The Baby

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Life and death hung on the thread of her precariously wobbly tooth.

Officer Gunther checked off the sixth baby on his chart. "Where's yours?" he said, aiming his pen at Deena.

"It's dead," she whispered.

"There's no record of its death," he said, stabbing the pen into his chart.

"It happened only last night. I was on my way-"

"Liar!" he said, spraying her face with spittle. "Where is it?"

"It's dead!" Deena sobbed. "I buried it."

He shot her a menacing glare. "You buried it? It is not yours to bury."

"But I-"

"Where did you bury it?"

"I . . . I don't know."

"You don't know?" he said, his voice the slow slide of a blade.

"In my grief I forgot."

"Midwife!" the officer bellowed into the dank hallway.

A large woman came clattering down the rickety stairs.

"I have come to collect this woman's baby."

"Very well, sir. Don't let me stop you," Freya said, hustling back towards the stairway.

Gunther grabbed her by the arm. "Where is it?" he growled.

"How should I know?"

"You delivered the child, did you not?"

"I did, indeed!"

"Then where IS IT?"

"Why don't you ask the mother?"

"I did ask the mother and she said it's dead and buried!"

"Well then," she said, "you can assume it is dead and buried."

"I can assume nothing of the sort," he hissed, clenching Freya's arm in a death grip.

"Well I certainly have no idea," said Freya, shaking her arm free of his claws. "I birthed six other women last night and-"

There was a bloodcurdling scream from upstairs.

"As you can see," she said, bustling back up the stairs, "I'm rather busy. If you wish me to keep track of every tiny detail, you will do well to send me an assistant."

"So you can plot and scheme against us!" Gunther shouted after her. "Not on your life."

The officer loomed over Deena. "You have three hours to produce that baby," he said, jabbing his pen into Deena's ribs. "Or . . ." He slashed the pen across his neck. "Three hours!" he roared, storming out of the building and slamming the door behind him.

Moments later, Freya tiptoed down the stairs cradling a tightly wrapped bundle. She placed the tiny thing into Deena's trembling arms.

The young girl flung her arms around Freya, weeping into her chest. "How can I ever repay you?"

"Hers and your life are all the payment I could ever ask for," she said, kissing Deena's wet cheeks. "Now go. There's not a moment to lose."

Deena felt the loose tooth with the tip of her tongue-the tooth that her mother had embedded with her own diamond; before her profession was stripped away, before their possessions were confiscated, before she was killed.

"Payment," said a gruff voice.

Deena braced herself and gave her tooth a firm yank, stepping onto the swaying boat that would take her across the border.

***

Sadly I'm not eligible for the competition :( but I didn't want to miss out on the opportunity of taking part. Thanks so much for reading! I wish you all the best for the contest! :D

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