By: Maria Queen ’12, Comic Artist
Tag: Seniors 2012
By: Stephanie Brown ’12
Aggie was gently bouncing Tom on her knee as the stew broiled over the hearth. Tom cooed happily and waved his tiny hands, grabbing a loose strand of her hair.
“Careful, careful,” Aggie said, smiling.
She tickled his stomach, and Tom kicked his legs, giving a joyful squeal.
“Who am I?” she asked.
“Ma!” Tom gurgled, clapping his hand and grinning his toothless smile.
The door opened at that point. Aggie looked up to see Giles, but her smile faded instantly. His brows were creased, his mouth in a thin line.
“Da!” Tom laughed and made more nonsense sounds.
“Giles, what is it? Is Duncan bickering again? I told you to just ignore—”
“Where did you find it?” Giles snapped, his finger jabbing towards the baby giggling in her lap.
“He’s not an ‘it.’ Besides, I told you, I found him on the doorstep.”
“You’re lying. You’ve been lying from the start.” Giles paced along the room, running a bulky hand through his hair. “No one ever came by in the night, did they?”
Aggie straightened her back. “Of course they did, how else would I have—”
Something in his tone made Aggie’s stomach freeze. She stood, shifting Tom so that he clung to her shoulder. Giles eyed the baby for a few seconds.
“I’ll ask you one last time. Where did you get it?” He turned his gaze on his wife.
“Why won’t you listen to me?” Aggie snapped. Tom began to tug on her hair.
Giles let out a bitter laugh. “God in Heaven, you did it. I can’t believe you. Was there not enough sense in your head to keep you from going to the ring on the heath?”
Anger colored her cheeks as she said, “You should learn to count your blessings.”
“Blessings?!” He exploded, the sudden shout startling Tom until he wailed. “You brought a changeling into our home! Did you want a babe that badly?”
“Yes!” Aggie clutched the baby closer and stroked his tufts of hair. “I don’t regret what I did! Who cares what everyone else thinks? He’ll grow, he’s just slow, that’s all.”
“Listen to yourself, woman. You’re in denial. What more evidence do you need that the thing is cursed? We should do as everyone says and leave it back in the ring.”
Aggie gripped Tom tighter. He began to cry. “No! How dare you say that about our son!”
“He is not our son! We never had a son!”
The silence that followed hung heavy in the air, seemingly pressing down on them. Giles stood firm, chest heaving, face flushed with anger, while Aggie remained wide-eyed and pale.
“I’m giving you a choice,” Giles said heavily. “Return…him to the ring, or leave here with him. If you do, you are no longer my wife.”
Aggie was still, the only motion coming from the baby squirming in her arms. At long last, she slowly, nervously opened her mouth.
“I…I’ll need to pack my things.”
The look in Giles’ eyes nearly crushed her. But she held on, for Tom.
“Aggie…please…it’s not human.”
“I love him. He needs me.”
Giles blinked his eyes a few times, and then turned towards the door. “You’ve made your choice. But you forget, Aggie, that I love you, too. It seems your want of a child means more to you than I ever could. Enjoy the life you’ve chosen.”
He was gone, and the door’s closing held finality in its loud thud. Aggie winced, trembled, and looked down at her son, trying hard not to cry. “It’s just you and me now, Tommy. Come on, Mama needs to get some stuff together.”
It was dark by the time she left the house, her bag of clothes and small possessions stuffed in the cradle that she pushed down the dirt road. Tom was wrapped up and tied snug to her chest, where he pressed against her for warmth. It was hard work, but she managed to cross the bridge to where the old abandoned mill cottage stood. The original mill had long since fallen into disrepair, causing another to be built, but the cottage still remained. It was in need of a new roof and shutters, but Aggie would make do. She was determined to, for her child.
Aggie fixed everything up by herself. No one ever stopped by, not even Giles, though she sometimes thought that she caught sight of him lingering near the bridge, never crossing. After a few months he stopped coming. Aggie, too, never crossed the bridge, except for Sunday service, the only time she ever left Tom napping at the cottage. People avoided sitting beside her, oftentimes staring pointedly in the opposite direction.
Five years later, Aggie went to church and saw Giles. He was with a woman, a pretty woman with one hand on a rosary and the other holding his own. Her belly was just beginning to fill with child. A bitter taste filled her mouth, but she focused her gaze on the altar. After that day, she only stopped by in the evenings to light a candle and pray.
The years crept by. One by one, Aggie watched as everyone she knew died. Her hair grew grey, her skin weathered and wrinkled, and her back became bent from sitting beside the cradle for so long. Still, her baby remained the same.
The younger generations avoided her. Some looked upon her with pity, others with scorn. They whispered behind her back, perhaps thinking that her hearing had deteriorated with her old age. No one came by her house anymore, save for a few curious children hoping to catch sight of the changeling child.
Aggie was scared. She was going to die, but her baby would remain behind. She had heard the whispers; she knew what would happen when that day came. The fear gnawed at her heart, and she prayed and seethed and sobbed for a solution. In time, she realized that there was no other option.
Aggie trembled, the veins in her withered hands bulging. Her limbs ached with arthritis as she lifted the baby from his cradle and wrapped him in her best shawl. She donned her cloak, picked up her walking stick, and carried the child outside.
The wind gusted against her face. Tom began to cry and pressed his face to her breast. Aggie bounced him in her arm as she slowly followed the road out of town, up to where it curved past that all too familiar heath. Her cane sunk slightly into the damp earth as she stepped off the path. Every now and then she pause to catch her breath and wait for her knees to cease their shaking. Tom’s cries grew louder, his little hands clutching at her blouse. The wind caught his cry and carried it through the hills, a high-pitched trill of fear.
Finally, they reached Aggie’s destination. The circle of stones was dark and empty. Aggie moved forward, only to have her cane catch in a rut. She stumbled, both cane and babe tumbling from her arms as she landed on her knees with a pained grunt. A low moan crawled from her throat as she reached for the baby. The hair tangled in her face as she lifted her gaze to the faerie ring.
“Take him back! Please!”
No one answered. No light, aside from the crescent moon appeared on the heath. Aggie dragged Tom closer and hugged him to her chest.
“I’m dying! I don’t have much time! There’ll be no one to care for him! The town will not care for a changeling child!”
Only the wind howled in response.
Aggie shivered. “You must help! If not for your sake, then for his! He’s of your kind! Let him grow in your land if not in mine! Save our child!”
She remained still for some time, waiting as the chill air froze her, made her joints ache with pain. Yet, no one came. Aggie bowed her head over her crying child, letting her fresh tears mingle with his. There would be no answer, no help from the Fair Folk or anyone else for that matter. She would die and be buried alone, while her Tom remained in his cradle. He would wait for someone to feed and coddle him, to kiss his face and soothe his cries. He would wait as the townsfolk boarded up the windows and doors of her small cottage, too afraid to take any other action. Her baby would cry, as hunger tore at his stomach. But his wails would be ignored, or passed off as the howl of the wind by the nervous townsfolk.
Aggie could already picture it. He would scream and wail; his face soaked in a permanent sheen of tears. But there would be nothing except the dark solitude of empty rooms forcing itself upon him, forcing itself down his throat as it smothered him, smothered him until his cries ceased and his cold, still, fragile body was buried in the darkness.
It would suffocate him, suffocate her child.
Suffocate her child.
The weeping mother’s movements were slow as she kissed her Tom and laid him on the wild grass. Her hands stroked his little tufts of hair, trailed down his face and delicately, hesitantly, wrapped gnarled fingers around his soft throat. Then she squeezed.
Aggie kept her eyes closed, too afraid to look. She heard his cries shift to small guttural gurgles, and felt his feet kick and his hands wave frantically against her arms, those tiny fingers clutching onto her sleeve for a brief moment. Aggie felt his body buck and flail futilely against her hands, her breath shaky as she sobbed between clenched teeth. She tightened her grip, wanting it to just end, wanting everything to just stop.
She almost missed the crack that cut through the air. Her eyes flew open and she gazed down at her still, silent baby, his neck now lying at an unnatural angle. Tearfully, Aggie lifted the baby into her arms, clutching to her breast as she swayed to and fro in the wind and the grass. She didn’t know how long she stayed like that before she noticed something strange. Her baby felt… odd. Not as soft as he should have been.
Aggie drew him away to get a better look, and her eyes grew wide. Tom’s skin was darkening, growing stiff and rough. The fat of his arms withered and shrank, seemingly retracting into his body. He appeared to shrivel before her eyes, and all the familiar contours she had memorized melted away. The arms became impossibly thin and dropped onto the grass. But they were not arms anymore. They were twigs woven with straw. Aggie looked back at the body to find that it was a lump of wood she held in her arms, woven in a layer of straw, with two pebbles where the eyes used to be.
Only then did Aggie realize the full meaning behind the woman’s words.
“A baby, of any kind, just as you requested. Nothing more.”
A senior Biology major with an Education concentration, Hannah is thrilled to share some of her favorite photos as her undergraduate work comes to an end. Photography is one of her favorite hobbies and her love for it has stemmed from watching her Dad capture brilliant sunsets and happy moments she will cherish forever. Taking pictures reminds her of how incredibly beautiful the world is.
By: Jenna Moore ’12, Copy Editor
I don’t remember what day it was, but I remember where I was and what I was wearing the day that my uncle died. I can still picture the way my father appeared at the door of the gym as I was playing in the Hoops for Heart basketball tournament, and when I saw him, I just knew. All I could think of was how my uncle would have shaken his head at the jumpshot that I failed to block. I don’t remember the year, but I remember that a week before that moment we had laid my grandmother to rest. I don’t remember visiting her in the hospital, but I remember when the news came that “MomMom’s gone,” I was heading to a basketball game and sharing my favorite candy bar with a friend who hadn’t really wanted it, but took it to be nice.
January and February are still stained. I remember the way that my mother cried, the way I saw my father embrace her and just hold on. I don’t remember where I was when she came home, but I remember the way she just let the tears sit on her cheeks, the way I felt them on the top of my head and the way my own fell towards her feet. I remember seeing my grandmother for the last time, the way she was missing her glasses and I told my mother that it didn’t even look like her, so maybe it wasn’t, and my mother just held onto me and told me that she didn’t want her glasses in heaven. I don’t remember seeing my uncle a last time. I remember not being sure that they weren’t just hiding somewhere, waiting for me to seek them, until I stood at their memorials with my mother. Sometimes I don’t remember how to get to the funeral home, but I remember the gold lettering emblazoned on gray marble with their names and those significant years of birth and death.
I remember being told that maybe I should go visit them, talk to them, and I remember not being able to tell my mother that I didn’t know the way, because to me they were still at my grandparent’s house waiting for everyone else to arrive for dinner. I don’t remember when I visited last. I can’t go to their graves without wanting to be sick, without crying. I don’t like imagining that they are in a box, inside of another box, inside this massive wall where I can’t see them and can barely remember their faces. I prefer to remember my uncle standing on the sidelines of a soccer game as he coached, yelling at the referee for a poor call, or my grandmother sitting in her chair by the sun reading a Nora Roberts book as we come through the door. At the graves, I always feel like I’m being watched, as if they know that I’m finally there and that I haven’t been when all they want is a little company. But I always put a kiss to my fingers and my fingers to their names when I leave.
Sometimes, when I get hungry for a snack, I remember the way that my grandmother pulled fresh rolls and butter out of her purse on the sidelines of my brother’s soccer game. I don’t remember the snacks that she brought to other games, but I still remember being in awe of how she managed to keep the rolls warm, as if she were secretly a fairy. I don’t remember the last time we had cream of chicken, but I remember the way her house smelled on those rare occasions that she made it. I remember she always made cream cheese swirled brownies for dessert, and would save two corner pieces for my mother and me so we wouldn’t fight over them.
I remember that my uncle came to my elementary school one day and that it was spring. I don’t remember what special day it was, but it had to have been special because the rest of my family was also there, and with pizza. I remember that during recess he protected me against a bully I had been having trouble with. Sometimes, I wish he were still around to take care of my bullies. I don’t remember if my brother was there that day, but I know that he took over for my uncle as protector. I know that he’s been a protector ever since. I don’t remember much about my uncle, except that I know there are certain things in the house that used to be his. There was a Mickey Mouse towel that my mother would take to the beach for a couple summers after he passed. I remember not being able to use it, because it was my mother’s comfort, but I don’t remember if he was ever at the beach with us when he was alive. Old, quiet air hangs around my grandparents’ bedroom at the beach house. There’s a sacred silence within those walls, heavy with memory. I can feel it the first moment I walk through the door, smell it in the mustiness of a house closed up all winter, and hear it early in the morning when my father is the only one up.
The back bedroom is the worst, the one that my grandparents shared. The furniture is the same as I remember from when I was little, with rubber bands and pens still in the top drawer of my grandmother’s bureau. Old coats of hers still hang in the closet, so when I go to fetch the vacuum I can smell her in the sleeves. I remember the one time I forgot Ellie, the teddy bear she gave me, in my room when we left the house for the last time that summer. I don’t remember the fit of anxiety I must have had, but I remember that she brought Ellie back home to me.
I don’t remember getting Ellie, but I know that it was on my first birthday. I remember holding her so tightly when my grandmother died that I did not care if I was twelve or twenty-two, because I wasn’t letting go of this bear. Ever. I remember thinking that I’d be so old at twenty-two that surely I wouldn’t want a bear, and now I’m twenty two and thinking twelve is so young to ever want to give her up.
There are things that have stayed with me. There are things that I have lost. I don’t remember the way my grandmother’s neck smelled when I hugged her, or how tall my uncle was, the way his voice sounded. But my hands are my grandmother’s hands, and my brother, when you look at him quickly, is my uncle, come again.