Not My Baby Part 3 by: Henny Daniels

“Got a batch of ten, all female. Boss says they need to be emptied AND cleaned this time, then get the major organs on ice by the end of the week.” Two nefarious gentlemen dressed in medical scrubs stood chatting beside a bulky, white van at a discreet drop off location on the grounds of Shands hospital. It was raining hard enough that passersby were oblivious to their morbid conversation.

“What? That only gives us three days to do ten bodies! What’s the age range?” The huskier of the two— on the receiving end of the delivery— approached the back of the vehicle and unlocked the hatch.

“I think the sheet said the youngest was around one. There’s a couple smalls— the rest vary all the way up to thirteen.” So, the load is no heavier than usual; I can’t remember the last time I had babies on board.” The two begin to unload the concealed lifeless bodies out of the van two at a time and inside a few yards down the hall to where the mortuary was. “Had to be back when I drove for that daycare center.” He chuckled at his own humor.

After each body was inaccurately tagged and stored, the delivery man arranged a clipboard and paperwork, collecting several signatures from his coworker. “Alright, Bo—see you next week.”

Thinking of the daunting load ahead of him, Bo let out a deep sigh and scratched the back of his head. “Yeah, I guess. Don’t bring me so much work next time though, man.” He closed the door and reactivated the emergency exit alarm by keypad on the adjacent wall, then quickly disengaged it again after realizing he had almost forgotten to take his one opportunity for a smoke break, leaving the door slightly ajar by a kick stopper. Usually, Bo would take a brisk walk while he puffed his addictive cancerous smoke, but tonight the rain discouraged his normal routine—he stood only a few feet away from the rigged exit, puffing profusely, attempting to block the rain with his free hand.

Nearby, a woman had been observing the drop off, confused by what she had witnessed. She wasn’t the most educated amongst her new hospital staff but could sense that something shady was happening. After peeking outside, she made her way back to the mortuary where she had seen the two men transporting large black bags that she assumed to be dead bodies—she had seen enough episodes of CSI to know that much. When at the door, she was able to walk right in; once again, Bo had not properly locked up.

Inside, the long silver tables were all empty, and at first glance, the woman couldn’t locate the bodies that were just brought in—which was what caught her attention in the first place. They were being transported in the wrong direction —inside to the hospital storage instead of outbound to other morgues or funeral homes.

Though she had only been working at Shands for two weeks now, Star found herself growing deeply interested in the deceased. Most nights she would sneak from her wing with the older patients and invade the mortuary whenever it was left accessible. Losing the former love of her life and their four-year-old daughter in senseless killings had created in her an almost romantic fascination with dead bodies. Not only did she find time during every shift, but she would also physically handle them and pretend to hold animated conversations as well.

After locating the information log left on Bo’s desk, Star glanced through the paperwork to see if she could figure out where they put the bodies. One of the entries she saw on the list distracted her: Trinity Amora Wright, Age 4, Black (non-hispanic).

She rubbed her eyes repeatedly until she began to see stars—what she read made no sense. My baby been in the ground for months now; why would they have her on this sheet? Could it be another little girl with the same name?

Looking up at the clock across the room, Star knew she didn’t have much time left to snoop around—soon Bo would return from his impromptu cigarette-break. Any other day, she would head back to her floor and resume her duties as an Aid. But not today; she lugged a stool to the side of Bo’s desk with the clipboard still in hand, flipping to Trinity’s page for more answers.

When Bo entered, he jumped out of surprise and began yelling in panic, “Hey! What are you doing in here lady—are you freaking CRAZY?” He ran up to her and snatched the clipboard from her hands with a soft grunt.

As his eyes shifted to her chest in an attempt to locate her nametag, Star reactively covered it with her palm and slowly backed up. “I was just looking for something,” she continued to inch toward the only exit in the room.

“What’s your name? You’re not even supposed to be in here; you don’t have high enough clearance for this room.”

“Well if you hadn’t left it wide open, I wouldn’t be! Y’all don’t never do your jobs right but always crying about your salary; you make way more than I do; you should be happy boy!”

Turning his back on her, Bo took long strides to the phone; he planned to report the security breach to his boss immediately—otherwise he would be seriously reprimanded for his errors.

His retreat granted her time to sprint out of the room, and she didn’t stop until in the parking lot at her rusty car door. Star had a feeling that she had witnessed something highly illegal and didn’t think it wise to return to her shift with Bo on her heels. Instead she would take a few days off and let the commotion die down a little—maybe he would forget about the incident entirely by then.

Upon arrival to her complex, Star’s stomach filled with anxiety and uneasiness as she passed the exact spot where her favorite little angel was slain—each encounter seemed just as difficult as that fatal day. The wound was very much still fresh, and she couldn’t see how the pain would ever completely pass. She sat in the car for a few moments, collecting her composure and drying her tears—it was time for her to move on from this place. In the meantime, she had to pull herself together for her two remaining daughters. Unfortunately thinking of Bella and Selah only invited more sadness and tears—those poor girls were truly suffering. Not only had they lost their little sister, but their mom was gone too—at least the woman she used to be.

Each child cried out in her own different ways, begging for Star’s love and attention to no avail. Whenever Star would enter the house, they saw it as a new chance to revive her spirits. Selah was most determined to do so, because her mother’s smile was the source of her own joy and peace. Star was the only guardian she had known and had successfully provided all the girls’ needs and most wants with a contagious smile on her face as she did—even in the moments that she wanted to cry and fold under the immense pressure of single-parenthood, Star would still smile. There was nothing Selah wouldn’t try to bring that comforting warmth back into their frigid abode.

Bella on the other hand had become discouraged; the more she failed at cheering up her mother, the less she cared to try. After all, Star wouldn’t be the first parent to abandon her; throughout her 8 years of life, Bella had only met her father three times, and prison wasn’t exactly the proper reunion setting. The fact that her mother was shamelessly displaying favoritism of Trinity and ignoring her remaining daughters’ pain was enough to cause her to act out at every chance. Almost daily, Bella was hit with suspensions, detentions and negative reports from school—Star didn’t even notice; she just signed whatever forms they asked her to without reading a single word. The broken family no longer even participated in group discussions; Bella was beginning to forget what her own mother’s voice sounded like.

Most days after returning home from work, Star would wordlessly walk right past them and lock herself into her room for the rest of the night—Bella had taken over as the house cook, making hot dogs, noodles or frozen pizza most nights; tonight would have been no different. But, when Star opened the door and stepped inside, unfamiliar sounds disrupted her balance and initiated the feeling of freefall in her stomach.

There were coos and giggles sounding off that were too high pitched to belong to either of her daughters, and too loud and distinct to be from the television. Star frantically searched the room with her eyes, wondering if she was losing the last bit of her sanity.

A few yards away in the common room, Bella and Selah sat on the floor laughing and having the time of their lives with toys, crayons and nail polish scattered about. Sitting between them was a chunky gleaming baby girl decorated in soft colors, bangles and hairbows; she barely appeared to have lips or eyes due to the exaggerated grin permanently plastered on her face. But Star could recognize those slanted eyes from a mile away—they were the same as her mother’s.

For the first time since Trinity was killed, Star yelled with the bass of an 808 drum. “Bella and Selah what the HELL are you two thinking? Why is Mariah’s baby sitting on my living room floor like she still live here or something?”

The two young girls looked at each other in amazement, and then laughed— it was nice to hear emotion in her voice again.

Bella spoke up first, “I don’t know how she got here, ma! She was sitting in front of the door when we got home from school. No note or anything.”

“WHAT?! Y’all playing with me, right?”

Selah chimed in, “No ma, she really was. I saw with my own two eyes! I think she wants to move back in with us. CAN SHE PLEASE MOMMA?” her smile faded, and she looked down suddenly, “It would be nice to have a little sister again.”

Star slammed the front door and threw her belongings on the couch while pulling out her cell phone. For the first time in months, she dialed Mariah’s number—praying it was still the same. She better answer this damn phone. I KNOW this girl didn’t just drop her little snot-nosed baby on my doorstep without so much as a text! Come onnnnn, pick up!


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