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“What about ‘Kate’? Kate, Katherine, Katie, Katerina…”
She tried the names out, savoring the sound of them, imagining herself calling them—“Katie, come get your snack!” “Katerina, it’s time for your nap!”
“No, not ‘Kate.’” The old man folded his newspaper, keeping one finger tucked firmly inside so he could find where he had left off reading. “It makes me think of Katherine Hepburn, and you know how I feel about her.”
“You don’t like her because she was independent,” the old woman retorted, but with little heat. It was an old familiar argument after all.
“I didn’t like her because she didn’t know her place,” he answered with finality before returning to the obituary column. So rarely did they see any of their old acquaintances that he had come to rely on the newspaper for news of someone’s passing.
“All right, not Kate, then. But how about Elizabeth? That’s a nice old-fashioned name,” but the old man didn’t answer her. She didn’t mind. Most evenings he didn’t answer her, partly because with age had come a loss of hearing, partly because after 50 years, he had probably heard everything she had to say, and given every conceivable response. But still, he could show some interest.
Ever since Ann had called with the news—she could still remember what she was doing at the time, frying up some liver and onions for supper, and the smell of the onions had brought tears to her eyes.
Ann thought she was crying about the news—“Really, Mother,” she had said, with the exasperated tone that so often colored her words, “I’m only having a child. There is no need to cry about anything.”
Anyway, ever since Ann had let them know about her baby, Sarah had been unable to think of anything else. Baby names, baby clothes, the smell of baby powder and the feel of baby skin—Sarah delved deep into her own past and brought back those magical moments, from the time she knew she was expecting to the time when Ann was brought to her, “wrapped in swaddling clothes” like the Biblical story of Jesus’ birth.
She had hoped to see more of Ann, had longed to watch her daughter grow heavy with child, but instead, months passed since the call and all she could do was imagine the fullness of her daughter’s belly, the swelling of her breasts. Sometimes, she would place her hand on her own soft, flabby abdomen and try to recall the flutter of a baby’s movement, how it seemed her insides were turning upside down as the baby kicked and turned and rolled.
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