the varicose veins that would soon be appearing on her legs.
Then she would go over to Troy's crib, and most days, he would be looking right back at her. And all the weight of those years to come would fall away, and she would pick him up, and feel the soft solid weight of him (so heavy already) connecting her to the earth, and listen to his breath, and press her hand against the hair clinging to the back of his neck, damp with the sweat of sleep.
These things were all common to the women she knew, too, but they didn't weigh down on her nearly so much. And it didn't matter to her even if every woman did feel her baby was special... Shaina knew that Troy was more special than any of them. He was so beautiful; he had Shaina's black, black eyes. He had his daddy's thick waves of black hair. He would be tall. And he would be smart, too... already he could aim something and throw it. Already he could stack his blocks into a house that would stay up.
She only wished he would talk more... he rarely burbled, and when she cooed at him, he would echo her faces back to her, but not the voice. He even laughed. But he didn't want to try to form words. Aunt Lucia said that was a boy thing. "Girls they can not wait to talk, but boys? If you get a word from them before they sprout cojones you may feel a lucky woman."
Shaina still worried. Mamma had warned her about odd behavior. Keep an eye on your little ones when you have them, Shia-shia. You watch. If you have to take them to the city, you'll know. But don't you ever let any doctors have them. Just watch.
Shaina didn't want to go to any far-off city. Hearing voices in her head sometimes wasn't a big deal, and knowing what the weather was going to be... well, that was useful most of the time. Mamma, you never told me what they'll do for him that I can't. If he's... different from me.
She had little signs.
Sometimes he would stiffen in her arms, and he would stay that way... his baby arms and legs at attention like a wooden doll. She felt instinctively that he should be soft and wobbly now, that his muscles shouldn't be able to do that. And she would look into his face, and there it would be... a dead look in his eyes. The part of her that heard the weather from far away, the part that sometimes knew what the hairdresser was thinking about the saddlebags on her thighs... that quiet, secret part of her, would fall into his black eyes and look deep behind them, and there she would fetch up against a nothingness so pure and dark that she felt as though she were falling. She would clutch him to her, kiss his face, and cry, and say his name, and soon he would come back, and reach for her.
Don't you give him to any doctors. When they can't tell you what's wrong, they'll take him away, and they'll hurt him worse than any of our secrets could.
Sometimes it sounded like Mamma was still alive and talking to Shaina inside her own mind.
Shaina never took him to the clinic unless he got a cold or bad gas bubbles. He was a healthy baby aside from his strange dead spells, and she tried not to worry.
Mamma. When will I know if I should take him?
It was several years before she knew.