Everyone is so excited to come see Jacqueline. Little Jackie! She’s finally here! Just one week old. My husband Jack and I have waited impatiently for our little bundle of joy to arrive, and now we get to share her with the world. She’s beautiful, and perfect — 10 perfect little fingers, 10 perfect little toes, big beautiful brown eyes… She was even born with some hair on her head! Brown curls, just like mommy. We’ll be taking Jackie to my husband’s brother Jamie’s house, and his relatives will all be there, and my parents and sister are flying in from Florida. They should be here within a few hours. We haven’t sent out any pictures; this will be the first time anyone (besides my husband and I, of course) has seen Jackie.
“Oh, my goodness! Look at that little face! Oh, Crystal, she’s just so perfect! Hi, sweet baby! Hi, beautiful princess!” my sister Ava gushed over her new niece.
She held Jackie on her forearms so that they were face-to-face, and everyone crowded around to admire my daughter. She slept throughout most of the day, peaceful in her slumber, while she was gently passed from my sister’s arms to my parents’ arms to Jamie’s arms, and then to his wife’s arms, and so on…. Everyone held her, everyone spoke to her in baby-talk, even though she was not awake to hear and to stare into all of the new faces.
Jamie’s wife, Erica, said to me, “You look great, Crys, you really do. Like I wouldn’t even be able to tell you just gave birth! After Robbie was born I still looked five months pregnant!”
I felt myself blushing a little bit. I thanked her and changed the subject. We began discussing formula and which brands were best. I didn’t need any of her opinions or suggestions, though; I had already done my fair share of research on nearly every single baby product that was on the market. I had spent more than nine months — and many sleepless nights — looking things up and reviewing items, and I knew that I knew more about babies and baby stuff than any person here.
Jackie was in her car seat, still sleeping. Everyone was very happy, talking and laughing and staring at the new, wonderful addition to the family. I pulled Jack aside and told him I had to stop at our house. He knew why. He told everyone it was a personal issue. I had brought along a few bottles of formula in case Jackie got hungry, so I wouldn’t be missed; anyone could feed her. Breastfeeding was not an option for me.
My husband and I lived only a couple miles away from his brother’s place. We had a ranch house, and it had a basement. I parked in the driveway, went into the house, and made a sandwich in the kitchen (oven-roasted turkey with Swiss cheese, if it matters). I brought the sandwich into the basement.
I walked toward the woman tied to the hospital-style bed my husband and I had purchased and placed in our basement.
“Are you hungry?” I asked her.
She was gagged, but she nodded yes. She looked very tired.
“You know how it goes,” I told her. “It’s been a year now, do I still have to tell you not to scream?”
She shook her head no.
“Good,” I said, and smiled.
I took her gag off and fed her the sandwich. She took small bites and ate slowly. Like I said, she seemed tired. I wasn’t sure if she had been getting any sleep. Her curly brown hair was tangled and greasy, even though I had been washing it a few times a week with dry shampoo (she was not allowed in the house to shower, so I would give her sponge baths).
I should probably mention that Jacqueline is her biological daughter. She was going to name her Ariana, which is a pretty name, but my husband didn’t like it much. Her name was Alexandra, and she lived in a different state when Jack and I chose her. We figured it would be easier for us that way; people would assume she wasn’t too far from her home, and they would be focused on searching that area.
Jack and I had found out after three years of marriage that we could not have our own children, so we planned to adopt. Our method of adoption was so much better than what the state systems would have made us go through. We had the option of really being involved with the birth mother. We didn’t have to worry about what she did, where she went, who she was around, what she ate or didn’t eat — we had total control of all of that, to ensure that our baby would be healthy. Alexandra was very pretty, but that’s not why we picked her. To be honest, we chose at random. She happened to be at the gas station that we were at in Pennsylvania, while we were driving around looking. Jack said she seemed too young, but I thought she was perfect. Long story short, we followed her and observed from a distance. She was home alone that day. It was perfect.
When we found her, she was five months pregnant. Jack and I had been planning already, however, so we knew exactly what to say to our families and when to say it. We saw them as little as possible, to avoid questions and comments about why I looked so thin. No one was allowed “at the hospital” when I was supposedly in labor. With Jack’s medical knowledge, it was easy for us to keep Alexandra and the baby healthy by doing regular prenatal check-ups in our basement. We just had to have faith that there would be no complications and that the birth would go smoothly. No, we weren’t so barbaric as to attempt a Cesarean! We didn’t want to risk harming the baby that would be ours. The abduction, pregnancy, and birth had all gone amazingly well. It was truly a miracle. Jack and I only had one issue left to deal with — Alexandra herself, after the birth.
I offered her the last bite of sandwich, but she turned her head away.
“Can…Do I get to see my baby,” she whispered.
It wasn’t even a question; I think she already knew the answer. I sighed.
“Alexandra…Jackie has a mommy. I’m her mommy. She’ll have a great life with us. I promise you that!” I smiled and patted Alexandra’s thigh.
I noticed that, if she was feeling any sadness at all, she didn’t have any more emotional strength to cry. She had cried a lot in the beginning. Now she hung her head and her eyes were closed. Many months ago she had stopped asking, “Why me?” I think she just accepted things as they were. When I couldn’t have my own kids, when my sister-in-law and all of my friends were having babies but I couldn’t have my own, I often asked “Why not me?” But eventually I stopped asking that question because there is simply no acceptable answer. Why her? Just because, that’s why.
I knew what I had to do that day. I sighed again, because this was the task I was not looking forward to. Jack had said he would do it, but I was here now and I knew this was the right time. I went back into the house and found a suitable knife.
As I entered the basement, Alexandra looked up. She saw what I was holding and she knew what was coming. She still didn’t cry. She hung her head again. I was surprised she wasn’t going to beg or plead or try to reason with me by telling me she would never tell anyone what had happened if I just let her go. I don’t think she wanted to be let go if she couldn’t be freed with her daughter. Even still, I left her tied up in case she decided to try to fight me. Among all of the other things I had researched, I also learned where to stab someone to kill them instantly. I didn’t want her to suffer, I just needed her dead. I stabbed her in her heart, and I let her bleed because I wasn’t the one who had to clean up. If I killed, Jack would clean; if Jack had killed, I would have cleaned. That was our agreement, even though we had never been sure who would have which duty.
I stood with the knife in my hand, not aware of where the blood was dripping (on my new white pumps). I stared at Alexandra and kind of felt bad for her. I could relate to her. She must have been so excited to experience her pregnancy, to feel her baby move and know that her body was creating life. She would anticipate the birth of her first child; she would fantasize about holding the baby and smelling its sweet baby breath. She would have dreamed about her child’s first steps, first words, first loose tooth, first everything…but she would see none of it. I knew exactly how that felt. I knew how it felt to get excited and dream about the future and then have my hopes wither and die before they could fully blossom. Why me? Why her? There was no acceptable answer.
“Look who’s waking up! She must sense that you’re back!” my mother said when I walked into Jamie’s backyard.
I had taken longer than I thought I would have, because of what I had to do and then because I had to shower and change my clothes. I also had to throw away those new white pumps, which I wasn’t happy about. But I would get a new pair, because people liked to treat new mothers to new things.
“Awe, wakey-wakey! Who’s hungry? Are you hungry, my pretty darling?” I said in a high-pitched voice to Jackie.
I scooped her up from her car seat and cradled her in my arms. Everyone paused in their conversations to watch the baby as she opened her eyes and studied her environment. Everyone loves a baby. She was beautiful, just like her mother.