Steven and Amy lived in a small flat near the heart of the city with their seven year-old daughter, Natalya. They used to be a lively family until five years ago, when they were involved in an awful car accident. After that, they kept to themselves. The neighbours, out of consideration for their privacy, rarely bothered them except at Christmas time, but even that was lessening over time.
One Saturday evening, the Clarkes, who lived opposite Steven and Amy, dropped by. They rang the doorbell and did not expect a response, as the other tenants had come to learn. In fact, around Christmas in the recent year, groups on Carol rounds skipped out on their house, knowing that they would get no response (even though that wasn’t very Christian of them).
To their immense surprise, Amy answered the door.
“We’ve got news for you!” exclaimed the Clarkes, in chorus.
Amy offered no response and instead opened the door wider to let Natalya peek through from inside.
“We’ve got a baby! The adoption agency came through for us!” They were excited at first, even as their neighbour showed no real excitement to match their own. They were a little confused as to what to say then, a little deflated, even, as their smiles fell away from their faces.
Amy covered her mouth with her sleeve and was about to cry. Then she said through the sleeve and blinking back tears, “I’m really happy for you guys! I know how long you’ve waited for this!”
The Clarkes were relieved. They allowed their smiles to return.
“We were wondering,” started one, “if you’d like to come over and see our little darling?” completed the other.
It took Amy half a minute to bring herself back to the doorway of her flat. “I’d be delighted,” she said and nodded gently, as if to herself.
The Clarkes walked back to their flat and Amy followed, Natalya behind her. Natalya had a habit of being the last one out of the flat and it was her responsibility to close the door.
The Clarkes led the way inside their flat and in to the baby’s room. Once there, they stepped to the side of the crib to allow Amy to see their baby. A diaper changing station lay to the left of the crib, a few feet away, and a tall mirror to the right. When asked why there was a large mirror in the room,the couple sheepishly responded that it was a way to find out when the baby could identify herself.
Amy looked into the crib, at the sleeping baby. The baby was fast asleep. Amy softly cooed to the baby. The Clarkes held each other tightly and beamed down upon their daughter.
Natalya stood at a distance, frightened of waking the baby up. She didn’t step any closer to her mother and stayed away from the crib, behind the adults.
After a few minutes, the Clarkes softly asked Amy if she’d like to join them for a cup of tea. Amy smiled and accepted the invitation. It had been almost a month since she stepped out of her flat; two years since she left the building.
The adults quietly walked back towards the living room, which they passed on the way to the baby’s room, and told Amy to sit on the couch. She sat down and made small talk with the Clarkes as they poured out the tea and laid out some biscuits. They then sat down together and started a rather shaky conversation with Amy.
The small talk covered very general topics and stayed clear of Amy’s state of mind.
After a span of ten minutes, the sounds of the baby waking up reached the adults. Only then did Amy realise that Natalya was probably still with the baby. She turned to look into the room. She could only see the diaper changing station from where she sat.
As if to answer her questioning gaze, the Clarkes said excitedly, “Oh, she’s woken up! Don’t worry, we’ll take the bottle to her in some time!”
Amy looked back at the Clarkes and resumed the conversation. She wanted to call Natalya to her side without shouting as that would come across as impolite.
Natalya must have heard this mental voice summoning her and walked into the front room. She tugged at her mother’s hand to call her attention. Amy turned to look at her daughter and smiled lovingly. Natalya hadn’t seen a baby before. In fact, on the day of the accident, the family was on the way to the orphanage, ready to adopt a new family member.
“Mummy,” said Natalya happily, “you must see this baby! She’s special and can fly!”
Not quite sure what she meant by that, Amy’s eyebrows shot up.
“I’ll show you, mummy!” she said and dropped her mother’s hand to walk back towards the baby’s room and turned at the doorway to see if her mother was following her.
Amy got up from her seat, smiled half- apologetically at the Clarkes, who wondered why she walked back into the baby’s room but said nothing so as to avoid upsetting their reclusive neighbour.
Amy walked towards her daughter who then ran into the room and stood near the crib. When she was confident that her mother was watching her from the doorway, she leaned into the crib and picked up the baby delicately.
She then cooed to the baby in her hands and the baby started giggling in the hands of this child.
Natalya held the baby out at arm’s length and started making whooshing sounds and waving the baby around gently, pretending to be an airplane. Amy smiled, watching her precious daughter get along so well with the baby.
Natalya spun around with the baby and moved in front of the mirror and, turning to her mother said, “Look, mummy! A flying baby!”
Amy’s smile disappeared and was replaced by a quivering lip. Tears streamed down her face and she sobbed loudly. She was suddenly reminded of day of the dreadful accident and how it broke her family, rather than adding to it.
The Clarkes were concerned but didn’t move from the seat, unsure as to how to comfort Amy.
Amy looked at Natalya and cried louder as she saw her daughter playing with the baby in front of the mirror.
The baby truly was flying around the room; for in the mirror’s reflection, she floated unsupported through the air, giggling all the while.