By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt: Adults and children are separated into two dimensions. When a baby is born, it is sent to the “kid” dimension and will only rejoin the adults when s/he turns 18. A mother and father are anxiously waiting for their child’s 18th birthday tomorrow.
Luna stood at the stove mixing the oatmeal, watching it with care so it wouldn’t burn. She’d offered to grill a steak for Kion, make it a celebration. She’d even planned ahead, spending time at the market to pick the finest cuts of meats and lingering over the potatoes and beans.
Berries, she thought. Kion loves that mixed berry pie. We can have that for dessert.
The berries looked so ripe she almost didn’t touch them, afraid they would burst between her fingers. Finally she’d braved it, using a feather touch to put the red jewels in the bag. Master Dona grinned as he watched. He knew why Luna had spent so much time at the market that day. Everyone knew.
As Luna paid for her items, anxiety found its way into her shopping bags.
Does Zoe like berries? Oh, maybe I should have bought more. But what will I do if she doesn’t like them? I should have asked for that in the report.
She and Kion had spent hours poring over the report that had arrived two weeks earlier. Everyone with a child coming home received one. It contained all the essentials, of course—height, weight, and general health of the child. Any allergies and general medical history. Basic likes and dislikes. The Exit Essay that every child had to write in preparation to leave the other dimension.
As Luna had made her way home, she recalled certain passages of the report. She’d read it so many times she could almost recite it word for word. A few times she’d awoken in the night to go to the bathroom or for a glass of water and caught Kion reading it.
She’d found him with it again that afternoon when she came home with her foodstuffs, and she told him about the steak. But Kion had gently rejected the idea. He left the report on his desk and came forward to help her with the bags.
“Honestly, Luna, I don’t know that I could eat anything too fancy,” he said with a sheepish grin. “I’m so nervous about tomorrow my stomach feels jumpy.”
She stopped sorting all the food she’d bought and stared at a jar of marmalade.
“You know, that you say that, I feel exactly the same way,” she said. Her hands began trembling, and she remembered the day she’d given birth to Zoe. That day her whole body had trembled, the adrenaline from the delivery and saying goodbye to her only child making her shiver for hours after a council member came for the baby.
Kion stepped around the table and came to her. He put his arms around her, and she leaned into him. Through all these years of wondering about Zoe, Kion had supported her. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Her insides had ached, yearning for the cord that had tied her child to her. At least Zoe would still be with her then.
But it didn’t matter now. In less than 24 hours Zoe would be home. After a few moments she pulled away from Kion’s embrace and began putting the foodstuffs away. She put the meat in the freezer box and everything else in its place.
“How about some oatmeal with berries and nuts?” she’d asked Kion.
Kion nodded and came and kissed her hard.
“Our little one is coming home,” he whispered against her lips.
Luna’s eyes filled with tears, and Kion used his thumbs to push the tears away from her face.
“No, my love,” he said and kissed her again. “This is a day to be happy.”
She nodded and fought back the emotion choking her throat.
“A day to be happy and have oatmeal.”
A laugh burst from her lips and she nodded again, grateful for a task to complete. And now she stood at the stove and stirred the thick cereal. She dropped nuts into the pot and kept stirring and then took the berries she’d washed and dropped them in after the nuts. She grabbed a fork from the drawer and used the tines to prick the berries, watching the colors swirl through the oatmeal.
Her child. Zoe. The council had forwarded her letters promptly, and her missives indicated she received theirs in a timely fashion too. Luna and Kion had watched their child grow up through the pictures the council allowed four times a year, and they’d gotten to know Zoe through her letters and drawings. They didn’t know what her voice sounded like—Luna didn’t know what Zoe’s clothes smelled like after she wore them two or three times—but they knew her as well as anyone could in this situation.
The council had done all this to save their children; Luna and Kion knew that. The two of them had actually met during their own time in the dimension. They’d thought, possibly naively, that the world would become safer before they grew up. Before they had children of their own. The council had all but promised as much.
The world hadn’t changed. In fact, news reports provided by the council reassured everyone that the world had become more dangerous. So the need for the other dimension persisted.
Every child came back safe. Every child came back happy, grateful for his or her time in the dimension. They came back with rosy cheeks and bright eyes, and so would Zoe. She would pursue her higher studies in town and get to know her parents and live the rest of her life in close proximity so they could make up for lost time.
A large bubble in the oatmeal burst, bringing Luna back to the present moment. The world had become dangerous, but Zoe would come home to them. She would be safe, and she would do wonderful things to help the world.
How could she not, Luna thought, her eyes tearing up again. She’s my daughter. Our daughter.