My Kaidee is THE cutest baby ever – I mean it. I just knew he was going to be adorable from the moment I tossed my cookies Thanksgiving night – I was three weeks late and I’d been totally hoping for this and I swear, I almost cried from happiness when my dinner came back up in my sister-in-law’s bathroom. I mean, seriously.
Michael was happy too, but since we’d only been married two months, he was also kind of freaked out. I was sort of freaked too, but having kids is what married people do, right? He was really good about it, at least back then. I think it was all kind of scary and grown-up for us until Kaidee kicked for the first time and I felt it – OMG, I squealed something crazy and Michael comes running in and together we put our hands on my belly and felt his little feet go. I knew he felt it too because I could feel his pulse speed up and he had this wonderful smile and said, “well, what do you know?” It was sooo magical. Seriously, if you’ve never had kids, you have no idea how amazing it is.
I knew right away that his name would be Kaidee – a one-of-a kind, special name, just for him. In case you’re wondering, he’s kind of named after my darling baby brothers, Kory and Danny. “K” and “D”, get it? They were so adorable and I still miss them so very much, so it just seemed right to name my own precious little one after them. Yeah, Michael thought it was kind of weird too, but I’m so used to it now I can’t imagine calling him anything else.
Looking back, I seriously can’t believe how much stuff has changed. It seems like a billion years ago, but at first I was super-scared of just picking him up – he was SO tiny, and after what happened to Kory and Danny, I know what could happen if you’re not super-careful with a baby. And yeah, after I got pregnant I was kind of bummed at not being able to do Wednesday happy hours with Kris and Rachel anymore – oh man, how I loved those margaritas! They told me I could still come and have virgin Margaritas – I know Rodrigo there makes them and even puts salt on the rim of the glass and a lime slice so it looks like the real thing, but it’s not the same.
OK, I saw them a few times after that – I invited them over one afternoon and they came and brought stuffed animals for Kaidee, but when they said they found them at the Junior League thrift shop, I freaked. SERIOUSLY? God knows what those toys were made of or where they’ve been – Megan, who’s in my playgroup, said her baby got this really gross rash from a doll they got as a shower gift. No way would I let my Kaidee near anything that wasn’t new and clean and made from organic materials – you can’t be too careful with a baby.
Of course I told them this – it’s good to educate people – but instead of apologizing, Kris just rolled her eyes, looked at Rachel, and said, “I think it’s time for a drink – a REAL drink.” And that’s the last I saw of them. Too bad, their loss.
Kaidee keeps getting bigger and bigger and harder to carry around – it’s crazy, he seems to almost double in size every morning. I mean, it’s awesome, but sometimes I wish he could stay a tiny little baby forever! And boy, can he be ornery – he’s starting to talk, which is TOTALLY adorable, but some days, his favorite word is NO and it makes me want to cry – all I want is for my Kaidee to be happy, and he gets so sad and I don’t know why. Mom and Megan say this is normal and they don’t call it the terrible twos for nothing. It makes me so angry, the way Megan’s talking about her baby as if she’s some kind of alien separate thing that doesn’t belong to her. That will never happen to me and Kaidee. My Kaidee will always be my baby.
Even Michael’s started getting weird. “We haven’t seen our friends together in over two years,” he goes. “Don’t you remember how fun those barbecues with the Johnsons were? They invited us over this Saturday; they said we can bring Kaidee – seriously, it’ll do both of you some good to get out for a bit.” Uggh, men and boys, same priorities, right? I told him he has to grow up and get used to making sacrifices for our baby, and he goes, “Kaidee’s not a baby anymore, you have to let him grow up. And how much of yourself do you plan to sacrifice? There doesn’t seem to be any you in there anymore.”
But he couldn’t be more wrong – since I became Kaidee’s mommy, I’ve become more me than ever. Being with him is what I was meant to do.
And after Michael started getting weird, Kaidee did too. When we go to the playground with what’s left of our old playgroup –most of the moms sent their babies away to preschool, which is just sad – Kaidee keeps trying to run away and climb on stuff, which he never did before. He squirms something crazy when I try to make him stop, just like Kory and Danny used to do, and it scares me to pieces. And once he even started crying real loud when I wouldn’t let him play with some kid whose mom I don’t know. Yeah, the little one looked okay, but you can never tell. I wasn’t about to let my Kaidee catch some disease from strangers, so I tried to distract him. When that didn’t work, I just told him that it was time to go home and pulled him away. Boy, did he yell! I swear, my Kaidee’s got the voice of an opera singer.
I monitored him carefully after that to make sure he didn’t get sick, and thank goodness, he didn’t. But he still kept trying to go outside when I wasn’t looking – how did he figure out how to open those latches? I knew that playgroup wasn’t good for him anymore; all that negative energy was rubbing off on him, my poor little Kaidee. So I decided we’re not going back – we can have even more fun at home by ourselves. And no germy preschool for my Kaidee! We’re homeschooling right here, where he’ll be safe.
I figured Kaidee would calm down after we’d been home for a bit, but he just kept getting more and more ornery. One day, I was trying to read to him, but he just kept looking out the window and then he ran over and started banging on it and pointing outside at some squirrels and screaming “OUT! GO OUTSIDE!” Yikes. I totally don’t want my child hanging with wild animals – what if they have rabies or something?? Now I have to keep the shades closed all the time to keep him from getting riled up. It’s much cozier that way.
And then Michael almost took Kaidee away – I couldn’t believe it.
I should have known he was up to something. He’d been getting more and more cranky –he’s started sleeping on the couch like those guys in old TV shows and he scrunches up his face whenever I tell him he’s STILL holding Kaidee wrong. And whenever he’s home, he opens up all the shades and starts doing all these dangerous things, like throwing balls at Kaidee and swinging him around like he’s some sort of toy. I must have told him a million times to stop – Daddy used to do that to Kory and Danny, and I just know that’s what got them so riled up they ran away. But Michael keeps insisting Kaidee likes it, and I should let them have their quote guy time unquote together.
Then I saw him with the keys to the minivan – my car.
“Michael, what are you doing?” I almost yelled at him. He knew he couldn’t drive off with the minivan – it had Kaidee’s car seat in it, and what if I needed to take him to the hospital or something?
“Look, honey, you need a break. And Kaidee needs to spend time with other kids – I’m taking him to the park to meet Ben and Maria and their kids.”
“WHAT?” I couldn’t believe this. I know Ben’s this guy at Michael’s office, but I have no idea who Maria was or what their kids were like. “Are you crazy? It’s not safe!”
“What’s not safe? They’re great people. You know what, why don’t you come with us? I’m serious, you can’t just stay in the house all the time, and I think you’ll like Maria. Come on, buddy, we’re going for a ride.”
Then I realized he was talking to Kaidee. And Kaidee, poor little lamb, had almost hopped into his arms before I managed to lunge out and grab him, pulling him tight against me as if his life depended on it. Because it did.
Now Michael was in my face again. “Honey, you have to stop this, you’re scaring me.”
“I’m just trying to keep him safe, what don’t you understand about that?”
“Look at yourself – do you really think you two can just stay holed up inside forever? Sweetie,” he touched my arm, and I pulled away, not wanting him to take Kaidee again – “Stand back and look at yourself. Look at him. Is this the kind of life you want for our son?”
“GET OUT!” Now he was talking crazy – all I was doing was trying to keep Kaidee safe; anyone with any common sense would see that. And now Kaidee looked like he was about to cry, and it was all Michael’s fault. “Just get out – leave us alone. It’s all right, Kaidee,” I squeezed him tighter, smoothing his hair and wiping the little tears off him cheeks.
Michael sighed. “Okay. Just calm down, I’ll be back soon.”
The door closed behind him. Thank goodness.
“DADDY!” Now poor Kaidee was totally hysterical. Oh God, Michael, how could you hurt my little Kaidee like this? I just held my Kaidee close, rocking him and singing to him until he was calm again – I swear, it felt like forever.
Then he had the king of all meltdowns.
It started when Michael came back – which was a lot sooner than I thought he would. But I could tell the sound of our car, so I peeked through the shades to make sure.
There was this woman I didn’t know with him. And behind her – what the hell?? – a couple of cops.
I spun around, and thank God, Kaidee was still there, pretending to read a book. Then the doorknob rattled and the door cracked open. Thank God I remembered to put the chain on when he left. “Honey, let me in – seriously, this isn’t funny.”
“Leave us alone!” No way I was going to let him in, not until he promised not to hurt Kaidee anymore.
“Honey, please, we need to talk. Maria’s here – she works at Child Services and wants to talk to you and help you take care of Kaidee. Please open up.”
“DADDY! DADDY! WANT DADDY!!”
Oh god, Kaidee had heard everything – now he was on his little feet and rushing towards the door, so yikes, I had to get him away from there. This was TOTALLY traumatizing! So I carried him, still kicking and screaming, as far away as I could – to my bedroom, where it’s nice and quiet and calm. And I lay down on the bed and held him close to calm him down. He used to LOVE this– it was so sweet feeling his little baby breath moving in and out and the beats of his little heart against mine. So perfect.
But this time he didn’t calm down. Instead, he just kept kicking and screaming and trying to bite me. My Kaidee’s not like this – he’s always been sweet and gentle. But now, he’s acting like a monster, all full of rage –and it just makes me want to cry and I feel so helpless – he’s my baby, my responsibility, and there’s nothing I can do to make things right again, just like there was nothing I could do to stop Kory and Danny when they ran away from me into the street and that big truck came around the corner and hit them and then my darling baby brothers were dead, bloody lumps of flesh on asphalt, and it was all my fault, even though Mom and Dad and Michael and Dr. Tucker keep saying it wasn’t – I was only five, they said, and shouldn’t have been left alone outside with them.
But it was my fault – Mom told me to keep an eye out on them, and I didn’t. I’m never going to hurt another baby again – Kaidee’s not going to run away, he’s not going to get sick and he’ll always be safe, because I’m never, ever going to let him go, no matter how much they keep knocking and ringing the doorbell and calling for me to come talk to them.
And now Kaidee’s still crying and I’m still crying and all I can do is hold him and hold him and hold him, tighter and tighter, his little heart beating fast and angry against my skin, so hard I can feel it in my bones. All I can do is love him, and that’s what I do – I just hold him, oh so tight against me, so I’m pretty much lying on top of him – babies love having a bit of pressure on them; it reminds them of being in the womb; I read this somewhere – and only after I did that for a while did he finally relax and stop crying. Finally, he loosened in my arms and stopped feeling like a basket of wires and started feeling like a soft little baby again – poor little thing, he’s so exhausted from all that screaming, he’s just conked out – no crying, not even the usual hot feel of his breath against my chest. So sweet and quiet, just like when he was little.
I just kept holding him and holding him – poor little guy is so tired he hasn’t gotten up or even opened his eyes, even with Michael yelling and pounding on the door downstairs and Maria leaving messages on the answering machine about how she wants to help. He even feels cooler to the touch than he did before. Now I don’t want to get up, either, it’s so sweet being here, all nice and quiet with him. The phone’s been ringing something crazy, and now the police are yelling at me to open the door, but I don’t care. My Kaidee and I are together, he’s resting peacefully, and I’m keeping him safe and happy. When they see us, they’ll know – and they’ll finally understand.
Felicia Lee is a Florida-based writer, editor, and recovering academic.She has published non-horror essays in the Los Angeles Times and Salon.com, as well as unintentionally horrifying works on the syntax of the Zapotec languages of Mexico.Look for her stories soon to appear in Bodies in the Library from Flame Tree Publishing and Borderlands 7:The Anthology of Imaginative Fiction.