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Babies. Cuddly, smooth new skin, smelling of scented talcum powder and sweet body oils. They cry when they're hungry, giggle and bear toothless grins when they're happy. They coo, learn to laugh quickly when they're pleased, and they are always on the move, learning what to do with those awkward appendages. They grab at fingers offered to them through openings between pastel crib bars and hold on as tight as they can. They are among the most precious of things, right? Let's go have a look at Megan's sweet offering, shall we? It's tiny and frail, helpless and ... hungry.
1. Megan's Baby
Old Montreal was an inspiration for other gothic metropolises. At night, buildings lurked at odd angles. Cold, stinking wind blew off the water except in July when the heat could stop a heart.
On July second, Megan left her apartment and her harpy mother. Canada Day refuse still littered the streets. Pretty pollution of spent firecrackers, popcorn and candy wrappers was a sight better than the usual crap that clogged the cobblestones.
Megan didn't know where she was going, only away, away, away from her mother's wailing. Her legs shook with the need to move. As her pregnancy progressed, she could barely sit still for even a few minutes, and yet the effort to walk was painful. Her conflicted needs were echoed in the streets around her. A screech of tires gave way to silence. The smell of garbage mixed with rack of lamb from an old monastery turned trendy restaurant. Cold blasted from the open door of a convenience store and smacked into the hanging humidity.
Megan was alone on the street. An echo of hersteps followed her like a wraith. She twisted through a pedestrian walk now empty of its usual artisanal fanfare, pushed aside a faux-hide curtain and entered a cubby-hole that passed for a night-club. A sleepy band played in one corner. Music escaped through the cracks in the old building until it was only the suggestion of a melody, a haunting flute that crept over Megan's skin like a chill. The place was nearly empty. An old man smoked pot from a pipe like a farmer, while an androgynous couple slept on a pile of blankets, their naked legs and arms entwined. The heat kept most nightcrawlers out in the open, along the waterfront. During the winter months, tiny clubs likes this all over the city were packed with cold bodies looking for heat and diversion. Last November, Marcus had made love to her against the stone wall, while the band blared and the strobe lights hid their frantic thrusts. The bricks grated her back, but Megan hadn't noticed. Only Marcus had mattered.
Now, she sat in an old beanbag, shifted the bulk of her stomach for comfort, but found none. Displaced acid pushed up into her throat. Her ankles were fat. She didn't glow with burgeoning motherhood. Apathy suffocated any spark of soul from the new human inside her.
When Marcus walked in to their old haunt, Megan was stunned enough to forget to cover her bulging belly.
"Hey," he said, as if he hadn't been gone for months. As if he hadn't ripped out her heart and left it steaming on the sidewalk. He reached for her, pulled her bulk out of the beanbag and danced with her to music that only he could hear. His eyes were darker than she remembered, rimmed in shadows and she wondered what kind of drugs he had been into.
God, how she missed Marcus and his drugs. She couldn't indulge in the latter until this baby was born, but that wasn't far off now. In the meantime, didn't sex bring on contractions? Maybe she could be rid of it sooner.
Marcus didn't even seem to notice her belly. He smiled and kissed her. He smelled like wine, though she knew he preferred tequila.
"Come," he said.
Megan followed him, not daring to let go of his fingertips, as if breaking that connection would lose him again.
Air conditioning blasted in his studio. The main room was bare, but for a white backdrop and his camera set on a tripod. Two big windows on one wall were dark screens to the outside world. Megan leaned her forehead against the cool glass. In the street below, two young men argued. One pulled at the sleeve of the other. He, in turn pulled away. Megan didn't need to know what they argued about. It could only have been one of a handful of themes: love, revenge, money, jealousy. She bet on jealousy. ***