She made the basket herself. Downloaded directions at the library, watched a video, learned how to gather the rushes, keep them supple, weave in, out, secure this, keep that tight, even. Just like Miriam, she thought more than once, Miriam making a basket for her brother to be found, cared for,loved by the princess.
The basket had to be strong—she knew that—it had to be strong enough to carry the weight and stay afloat. Although she hadn’t yet decided if she’d put the basket in the river or just beside it, at the edge of the shore, so he’d feel the freshness of the water, but she wouldn’t have to run alongside. What if she couldn’t keep up?
She lined the basket with felt because it seemed strong and soft enough and then a towel from the Dollar Store, something new and blue. She finished it quickly, more quickly than she expected, and so the basket sat just inside the door to her room as if it was decorative, or an Easter basket waiting to be filled—which it was. She smiled at the thought.
Not ready by Easter, but in May. Yes, a May basket, she’d say if anybody asked.
Nobody would ask. Nobody had ever been in her room, so nobody would ask, and she wouldn’t have to lie. But that was it, a May basket.
He came in the night. The long night. She was damp and crying herself, thinking her own wails were the baby’s, then she bit her lip, the sobs stopped, and she was left with the pressure, the grunting, the strain, somebody not herself, somebody else in the room making those noises, pulling her apart, apart, apart, and then it was over—the baby—the blood—the mess. The baby crying thin little cries.
She'd known what to do. She’d downloaded “how to give birth” too. No surprises. Except that he was a girl. Girl, not boy.
She laughed when she saw her, really looked at her, held her to her breast, and the little mouth glommed on, knew what to do, knew more than she did.
She could see the basket from the bed, the blue towel spread open, waiting. All wrong. Wrong for this girl.
A princess won’t want you, she said. They only want boys. Princes.
The baby’s hands pushed against her chest, and then suddenly she was asleep in her arms. She pulled the sheet over them both and lay back on the pillow. She could get a pink towel. The Dollar Store opened at 9.
They dosed. She woke at 8. The child lay in her arms so perfectly that she felt as if she were drowning. She pressed her lips on the top of the baby’s head, her sweet, damp head. It wouldn’t always be like this, not this good.
The basket was ready.
But sometimes it would be like this, she thought, and if I put her in the basket, she’ll be gone.
The basket was the wrong color.
Here, she’s my princess.
The basket wasn’t strong enough.
I am strong enough, she said, and the little princess opened her eyes.
It could just be a May basket.
© 2013 Kathleen Coskran