1/12/54

An Origins Story

valjean

Carl and Meredith Miller had been married over 18 years. The night of the wedding had been their only intimate encounter.

When they first met at an outdoor charity art auction, Carl had noticed that Meredith was slender, blonde, and beautiful. Enough right there; but she was also articulate, educated, and well traveled. He attributed her resistance to his seductive advances as virginal qualities, which made him desire her all the more. She said ‘yes’ when he proposed marriage on their third date.

Why had he never seen Meredith’s illness before the wedding night? Thinking back, Carl wondered how they ever came to be a couple. Both were from wealthy families, she certainly didn’t marry him for his money. In truth, she was wealthier than he.

The newlyweds moved into her childhood home, the Marseilles style mansion in Upper Grand View, overlooking the Hudson River, 6,800 square feet on two levels, grand 18 foot ceilings in the foyer, living room and den; the luxurious master suite with his and hers walk in closets and craft room; three secondary bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms situated to the south side. The gourmet island Kosher kitchen featured a breakfast nook, impervious countertops, distinct cabinetry for separate sets of serving and cookware as well as Sabbath-mode-capable appliances. The full basement with theater, game room, home gym, and wine cellar completed the lavish home. A courtyard entry and tree lined drive led to the six car garage. An artist’s studio with skylights and an additional bedroom were situated over the garage. The grounds included several wooden decks with stairways, trellises, gazebos, and imaginative landscaping with statuary, fountains, flowering vines, and fruit trees.

The estate was where they still lived; the rose gardens had been the scene of their lavish wedding – and the scene later that night of their strange agreement.

True, he had pushed her. But, wasn’t he entitled? She was over 25 years old when they married; she should have known the expectation of a man’s wedding night. Still, even in his frustration, he pitied her.

He could not have been more stunned when, in the rose garden, under the moonlight, after the – rape was the only word for it - she had said, "I tried, Carl. I can’t do it. I can’t make love with a man."

She laid it all out in detail. Her homosexual tendencies could never be revealed and would never be accepted. She would be the dutiful wife and, mother, if Fate would have it. He would have the perfect hostess for all his events and soirees, she would never disappoint. She would see to it that he climbed the corporate ladder and landed the best deals on Wall Street.

In return, he would never touch her again.

Also, she threw in that he could pursue any other relationships he liked outside the marriage, as long as nothing ever came to light to embarrass either of the families.

Carl regretted the lack of marital relationship over these many years, yet he treasured that one night, for from it had come his beautiful daughter, Abigail Eva.

As soon as they knew Meredith was pregnant, they hired a nanny. Her name was Yvonne Evans, though she was called Nana from the first day. She came recommended by her cousin, Carl’s driver and automobile maintenance man, Lucas Day. Both Yvonne and Lucas were from the Islands and proved to be the perfect house staff, loyal and efficient.

Life settled into an odd routine of household schedules, holiday celebrations, corporate employment, charity events, and Carl’s discrete other life. His beautiful Abby, crystal blue eyes, thick blonde hair in wild curls, an honor student who completed high school requirements and started college at the age of seventeen, was his focus and his delight. After she turned sixteen, she began to call herself by her middle name, Eva, and unfortunately, she began to develop an interest in her mother’s strange hobby. Also, regrettably, she became fully aware of her parents’ marital arrangement.

Now, as Abby’s eighteenth birthday neared and plans for her party were being made, Carl reflected upon his married life, and his life as a father, and he felt an uncomfortable mix of sorrow and pride.

Meredith was taking no part in the party preparations. She was having one of her "times" when she shut herself away in her separate bedroom with all the drapes drawn and the incense and candles burning. Carl could hear the chanting through the wall of his adjoining rooms. He had thought more than once about breaking down the door and either ripping her away from her bizarre obsessions or joining her inside them. But he had not taken either action over these many years.

And so, as he had for so many other significant points in his child’s life, he relied on Nana to plan and carry out the eighteenth birthday celebration.

But Eva had other plans. She had actively campaigned for Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential bid, and now that he was President, she was devoted to working on America’s contribution to the new peace in South Korea and the political changes in Russia. Her political activities took her into areas of New York she wouldn’t ordinarily have accessed. Her father would definitely not approve. She knew her birthday party was planned for tonight, but she was determined to protest her parents’ sham of a life by staying away.

She finished at the Republican headquarters and wandered along the city streets. A light snow was beginning to fall. She came upon a quaint little bookstore with a bell that chimed as she entered through the front door.

A white-haired shopkeeper was at the counter but he did not acknowledge her. She made her way to the back of the shop to a shelf marked "Occult." One particular book seemed to stand out to her. It was old with faded gold print on the tattered spine, spelling out "Merlin’s Book of Spells."

Eva drew the book from the shelf, passing her hand over the leather cover where an impressive image of a lion appeared. She opened the book to find a woodcut on the first page of King Arthur’s Round Table with all the Knights seated.

Deciding to purchase the book, she walked quickly to the front counter, only to find no one there. No price was on the book, so she took a twenty dollar bill from her purse, placed it on the counter, and left the store.

As she stepped from the bookstore, she collided with a young man who was hurrying along the sidewalk. Her book and purse were knocked from her hands into the street.

"Hey, watch where you’re going!" he exclaimed.

"Well, excuse me!" she replied, offended, as it was he who had run into her.

Realizing he was at fault, he remorsefully scrambled to collect her belongings. As he handed her the items, an instant connection was felt by both of them and they looked away and then back at each other. Their faces were flushed and their breath frosted on the chilled February air.

"Hey, I’m sorry," said the young man. He was over six feet tall, his skin pock marked and swarthy, his thick, black hair long over his collar, a shadowed beard across his jawline. He was dressed in a black leather jacket with silver chains across the chest. His denim jeans were worn, and frayed at the cuffs over his steel-toed black boots. Eva noticed an odd angle to his shoulders. The blurred blue ink of amateur tattoos adorned his knuckles. She noticed black leather wrist bands.

"No," countered Eva, "I wasn’t looking." Simultaneously, they broke into nervous laughter. "I’m Eva Miller," she offered, extending her hand. He noticed her manicured nails and dainty gold and gemstone rings. Her complexion reminded him of peaches cut up in a dish and covered with cream. Where did he ever get a memory like that? Her hair fluffed out around her beautiful face like a golden halo.

"Rex Ramos," he replied, taking her hand and holding it. "Richard – but I go by Rex."

"Well, I’m Abigail, but I go by Eva." They both laughed, relieved and excited, drawn to one another.

"Well, Eva, how about I treat you to a coffee . . . to apologize?" said Rex, smiling a charming smile, dark eyes shining, burning into her.

"All right," she agreed. The two turned to walk toward a coffee shop at the corner. Eva noticed a slight limp to his gait.

That was the first of many chats and encounters over coffee, at the movies, or in Central Park, where they experienced their first kiss. He was 21 years old; he shared her political activism, but he had his own perspective. They argued philosophy and politics. Rex was experienced in the ways of the world, labor unions, international border conflicts. Eva was educated in formal conflict resolution and the workings of democracy in the Third World. She illuminated his darkness; he sobered her enthusiasm.

As the days turned into months, Eva and Rex were falling in love.

Carl knew his Abby was involved in something. She was away from the house too often. He learned from the University in late July she had not registered for the coming semester and had not completed her summer courses. Meredith was more immersed in her dark hobby, rarely appearing out of her bedroom. Nana tended to Mrs. Miller’s needs, serving her meager meal trays, delivering her laundry, protecting her.

Carl made it his business to find out how Abby was spending her time. After learning the truth of her clandestine relationship, Carl confronted her.

"Honey," he said cautiously after a Sunday dinner when Nana was clearing the dishes and Meredith was sequestered in her quarters. "We have to talk. I know you’ve been seeing a boy . . ."

"Then you also know I have no intention of not seeing him!" she retorted, immediately defensive.

"Baby," Carl entreated, stepping close to her and embracing her. "I only care about your safety, your well-being . . . There are good young men at your college . . . you should be dating them . . ."

"Those boys are much older than me! They don’t care about the things I care about! They’re drunks and misogynists! Daddy, if you care about me, let me make my own decisions!" she cried, pulling away from him. She could not help noticing the pain in his eyes, but she steeled herself, full of youthful righteous indignation.

"I know what I’m doing!" she exclaimed, asserting herself. "Don’t tell me what to do!"

Eva strode to the door, grabbing her wrap from the hall closet. "You can’t run your own life – don’t tell me how to run mine!" she finished, slamming the door behind her.

Carl sank into a Queen Ann chair, clutching his head in his hands. Little did he know, a suicide was taking place one thousand feet away from him.

Eva ran to the garage where she asked Lucas to drive her into the city.

"Yes ma’am, Miss Abby," said the dutiful Lucas, as he donned his chauffeur’s cap and opened the door to the limousine.

Lucas drove as Eva directed him, frowning ruefully as she exited the car to make a phone call at a public phone booth in an unsavory part of town. Lucas obeyed Eva’s directives and drove her to Central Park where he let her out near the carousel. Though she admonished him to go straight home, he pulled a little way off and parked to watch where she would go.

Lucas was amazed to see a motorcycle draw slowly alongside the curb where he had let Miss Abby out of the car. A young man in a dark helmet was on the bike and he and Miss Abby kissed before she climbed onto the seat behind him, donning the white helmet he gave her. They sped off together and Lucas thought it best to head for home.

When he arrived at the Miller mansion, he encountered a frantic scene. Police cars dotted the estate entrance, lights flashing. When Lucas showed his identification, he was admitted onto the grounds. Yvonne met him in the garage, tears streaming down her face, her mood hysterical. "She’s dead! She’s dead!" Yvonne cried, clutching at her throat and stumbling against the garage wall. "Poison of some kind! I don’t know what! I don’t know!"

Yvonne wept uncontrollably, pressing her apron to her face. "I been her maid all these long years! I was in the room when Miss Abby was born! I knew Miss Meredith had the sadness in her . . .I can’t believe she’s gone . . . Oh, Father Almighty, have mercy on our souls!"

Lucas wrapped his arms around Yvonne, feeling her anguish, not knowing what else to do.

Meanwhile, across the city, Eva and Rex were sharing a bottle of wine in Rex’s tiny apartment. Neon lights flashed on and off through the window from the liquor store across the street. The room included a kitchen counter and was sparsely furnished with a metal frame bed, a table, two kitchen chairs, a floor lamp, a mid-sized refrigerator, and a radio. One small closet held four changes of clothes, a bathroom featured a toilet, sink, and shower stall with clean white towels on pegs behind the door. Cabinets over the kitchen sink held melamine dishes, coffee mugs, and cereal bowls, service for two. The drawer under the sink held flatware, a spatula, and a can opener. A box of spaghetti, a jar of tomato sauce, cans of soup and coffee, and a few spice jars sat upon the shelf over the stove, where a frying pan and a sauce pan rested on the burners.

Eva and Rex sat at the table, he pouring the wine into the two wine glasses Eva had just bought from the deli around the corner. She scratched at the price sticker as she contemplated her glass.

"Let’s make a toast," she said happily, raising her glass and smiling at Rex. He accommodated her, touching his glass to hers. "What are we toasting to?" he asked.

"Our . . . relationship!" she replied lightly. Then, with more gravity, "To our . . . love . . ." She paused with her glass in mid air, an expectant expression on her face.

"Eva," Rex said hesitantly. "You and I . . . we’re. . . different . . ."

"Of course we are!" she countered passionately, setting her glass down on the table. She reached for his hands. "That’s one reason we love each other!"

"How do you know I love you?" Rex asked carefully, setting his glass down and pushing his chair back from the table.

"I feel it in you . . . in us," she replied, undaunted.

"You don’t know me," Rex said darkly. "I have . . . problems . . ." He rose from his chair and began to pace in the small room.

"Rex, don’t do this!" Eva pleaded, rising to step beside him. She touched his arm. "We have the same spirit. I know you feel it too."

Rex gathered her into his arms, pressing his mouth to hers in a heated kiss. She responded with equal passion. When they separated, he regarded her with reservation, his dark eyes full of sorrow.

"Rex, what is it?" Eva implored, her voice and her expression full of concern.

He avoided eye contact with her. She felt the pain in him. She believed she had enough love to overcome it.

"You think the next step is for us to make love," Rex said without emotion.

Eva was caught off guard. "Well . . . yes, isn’t that what you would want . . .?" she asked, confused.

"I don’t think it’s what you would want," he said. "You don’t really know me . . ."

Eva was the quintessential sexual virgin, believing true love was moonlight and roses, and that lovers simply melted into each other with no consequences.

Rex had a different history. Survivor of a rotten childhood, he was reluctant to engage in romantic relationships during his adolescence and over the past three years he had indulged in overcompensation where sexual activity was concerned. Most of his encounters occurred during periods of drunkenness of both parties. Thankfully, the participants tended to regain consciousness physically apart from each other, so no explanations were ever necessary.

Determined to prove her love, Eva reached out to switch off the lamp, leaving the room illuminated only in the intermittent neon blush of the signage across the street.

She thrust her hands under Rex’s tee shirt against his hard belly. She thought she felt an uneven texture of his skin, but so intent was she on proving her point, that she ignored it and continued to caress his body.

He moaned and responded to her advances, pushing his fingers into her hair, placing lingering kisses on her neck, her throat. She helped him with her blouse and her camisole, exposing her breasts in the artificial light, guiding his hands.

As she attempted to remove his tee shirt, he resisted, pushing her hands away roughly.

"Stop it, Eva! You don’t know what you’re doing!" he stated emphatically.

"Rex, help me understand! I want you . . . I love you . . ."

"All right! See what is it you want . . .!" he replied hoarsely. He pulled off his tee shirt, revealing a torso covered with scars. Some crisscrossed his chest and back like long whip marks, others were small round burn scars, still others resembled incisions, scratches and even human bites.

Eva drew back in horror and in fear. "Who did this to you? How did this happen to you?" she gasped.

"My father," Rex replied flatly, reaching to replace his shirt. "He was kind of weird."

"Darling . . ." Eva whispered, pressing her lips against his wounded flesh. "My baby . . ." Tears spilled from her eyes as she traced his scars with her fingertips and with her lips. "My love . . ." she said softly, pulling his belt from the buckle and tugging at the zipper on his jeans.

He submitted to her, waiting for realization to sink in and her rejection to surface, savoring every minute until it did. They fell in slow motion onto the small bed, the springs creaking under their weight. Struggling slightly with their remaining clothes, they slipped under the thin sheet and pressed together, their bodies searching and connecting.

He took his time with her, caressing and kissing and holding back until she actually asked for him. Then he pressed into her, holding her past the trembling, and responding fully only after she crossed the point of no return.

They awakened hours later, stretching and yawning, feeling content.

Rex got up to put the coffee on while Eva dressed to go downstairs to the phone booth. The morning seemed full of promise.

Suddenly, Eva burst back into the room, anxious and sobbing. "Rex, my mother’s dead! She killed herself! Oh, God! Oh, God! No, no, no, no . . . !" He caught her up in his arms, falling down onto the bed with the force of her emotion, rocking her, clutching her, murmuring, "Baby, baby, baby . . ."

He didn’t think she could ride the motorcycle in her state of anguish. He called a cab and literally folded her into the back seat, paying the driver and giving directions. He couldn’t fail to notice the cabbie’s expression when he gave the address.

The next three days were a tormented blur. Eva could only stand numbly, without speaking, as relatives and forgotten family members embraced her and kissed her and muttered condolences. The burial was a cold experience from which Eva felt completely removed. Rex kept away from her, following the funeral event in the newspapers, waiting for a lull in the commotion.

Alone in her bedroom at last, Eva submitted to Nana’s comfort measures. Nana brushed her hair, rubbed her back, tucked her in to the huge quilted bed, and served her lemon tea.

"Nana, do something for me, please," said Eva in a small voice.

"What is it, baby?" answered Nana, taking the tea cup from her.

Dear sweet Nana! Eva leaned her head onto Nana’s shoulder and heaved tearless sobs until she retched and gasped for breath. The mother she had never really known was now gone forever. She felt at fault somehow, even though, intellectually, she knew it could not be her doing. Her grief was overwhelming.

"I – I want you to get my mother’s . . . personal things . . . from the wardrobe. I don’t want Daddy to throw them away."

Nana frowned and got up from the bed. "Honey," she said in a serious tone, "those things be better left alone!"

"Oh, please, Nana! Just move them . . . you can put them in the garage apartment, under the bed. I just don’t want them destroyed. You know Daddy will - "

It was her little baby Abby who looked up at her, pleading, motherless little girl. "All right, Miss Abby," said Nana, tucking the covers in around her. "You just rest yourself. Nana will take care of it."

Over the next ten days, the Miller household regained some semblance of normalcy. Rex began trying to see Eva. Nana knew it, Lucas knew it, and Carl knew it. Threatened with loss of their employment, Lucas and Nana cooperated with Carl to keep Rex away from Miss Abby over the next several months.

Early in December, Nana knocked at Miss Abby’s bedroom door. "Go away!" Eva answered.

"Miss Abby!" Nana called. "C’mon up to the attic with me to get the holiday decorations! Lucas has gone to get the candles and the greens. Mr. Miller told him to get the best of everything . . ."

The door flung open to reveal Eva standing in her robe, her hair tousled, her expression one of distress and anger, her face stained with tears. "Miss Abby," cooed Nana, ignoring the sight, "let me draw you a nice bath. I’ll plait your hair . . . you always liked - "

"How can you even speak to me, Nana?" Eva shot back. "After you’ve been conspiring with my father to keep me away from the man I love!" Eva threw herself across the huge bed, balling the satin quilt up in her fists, beginning to sob.

"Oh, honey . . ." said Nana contritely, rushing to the bedside to embrace the raging child. Abruptly, Eva rolled over to face Nana, the bathrobe falling open to reveal a swollen abdomen.

"Miss Abby!" exclaimed Nana, as Eva scrambled to cover herself.

"Don’t you tell anyone!" shrieked Eva. "I’ll kill you! I’ll kill myself!"

The words struck with acute pain, raising violent memories that dragged at the hearts of both women. "Oh, Nana, I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!" Eva clutched onto her nursemaid. "Please forgive me! You know I love you! I need you, Nana . . . I need you to help me . . ." Eva dissolved in tears, gasping for breath.

"Shhhhhhhh, now, don’t you cry, honey child," said Nana soothingly, as she hugged Eva and rocked her slowly back and forth. "Your Nana’s here. Don’t you worry about a thing . . ."

Over the winter holiday season, Rex had developed a routine of stopping his motorcycle about a quarter mile from the Miller estate and walking the rest of the way, so as not to alert anyone to his approach. He would stand under the trees and gaze up at Eva’s window, watching until the lights went out. Even then, he would stand a while longer, even if the weather turned rainy or cold, and finally walk back to the bike and roar off, full of remorse. The year 1953 had come to an end, and 1954 seemed to hold nothing but loss.

Rex was greatly surprised one evening two weeks later, when a knock at his apartment door turned out to be the Millers’ chauffeur, Lucas.

"Is Eva OK?" Rex asked anxiously.

"OK as she can be," Lucas replied in a low tone, avoiding eye contact. "She wants to see you."

Rex felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted. "Where? When?" he replied eagerly, suddenly full of hope.

"I’ll be driving you . . ." Lucas turned and started back down the stairs. Rex followed quickly, grabbing his leather jacket as he slammed the apartment door.

Rex sat quietly in the back seat, observing the landscape and realized Lucas was taking an alternate route to the Miller estate, driving slowly up a back road to the enormous garage. Lucas pulled the limousine up behind the garage and stopped, away from the lights. "Up there," he said, gesturing to a window on the second story.

Cautiously, Rex climbed the stairs to a darkened balcony porch. He was startled to see the door to the second floor apartment open slightly, a slice of yellow light slipping across the floorboards.

He stepped inside as someone closed the door behind him. At once, he was thrilled and confounded to see his beloved Eva standing before him, her body shaped by advanced pregnancy beneath a cream-colored gown.

"Eva!" he cried, falling to his knees in front of her. "I tried to see you! I didn’t know. . .I didn’t know!"

She clutched his dark head to her belly, tears spilling over her cheeks. "I know, I know! It was my father! They all worked to keep us apart! I wanted to tell you!"

He recovered, standing up quickly, almost lifting her off her feet. "We have to get out of here! We can go away . . .!"

"No, wait! We can’t do it like that!" she countered. "Come here . . ."

She led him into the other room where three candles burned on a low table draped with a dark cloth. "What is this?" Rex asked uneasily.

"It’s something I believe in," Eva answered, pulling her thick golden hair up into a black velvet tie.

She knelt down on the floor in front of the candles, indicating for him to do the same. He complied, remaining doubtful.

She made the sign of the pentagram by dripping candle wax on the table cloth. In the middle of the symbol lay a worn, leather-bound book.

Rex watched her, transfixed. He had never seen her so controlled, so full of power and determination. Her beauty glowed from her in the candle light.

She began to chant. "O Merlin, Magician who gained second sight after madness, Mystic, Magical Wizard of Wizards, you call only those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear."

She reached for Rex’s hand, intertwining her fingers with his. He felt the heat in her.

"Magic is our natural state," she droned on. "Magician and Wizard, you shape and direct energy into any reality. We know you as Creator!"

Rex was afraid and aroused. Eva’s face shone with perspiration, her eyes closed, her expression was one of ecstasy.

"Bring into balance the whole of who we are," she intoned. "Go back to where life begins. Let magic become the rule, O Wizard, Seer, and Sorcerer."

Candle smoke snaked up into the chilled air. Rex felt a slow peace penetrating his apprehension. Eva became more animated, rising up on her knees and reaching upward.

The candle flames flared up, illuminating Eva’s beautiful profile, her womanly body. Rex could not breathe for fear of disturbing her activity.

"O Merlin, O Priestess of Delphi,” she cried, “Prophesy our future! As you brought about the birth of Arthur through magic and intrigue bring us now our request!” “Richard, speak your desire for our child!” she cried, startling Rex with the use of his formal name, yet drawing him into her ceremony.

"I - I want our child to have strength, and . . . bravery," he started. "Be fearless and defeat all enemies!" he felt a force rising in him. "A heart full of fire!" Rex exclaimed, wishing those attributes for himself.

"Give our child intellect and kindness, respect for family, a beautiful spirit!" cried Eva. With a gesture, she toppled one of the candles, spilling heated wax across the image of the lion on the cover of the book of spells.

She swayed over the table as the candles flamed up into the darkness. Her voice took on a low monotone. “We must find a child born without a father . . .The baby should be raised in a secret place and that none should know his true identity . . . he will have a power called “Excalibur” and with this weapon he will vanquish many foes. Queen Guinevere, bring us romance. Morgan le Fay, add your dark beauty.”

Suddenly, Eva collapsed onto the floor and an unseen draft extinguished the candles. Rex leapt for her, feeling a warm liquid spreading away from her body. He lifted her to a low sofa bed against the wall. Smoothing her hair, he kissed her gently. “I’m going for help, Eva. Everything’s gonna be OK, we’ll be together, I swear!”

Rex rushed down the stairs and found Lucas and Nana standing in the shadows. Rex grabbed for Nana’s hands. “She needs help!” he cried, pulling her back toward the steps.

Nana and Lucas stood on either side of Rex, their hands firmly on his shoulders. “Let us take care of her,” Nana said. “You need to get out of here!”

“No! I won’t leave her!” Rex protested.

“You can’t help her with this,” replied Lucas tersely, “you need to come with me.”

Nana started up the stairs. Lucas held the limousine door open and Rex climbed inside, numb and subdued. As the car moved away from the mansion, Rex became more and more anxious. Lucas turned onto a highway entrance ramp toward the bridge and Rex watched the city lights coming garishly into view. As they neared Rex’s neighborhood, he could stand it no longer and jerked open the car door and jumped out into the street. He ran through the alleys to his apartment building where his motorcycle was parked. Pulling on his helmet and swinging his leg over the saddle, he twisted the handgrips as he slammed his boot against the kick starter. The big bike roared into action as Rex turned back in the direction of the Miller mansion.

Meanwhile, the baby was coming. Nana tied a sheet to the foot of the bed frame, knotted one end and placed it in Eva’s hands. “Here, honey, pull on this when the pains come.”

“It’s too early,” cried Eva, gasping for breath.

“Soon enough . . .” Nana replied, turning to her work.

A hard sleet was beginning to fall. Rex struggled to keep the motorcycle on the icy roads. He felt a force drawing him. His soul burned within him.

Headlights flashed around a corner as Rex approached the Miller estate. In one crashing instant, the chrome grille of a silver Cadillac collided with the front wheel of the motorcycle, mangling metal and flesh, pitching Rex’s body across the pavement against the frozen trees, dead on impact.

Carl Miller pulled over, yanking the emergency brake to stop on the slippery road. He sat behind the steering wheel, sweat pouring over his face, his breaths ragged and painful. He could not get out of the car.

In the dark silence of the garage apartment, Nana was guiding Eva’s baby into the world. A silver bulge appeared from the birth canal as Eva grunted and panted on the bed.

“Caulbearer!” whispered Nana, slipping her fingers inside Eva’s body to facilitate expulsion of the tiny body. With one forceful contraction, the baby flushed out into Nana’s strong hands. She quickly pulled the amnionic sac from the baby’s head. “Now draw your breath, little one,” she murmured. The newborn’s mewl was music to Eva’s ears. She reached for her son.

“My baby!” Eva crooned, cradling the tiny infant to her breast. He was the most beautiful thing Eva had ever seen. He was a ball of wet, brown fur that fluffed up to a charming golden creature under Nana’s firm toweling. His tiny face scowled adorably, his miniature hands clawed harmlessly at the air.

Back on the roadside, an eternity had passed. Carl released the brake, turned the Cadillac around and headed back to the mansion. He was drained of all emotion. He pulled up to the front entrance without going to the garage and shut off the motor. Lucas can get the car in the morning, he thought.

Wearily, Carl stepped into the house, suddenly feeling weak and grasping the staircase banister to steady himself. He tugged at his scarf and overcoat. His head snapped up as his breath caught in his throat at the sound of Abby’s voice.

“Where is he?” she asked accusingly, looking down at him from the top of the stairs, barefoot, in her nightgown. She looked strangely pale and drained as if she had been through a great ordeal

“Abby . . .” he began, taking a step toward her. Just then, Nana appeared beside Abby, draping a robe around her shoulders. “Come on back to bed, child,” she said softly, glancing at Carl.

Eva shook off Nana’s touch and took two more steps down toward her father.

“What did you do to him?” she demanded.

“Abby . . . sweetheart . . .” Carl advanced toward his daughter, his arms outstretched.

“No! NO!” screamed Abby, striking her father’s hands away from her. First, she was screaming, then she was falling, and in between she and her father were face to face. In that instant, everything was hopelessly reconciled between them. She saw the grief and failure in his eyes, he saw the courage and strength in her. Abigail Eva was not her mother, and Carl realized they all could have had different lives. Love arrived too late; blinding, all encompassing, crushing enlightenment come at the eleventh hour.

As Carl clung to the railing, he and Nana watched in horror as Abby tumbled down the stairs. She landed with a sickening sound at the bottom step, her head turned into an unnatural position.

Nana shrieked as Lucas came running from the kitchen. Carl climbed up the stairs as he heard Nana screaming for Lucas to call an ambulance and to call the police. He fell into his bedroom, the place of all his lonely nights, and scrambled on his knees to the bedside cabinet. Reaching for the key chain on his belt, he pulled out the bottom drawer and unlocked a metal box inside.

He drew out a semi-automatic Glock handgun. Carl smiled bitterly as he thought about the "safe action" designation of the weapon. He positioned the gun barrel under his right jawbone angled up towards his right ear. The metal was cold as it pressed into his flesh, though it seemed to burn through his skin. With extreme courage and with extreme despair, he squeezed the trigger and stopped his miserable life.

As emergency sirens wailed in the distance approaching the mansion, Nana pressed a wrapped bundle into Lucas’ arms. "Lucas!" she whispered intensely, almost choking on her tears. "You got to take this baby to the hospital. He’s not . . . normal. You got to go quick, before too many people get here."

Lucas hurried to the garage and took the sedan, placing the bundled babe on the floor of the passenger side. He sped across the bridge to St. Vincent’s hospital and pulled into the service parking lot, screeching to a halt behind the dumpster.

He paused momentarily after shutting off the engine to sit and clutch his head in his hands. How did things get this complicated? He and Yvonne would head back to the Islands first thing tomorrow.

Almost as an afterthought, Lucas turned his attention to the newborn. He went to the passenger side of the car, opened the door, and lifted the baby from the floorboard. Pushing the car door closed with his elbow, he drew back the blanket from the infant’s face.

"Great God A’mighty!" he exclaimed, dropping the bundle onto the pavement where it splashed into an icy, muddy puddle. Filled with remorse, he grabbed for the infant whose wrappings were now soaked.

Clutching the wet bundle, he cast about for something to use to dry the baby. He spied a box of rags, apparently left as a donation. He rummaged in the box and pulled out several pieces of cloth which he used to re-wrap the tiny baby.

He paused to regard the little creature. The miniature face was strong and different, the mouth especially unusual. The head was covered in soft golden hair standing up like duck fuzz over the little head. The tiny hands were paws, really, waving aimlessly in the air with needle-like claws.

"Lord save us . . ." Lucas prayed as he placed the bundled newborn against the wall of the hospital between the dumpster and the boxes of donated items. He jumped back into the car and sped away, trying unsuccessfully to erase these startling memories.

The date was January 12.