“Come on, Faye!” the midwife said as she was waiting for the baby’s head to appear. “You can do it.”
Please, Faye, Brad thought, sitting beside her. Don’t have a heart attack now. We all know how weak your heart is.
I’m amazed at how well my heart is holding out, she thought as she was pushing and groaning in pain. I’ve felt it tighten in much less stressful situations than this.
Don’t worry about your heart, Faye Elephant, Tiffany’s ghost thought while watching the parents-to-be with a malicious smirk. I’ll keep it safe for you. I want you to live…for the moment, anyway.
“Hey, the head is coming out,” the midwife said. “It’s almost over. You’re doing great, Faye. Just hang in there.”
Faye gave out a loud grunt and pushed hard. The whole head was out now, along with the shoulders.
The midwife looked askance at the emerging baby.
“Is anything wrong, Janet?” Brad asked her.
“Oh, no, uh…I just h-had an itch,” the midwife said. “It’s gone now. C’mon, Faye, we’re almost there.”
Faye pushed again with another grunt. Her daughter was half-way out now.
The shape of the baby’s head looks strange, Janet thought. Is it hydrocephalus?
She had the swaddling ready, not wanting Faye or Brad to see the head yet. This was to be a happy occasion. She would break the bad news to them later, after Faye had rested properly.
The baby had come all the way out.
“OK,” Janet said. “She’s out!”
“Wow!” Brad shouted for joy. “I’m a Daddy!”
“You sure are, Brad,” Janet said. “And you’re a Mommy, Faye.”
Both parents had tears of joy in their eyes.
“Lemme see her, please!” he said, getting up.
“Well, just a minute, Brad,” Janet said in a wobbly voice. “I still have a few things to do first.” She tried her best to cover the baby’s deformed head from his vision. “Have a seat, relax, and be patient. You’ll see her soon enough. Faye has to deliver the placenta, and I want to wait a bit before clamping and cutting the umbilical cord.”
“Why?” he asked, sitting back down and wondering why Janet wouldn’t let him just see his daughter’s face.
“Because delaying the clamping and cutting of the umbilical cord will increase the flow of nutrient-rich blood,” she said. “It’ll be better for your baby. It’ll also increase her iron stores, reduce the risk of anemia, and promote healthy growth.”
“OK,” he said. “I guess that makes sense. But can’t I just see her face?”
“Don’t worry,” she said. “You’ll see her soon enough. I just need a minute or two to do these things.”
She cleared the baby’s airway, making sure to block Brad’s and Faye’s view with her body. The umbilical cord was cut, the placenta delivered. Janet wrapped the baby in the swaddling clothes and picked her up.
“Well, can I see her now?” Brad asked impatiently.
“Come with me, Brad,” Janet said, taking the baby out of the room. “Let’s have a chat out here.”
“What’s wrong?” he asked, getting up and following her.
“Nothing,” Janet said. “Everything’s fine.”
“What about me?” Faye asked, now as worried as Brad.
“You just get some rest, Faye,” she said. “We’ll show you your daughter after you’ve had a nap.”
After an hour of napping, Faye woke up with Brad and Janet standing next to her, him holding the baby.
“Faye?” he said. “Are you ready to see our daughter?”
“Oh, yes,” she said with a yawn. “Let me see her.”
“Well, before you do, we need to tell you something about her, so you’ll be ready,” he said.
“What is it?” she asked. “What’s the problem?”
“She has…,” Janet began, “…a deformed head.”
“A deformed head?” Faye blurted out. “What the…?”
“It’s OK, it’s OK,” Brad reassured her. “It’s not too bad. We’ll work it out. It may be hydrocephalus. She’s still our daughter, and we’ll give her all our love. You just need to get used to her appearance, that’s all. We’ll consult a doctor, and see what we can do from there, OK?”
“Well…OK,” Faye said with a frown. “Lemme see her.”
“Are you ready?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said. “I’ve braced myself.”
“OK,” he said, handing the baby over almost reluctantly, knowing how his wife got when she was disappointed or shocked by something. “Here she is.”
Faye took the baby in her arms and looked at its face…yes, its face, for Tiffany altered it even more.
Faye saw a baby’s head, but with the ears, trunk, and tusks of a peach-skinned baby elephant.
Faye shrieked, her eyes and mouth agape in horror.
“Faye!” Brad said. “It’s not that bad!”
“Not that bad?!” she said. “Look at it!”
The baby’s trunk reached for Faye’s face and boxed her hard on the nose.
Faye screamed and threw the baby.
“Faye, what the hell?!” he yelled, trying and failing to catch the baby. She hit the hard, wooden floor, head first, breaking it and killing her instantly. “Jesus Christ, Faye! What did you do that for?!”
It lay there motionless in a growing pool of blood.
“Oh, my God!” Janet sobbed. “Why, Faye?”
“The deformity wasn’t that bad!” he bawled. “Why?”
“It looked like an elephant!” Faye screamed.
“An elephant?!” he shouted. “No, it didn’t! What are you talking about? Are you crazy?!”
“Yes, it did!” Faye insisted. “An elephant!”
An elephant, Tiffany’s ghost hissed, audible only to Faye, who looked the other way to find the voice. An elephant, just like her mother.
Faye’s skin whitened when she recognized Tiffany, an apparition neither Brad nor Janet could see. “Tiffany!”
“Faye, what are you looking at?” Brad asked.
“Who is ‘Tiffany’?” Janet asked.
Brad picked up the baby’s body. Faye looked at it again, but now saw a human face with only an enlarged head. She looked back at Tiffany’s ghost. “You bitch! You just couldn’t let it go, could you? A little high school bullying, and you just had to get your revenge, didn’t you?”
“Faye, who do you see over there?” he asked.
“Who are you talking to?” Janet asked.
Tiffany looked at Faye and began laughing.
“Don’t you see her?” Faye asked Brad and Janet, clutching her chest. “Unh!”
“Are you hallucinating?” Janet asked. “No one’s there, Faye!”
Tiffany’s laughing rang louder and louder in Faye’s ears to the point that they hurt.
The pain in her chest was much worse, though–the pressure, the tightness, the squeezing. It spread to her arms, jaw, neck, back, and stomach. She squeezed her eyes shut and groaned.
“What’s wrong now, Faye?” Janet asked.
“Oh, no!” Brad said. “It’s her heart!”
The last thing Faye heard, indeed, the very last thing she experienced in her physical life, was the sound of Tiffany’s crescendo of laughter.