Cathy played through the night. Brahms’ intermezzos on piano in the parlor gave way to Bach’s partitas on violin in the garden.
She thought over Sugar’s fury while she played. What had made her so angry? She knew Sugar disliked Brennan–he had a habit of lashing out at people and he genuinely seemed to enjoy the misery of others.
But we’re none of us perfect, Cathy thought. We all have our complicated patterns and our foibles and follies, and to love someone even knowing their limitations, that was something, wasn’t it?
But Cathy suspected there was more to it than that. She herself suspected Brennan’s true origins–she was never taken in by his backstory, though he still believed it without hesitation.
“I’m from New Orleans,” he was fond of saying, and every time he said it, Cathy smelled rose-water and sulfur.
When onezero woke, Cathy sought her out.
“Do you think there’s reason to worry?” she asked her friend. “Was Sugar right in her first response, and did I do something wrong and irresponsible in getting pregnant?”
onezero wrapped her in a big hug.
“When we combine two to make one,” said onezero, “the result is something entirely extraordinary! It’s not the mother, it’s not the father. You are bringing in something new, and that’s always something to celebrate.”
They sat in the garden while the sun rose.
Cathy had to admit that, if she tuned in to how she felt, everything felt so very right. Sometimes, life steps up and asks you to follow, that’s how she felt–and here she was, following as best she could.
“After all,” she said to onezero, “this just happened! It wasn’t something I planned. It’s not something that could be expected.”
“Exactly,” said onezero from the easel at the edge of the porch. “Like when my dad was taken by the thousand. Who would expect that? That’s not anything that could be planned or expected.”
“And look how that turned out!” said Cathy, with a smile. “You’re the best surprise there ever was!”
onezero left after she finished her painting, a portrait of a Madonna which they hung upstairs. “Call me when it’s time,” onezero said. “I’ll come in a jiffy!”
Cathy spent the late morning painting a childlike drawing of a tiny being–half fairy, half bird. The innocence of the painting charmed her.
This might be my last time alone for a while, she thought, savoring the solitude and the quiet. We make our peace, she thought, hoping to remember this during the busy days that would be sure to follow the baby’s delivery.
In the afternoon, while she was relaxing with a computer game, the contractions came.
I can do this, she thought, remembering to breathe.
But the second contraction came with such fierceness, as if she were tearing inside, and she wasn’t sure she could do it. She couldn’t get ahold of Jaclyn. She called onezero.
onezero arrived with sadness. Cathy couldn’t ask what was the matter–every ounce of concentration was spent breathing through the pain.
“I knew it wouldn’t be an easy birth,” onezero said. “I could feel it. Are you all aright?”
Cathy couldn’t answer.
“I wish Jaclyn were here,” onezero said.
They made their way back to the nursery.
“Oh! It’s going to be all right!” onezero said. “I just felt a shift. There’s nothing to worry about! You can push now!”
And onezero was right.
In fact, she was doubly right. Two babies were born, a son and a daughter, and both were healthy, each one with ten fingers and ten toes, and two eyes, and one nose.
“They’re lovely. What will you call them?” onezero asked.
“You name them,” said Cathy. “You’re their godmother.”
“Me and Jaclyn,” said onezero. She closed her eyes for a moment. “Jaclyn says that the little boy should be called something… something that you had in your sandwich. Fireflies? Something sparkly.”
“Sparkroot?” Cathy asked.
“Exactly!” said onezero. “Sparkroot and Florinda.”
onezero took out her cellphone. “We need to remember today,” she said, snapping a photo of the two of them. “I mean, of course we’ll always remember, but this will help us commemorate, too.”
When onezero left, Cathy spent time with each baby, feeling that warm weight rest in the crook of her arm, as if her body had been built for this.
Sparkroot had eyes the shape of his daddy’s, but they twinkled with a spark all his own.
After she’d nursed the twins and tucked them into bed she called Brennan.
“We had two,” she said. “Do you want to come meet them?”
“It’s really something,” he said. “Are they exactly alike?”
“Well, one’s a girl and one’s a boy, and one has lighter skin and one darker, and their eyes and smiles are shaped differently, but they’re exactly alike in that they’re both ours.”
Brennan felt proud and surprised. They weren’t much to look at–they both looked the same to him, sort of like little peanuts, and there wasn’t much of them, and they couldn’t really talk yet, could they, but they’d grow into something. They’d grow into actual people, his children, and that was something.
“I’m a dad,” he said.
He wrapped his wife in a hug. “We really did it!” he said.
“I’m a dad!”
She held him, and to her, with his beating heart and hot skin, he felt in her arms like a little boy who’d come home from school with a first prize in the science fair, bursting with excitement and pride.
She went into the kitchen to prepare a late-night snack for them, and when she finished, she found him at the computer, posting onto the Forums, “I am the proud papa of twins. Who says a poor boy from New Orleans can’t hit a home run, twice?”