Here's the preceding piece from the Granny Rose and Sarah saga: Newborn Thompson Boy.
After Granny Rose left, Mr. Thompson and the children tumbled into the house. It took just one of Mr. Thompson’s long strides to carry him across the tiny room to the bed where Amelia lay unmoving, curled up.
“’Melia!” he spoke, forcefully but not unkind. There was no response.
“Wa’s wrong with her?” he said, glancing nervously at Sarah.
Sarah had no words to answer. She didn’t know herself. She cloaked her silence around her body for protection from this strange home, wishing that she could run up the mountain to catch Granny Rose. Instead, she just shrugged and looked down.
Mr. Thompson leaned forward and gently pulled back the blanket from his new baby boy. He took one look at the blackened skin and jerked back. He stood still for a moment, hands shaking slightly as they held his felt hat. Then abruptly he slammed the hat back on his head, stormed across the room, and left.
“Daddy!” called little Ellen, leaning out the door. But he was gone.
The older kids busied themselves fixing biscuits for dinner. The baby had started to cry, and Sarah tried in vain to quiet him. She walked him, and alternately poked at Amelia, trying to rouse her. Sometimes, Amelia’s eyes were open as she stared at the wall. But they didn’t have any light in them – just a dull, empty look. At some point, one of the kids handed Sarah a biscuit, but she felt so uncomfortable she couldn’t bring herself to eat it, even though her stomach growled.
Night fell, and the kids climbed up to the narrow loft by ladder, settling in under quilts. Sarah was left downstairs with Amelia and the baby, but she felt uneasily alone. Amelia hadn’t spoken, and she hadn’t raised her head. The baby was crying in fits once an hour now, grating tearless screams. Sarah was supposed to give Amelia a tea of herbs during the night, but she couldn’t get Amelia to stir, and she finally gave up to focus on the baby, who she’d started to think of as “Night”, due to his pitch black skin.
Sarah looked at the sweet, soft head, and was overwhelmed by how unfair it was. This baby needed to be fed! She just wanted the crying to stop. It felt like she’d been stuck at the Thompson house for days now, alone and not knowing what to do. In unexpected anger, she walked over and shook Amelia. She shook her hard. This baby was suffering!
“Mrs. Thompson, WAKE UP! Please!”
“Please. Please, I don’ know what to do,” she whispered.
No response. Just silent, slow heavy breathing. Sarah felt like Amelia heard her. She couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t act.
So she gave up. She wrapped the baby tighter, although her wrapping was sloppy and not very neat. She paced the worn wooden floors. Soft bending boards with each step. She softly jiggled the baby. Back and forth, back and forth. Sarah wondered how long it would be until morning. Tired, she sank down into a chair, the exhausted baby quieting against her chest.
Sarah slipped off into a restless sleep, and when the sun slowly peeked over the mountains and light crawled on tender paws across the valley, Sarah didn’t open her eyes. She had failed. The baby still nestled on her chest, but he hadn’t cried in the past two hours. Finally, when the Thompson children glumly descended to start breakfast, she stretched her stiff legs and opened her eyes. Mr. Thompson hadn’t come home last night, and Sarah wondered if he ever would. It seemed like the situation couldn’t get any worse. She glanced down at the baby she’d named Night. What she saw when she looked him startled her.
Immediately, she stood, and walked over to where Amelia’s body had melted into a dank puddle in the bed.
“Mrs. Thompson, your baby! His skin in’t black no more. He’s fading!”
Slowly, Amelia rolled over, and sat up.
“Let me see,” she said, as she gently took the child.
The prompt for The Red Dress Club this week was to write with a happy ending.