"You know, Burns," said Mrs. Macey, pulling me mercilessly from my slumber. The cinereal morning light shone in through sheer white curtains behind where she stood, her slight body a mere silhouette. Her words had jolted me awake, and I felt panicked for a moment as I adjusted to my surroundings. The sunlight was in vain; the nursery had lost its warmth from the previous evening. Was this the same room I had sat in just hours before?
I pulled my blanket closer to me as I tried to blink sleepiness out of my heavy eyes, focusing on Mrs Macey. She looked, in that moment, wraith-like, as if she were a creature who had jumped out of a children's book. The silky material of her robe hung off of her skeletal figure. I didn't like it, but my eyes adhered to her still. I didn't move.
"You know, or are aware of that fact" she continued as if we were mid-conversation, "that I was never the type of woman to properly raise a child. You know that, don't you, Burns?"
My mouth hung open, useless. I had never heard her speak this way, and I wasn't sure how to act. For once I was relieved that she didn't bother waiting for my response.
"You've seen me here, with this child. You've spent more time with him than either of his parents put together. You've been a witness to my misgivings toward him, my inability to produce whatever it is that's necessary for a woman to bond with her own creation. He may have come from me, yes. But when it comes to love," her voice broke, the last word cutting through the air. I felt embarrassed, wanted to look away, but her loss of composure wouldn't last. She cleared her throat, "When it comes to the type of compassion one must be capable of concerning children, Burns, you know that I am barren. You know."
She seemed so small in this moment, weak. This woman, typically of such a fierce and dominant demeanor of which I could attest, now stood before me, compromised by mere human nature. She paced in front of me, then paused suddenly, leaning a hand on the crib as if feeling dizzy. I was uneasy, the situation was too close, too personal. I felt as if I had walked in on a scene in someone else's life I hadn't been meant to witness.
"Of course, I could never forgive myself, if I ever abandoned him," she raised her shoulders then, her hands on her small waist, face angled toward the ceiling. She seemed to be attempting to summon her usual over-assured posture. "But to keep him here, Burns..."
She paused. I had never seen her look as she did in this moment, her facial expression admitting to anguish, unchecked by her pride. She was looking at me now, directly.
"Do you understand, Burns, what it is I'm trying to say?"
And the trouble was, I did.
One, two, three