Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Once in a Blue Moon (01/06/11)
TITLE: Ma Bébé
By Yvonne Blake
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Little Elisabeth relaxed from the breast and puckered her pink lips. Her eyelids flickered a bit before closing in sleep. I loved her curly eyelashes. I brushed my fingers over her fuzzy head that would someday be plaited into dozens of tiny braids. I put my finger in her palm, and she clutched it with her delicate fingers. Her fingernails looked like pearls.
I gave Elisabeth a kiss on her forehead and wrapped the white flannel around her shoulders. I tiptoed from the room and walked downstairs. The air was thick with humidity. I fanned my neck with a piece of cardboard torn from an empty box. Easing myself onto the front steps, I watched the neighbor children chasing each other through the cluttered street. I was one of them only a couple years ago, not a care in the world. Now I am a woman, caring for a child of my own.
I leaned my head back against the post. A ruckus of birds caught my attention. Some palmchats lifted from the treesâ€”squawking and flocking. They seemed restless, circling and settlingâ€”only to fly off again. At least they could fly away. I felt trapped. Being a mother sure changed my life. I missed fluttering around with my friends.
Natalie, next door, waved. I nodded my head. Elisabeth would probably sleep for two or three hours. If we sat outside, I would be sure to hear her. I skipped up the steps for one more peek. She lay sprawled in the middle of the bed, her little fist in her mouth. I looked out the window to Natalieâ€™s porch. I wouldnâ€™t be very far away.
As I reached the bottom step, my foot slipped, and I grabbed the banister. A roaring, growling sound rumbled down the street. The floor lifted and dropped. An earthquake! I turned to go back up the stairs, but the walls and ceiling crumbled and cracked before my eyes. I ran for my life.
Outside, people screamed, dogs barked, buildings crashed. As I saw the roof of my house collapsed, I cried out, â€śMa bĂ©bĂ©! Ma bĂ©bĂ©!â€ť The ground heaved beneath me. I fell to my belly and lay sobbingâ€”my tears mixing with the white dust. â€śMa bĂ©bĂ©!â€ť
I donâ€™t know how long I lay there. It didnâ€™t matter. My baby was gone.
We crowded into rows of tents. There was little water and less food. The air stank. I felt sick. I curled my body against the world. My father brought fish and begged me to eat. I heard him praying to God for me and for my baby. â€śPĂ©pĂ¨re, my baby is dead.â€ť
â€śMichelene, maybe it is; maybe not. God knows, and I will keep praying until I know.â€ť
Days were spent searching and burying bodies. Nights were filled with sounds of wailing and mourning. A week passed by. I did not care. I did not think God cared either. Why should I pray to a God that let so many people die?
On the eighth day, my tent door flapped open. â€śElisabeth is found! She is alive!â€ť
I did not believe my father.
â€śCome! Come!â€ť He tugged my arm. â€śYou must come!â€ť
I stumbled along after him as he pulled me toward the medic tent. People cheered and clapped as we passed by. I heard, â€śGrĂ˘ce de Dieu! GrĂ˘ce de Dieu!â€ť Many followed along. I still did not believe. How could a newborn baby live a week, trapped beneath a fallen roof? A bundle of sheets was laid in my arms. It was my little Elisabeth. Tears flowed from my cheeks to hers. â€śMa bĂ©bĂ©, ma bĂ©bĂ©,â€ť I whispered.
â€śIt is a gift from God!â€ť My father praised God for answered prayer. â€śEverybody knew the baby was dead, except the Lord.â€ť
"Tu es une jolie bĂ©bĂ©." - "You are a pretty baby."
(Elizabeth Joassaint, a 15-day-old newborn, survived for a week beneath the rubble of her home in the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010, in Haiti.)
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