Connections Jan 2015 - Page 28

It all started one sunny April morning, when Neal was standing in the microscopic kitchen of his and Annie’s apartment, waiting for his coffee water to boil. Only a few minutes earlier, he had picked up baby Natasha from her crib and carried her into the kitchen. If it had been up to Neal, he would have been just as happy to let the infant stay where she was and continue to sleep. Annie had an obsessive fear of crib death and insisted that Natasha be watched at all times. She had gone across the street to buy some formula at the supermarket, but she did not leave until she personally witnessed Neal picking up the baby. He was standing near the stove, the baby cradled in his left arm, staring absently at the little bubbles that start to swirl and dance when water is close to its boiling point. Natasha made some small movement that caught his attention. Neal glanced down at her face. Her dark brown, reptilian-looking eyes opened suddenly. In fact, they almost snapped open—this was the only way Neal could describe it later. The baby stared at Neal with an eerie, almost angry expression, one that he had not witnessed before. Then, without any hesitation whatsoever, she spoke. It was as if she had been formulating the short but shocking sentence for some time and had merely been waiting for exactly the right moment to deliver it—a moment in which her young, inexperienced father was still half-asleep. “I looooove youuuuuuu,” the infant said. Neal was so taken aback that he almost lost his balance, as well as his grip on his daughter. Staring at her little face with a combination of fear and disbelief, his first impulse was to get the hell away from her. He halfset and half-dropped the child on the counter, then backed up against the kitchen wall, shivering. “My god,” he muttered in a tremulous whisper, Natasha’s words still whirling in his mind. This wasn’t normal, it couldn’t be. She was only five months old...that was impossible. Neal wondered if he could have