It’s a brand new day, Beth thought. New life, new day, new city. Anonymous again. She reminded herself often since her move to Alexandria. It seemed especially necessary in the mornings. “New life, new day, new city,” she whispered as she drank her coffee, the spring day soaking her in sunshine.
She lucked into a job straight away. It was perfect. Medical billing wasn’t her dream, but she could work at home. She’d never grow rich, but money wasn’t her goal.
She couldn’t hermit away completely, though. For one thing, billing didn’t pay enough to get groceries delivered. Markets open all night saved her. Tonight’s trip would be brief, just a few basic things. Beth slipped on gloves after writing a shopping list.
As she approached the produce section, the scent of oranges snagged her. Beth tugged off a glove and rolled the fruit against her palm. Sweetness and a slight tang filled her senses, bursting into bright colors that shivered up her arm to nestle into her belly. She heard the pebbly skin like a brook over stones washed smooth.
The piercing cry crashed jagged lightning across her eyes. Beth caught herself, common sense fighting instinct. “No,” she shook her head. “Quiet, anonymous.” Tugging the glove on, she forced herself toward the bakery.
Seconds later, she stopped abruptly, biting her lip. The quiver in her heart was unmistakable. Something was very wrong. As the crying soared into shrill screams, Beth gritted her teeth. There really was no choice. Resolutions disappeared. She raced through the aisles, homing in on the child.
The mother was young and nearly as upset as her baby. Beth yanked off her gloves and shoved them in a pocket. She made shushing noises to both as their fear painted her world in reds and jarring yellows, a metallic taste filling her mouth.
“What’s this handsome devil’s name?” Beth kept her tone light. Danger radiated from the child in crashing notes, blinding colors. She took a deep breath, pulling on the thrumming tones of calm.
Eyes shining, his mother stammered, “Jared. I’m Peggy. An ear infection, maybe? He was fussy all day, but now he’s so hot.”
Beth nodded, reaching a bare hand to Peggy’s with a gentle squeeze. The woman’s spiky scent soothed a bit. “May I help, Peggy?” The woman nodded, her colors bubbling over with gratitude. Beth stroked the baby’s head, murmuring hushing words. She felt the green light sizzle up through her body. It ruffled between her palm and Jared’s head. His shrieks settled back into fussy crying as he wriggled in Peggy’s arms.
“Babies get sudden fevers sometimes, Peggy. Scary to parents, of course. It’s still important to get him checked. Maybe some baby Tylenol and a trip to the ER?” She spoke gently, stroking Jared until the black bubble in his belly turned to gray and glowing orange of fever paled. Peggy nodded, her scent and colorsong smoothing. “I’ll give you a ride if you like,” Beth offered.
“Yes, please. I don’t know how to thank you,” Peggy whispered.
“No need. Sometimes it just helps to have a hand.”
The hospital wasn’t far. Beth waited with them, waving when they were called back. Tugging her gloves on, she closed her eyes. Frissons of satisfaction sang in her heart. Little Jared would get to surgery before his appendix burst.
Such an innocent thing, helping a baby. No one the wiser.
But that’s how it began in the last new city.
© 2010 Jessica Rosen
As usual, this was inspired by a #storystarters. For a change, it’s one I wrote several months ago.