Ariion Kathleen Brindley


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By A Hair

"..and the winner is Buttercup! Buttercup wins by a hair!" the announcer screamed over the microphone as the crowd goes wild. Joel grabbed Christina and squeezed her tight before planting a very wet kiss on her lips. When she was released, she took a deep breath and absorbed what was going on around her in a daze. Watching the people, it was evident by searching their faces, who had won and who had not. Sitting alone at the end of her row was a man with a rolled up newspaper jammed tightly in his hands. He managed to turn it over several times, whispering something before jumping out of his seat and chucking the paper into a nearby receptacle before leaving hurriedly.

"Guess he was unhappy!" Christina chided as she leaned to where her husband had been standing, but he was gone. She began to scan the masses of the accumulated people before gathering her purse beside her feet and joining them. It didn’t take long for her to blend right in.

Up ahead, she could see the restroom doors and none too soon. Bolting from the hallway, she finally was safe in the lavatory.

Afterwards, she was washing her hands when a stroller appeared from the crowded hall with a mother attached to the back. The mother seemed very young, but Christina didn’t notice for long because her attention was captured by what was in the stroller. Amidst the entire hubbub that was going on, this baby slept. "Incredible!" she sighed as she watched the chubby, cherub face suck her thumb.

The young mother peered at her suspiciously before gathering the baby out of the stroller and carrying her into the stall with her. Christina washed her hands and captured her face in the mirror. Serenity was all that she could see, despite what was going on outside. She had the appearance of a new mother and suddenly she could see herself with a baby cradled up close to her with its face in her neck sleeping…

"Christina, c’mon!" it was Joel’s voice echoing through the restroom from the open doorway. Reaching for the paper towels, she quickly dried her hands and stole a quick glance over her shoulder at the stroller that sat alone against the wall.

When she got out, the crowd had died down somewhat, but Joel hadn’t. He was like a teenager with his first car. "Can you believe that we won?" There was nothing that was going to calm him down except what she said next. "Can we have a baby?"

It was as if time had put on the brakes and screeched to a halt before he continued, not seeming to have absorbed anything that she had said.

"That means that I won…we won $30,000, roughly!" he bellowed as he threw his arms around her, hugging her very tightly. Christina winced in pain and gave him a slight push in order to free herself. Letting go, he ran up and down the hallway clicking his heels together like a leprechaun.

When they finally approached the car and got in, the traffic seemed to bring him back to reality after only a few short minutes. "Okay," he agreed finally, "I suppose that we can use some of the money for artificial insemination."

Christina smiled and seized his leg, "You mean it? Do you really mean it?"

The pleasure that was in his voice was not inscribed on his face as he turned toward her, "Yes, I mean it. How often can we afford to gamble, and what are our chances of ever winning again?" His eyes returned to the road ahead of them as he turned the stereo up and began singing with the song that played.

Christina sat smiling at the thought of a new baby. Of course it would mean that there had to be some big changes around the house and she’d have to put things where the baby couldn’t get it. The toilet would need to be closed all the time and her make-up.

"Joel! I need to swing by the make-up store," she interrupted her own thoughts and Joel turned the music back down.

"What?"

"Can we stop by Juliette’s? I need to buy some make-up so that I can look presentable when we announce that we’re having a baby!"

Joel turned the music back up without answering and rolled his eyes. His plans weren’t to stop at the store at all, which is until she persistently tugged on his elbow. Guiding the car up against the curb outside the store, he was scarcely able to cut the engine before she was out the door and on the other side of the glass door.

He waited patiently for nearly half an hour, singing to his hearts content and getting some strange looks from people passing by. Finally, she emerged.

"What took so long?" he frowned. This was supposed to be his day. Sure, they were married so they shared everything, but he’s the one that chose Buttercup as the winner! Why should she get all the money to spend on a crying poop machine? Didn’t he own the right to spend some of it on himself, as well? "How much will this cost?"

"How much will ‘what’ cost?" she questioned as she closed her door and fastened her seatbelt.

"The baby! This procedure that you’re talking about!" he was trying not to get angry. "Besides, what are the chances of it working?"

"From what I understand, it’s about $10,000 per try and my chances are one in five of it taking."

The light turned red and he stomped on the brake, jerking both of their heads to the front, hard. "So in essence, we could end up blowing all of this money on the baby and not even get one?"

"What were your odds at the track?" she moved away from him to the side of her door and jammed her body around to face his.

"The deal is, we may never get that kind of money again! It isn’t like if it doesn’t work, we can do this again!"

Christina sat quietly for a minute before instructing Joel to return to the boutique. "I forgot something," she informed him.

"No," he continued facing the front, "I’m getting a well-deserved beer. After all, I am entitled to spend part of the money myself! I wouldn’t think that a beer would set you back that far."

"I left something there," annoyed it was beginning to escalate to the level of a fight, "My driver’s license! Now, turn around!"

Without so much as a ‘yes, dear’, he spun the car around and went back to the shop, parking out front once again.

"You want to spend your half of the money?" she screamed shrilly at him. He could feel her hot breath across his eyes and knew without a doubt that she was indeed, angry. He couldn’t muster up the strength to answer her, even though he knew that what she said was true. He did deserve half of the money. It wouldn’t be enough to buy what he wanted, but it would be a start. Something to save and grow on.

Without knowing where it came from, probably the deepest depths of Hell, he felt himself answering her with a nod and verbally. "Yes, I do feel entitled to half!" he denounced as he reached into his pocket, removing his wallet and counted out half of the money, handing it to her.

Slamming the door, she spun around and made her entrance into the store, returning about five minutes later. Sitting in the car, facing the front, she remained silent. So did Joel, the rest of the way home.

When they got there, Joel disappeared for a short period of time in his den, looking through magazines that had Buttercup displayed in them and wondering how long it would take him to buy his own horse. Sure, the upkeep on it would cost a lot, too. After winning a couple of times, would it really matter?

Eventually, he went to see what Christina was doing and stopped in shock as he approached the kitchen table where she was seated with a piece of paraffin paper to the side and a conglomeration of wax, pins, and wads of hair that appeared as hers. "What in the hell are you doing?" he asked as he watched her clipping photos of babies from a magazine and stacking them together in a neat pile.

"I’m going to have a baby myself!" she cockily stated.

"You know that I’d help you, but the doctor said…" he wasn't allowed to finish before she cut him off.

"All that you have to do is wish for a baby with me, that’s all."

"Fine. Fine!" he opened the cupboard and got a glass to pour himself a drink as he watched his silly wife go about cutting up the magazine. When she was finished, she motioned for him to sit beside her at the table, which he did. He set his cup next to her collection.

"No, no!" she said as she picked it up and handed it to him. "Nothing else can be on the table except what we want to be in the baby."

He picked up his glass and set it on the counter, returning to his seat. "Okay, now think about a cute little baby with me, okay?"

"Wait a second," he interrupted, "Where did you derive this ‘spell’ from anyway?"

Heaving her shoulders as if she were in turmoil, she explained that the cashier at the shop had made her an offer on the purchase of a piece of parchment from Egypt that she carried in her purse.

"You’re kidding!" he cursed, "How much did she sell it to you for?"

Blankly staring at him, he finally broke the silence, "Never mind, it was your own share. Spend it however you like."

"Can we do this now?" she asked, seemingly growing impatient.

"Okay," he agreed, taking her hands in his, wondering if she would support him this much in what he wanted to do. Sighing heavily, he waited until she finally let go of his hands. "Aren’t you going to say some magic words or something?"

Christina rolled her eyes and shook her head, "No, what do you think this is… a séance?"

He sat perplexed for a second before she dismissed him. Grabbing his drink, he returned to his den and closed the door tightly, so as not to be disturbed.

Two days later, Christina ran into the bedroom and woke Joel up by poking him. "Leave me alone! It’s Saturday!" he wailed at her, feeling silly because he knew that it would do no good.

Opening his eyes, he saw the white pregnancy test stick, which she held in front for him to witness. "I’m pregnant! I’m pregnant!" she squealed as she spun around the room in merriment.

"Great!" he managed to yawn as he pulled himself up in bed to watch her dancing. "When you’re finished, can I go back to sleep?"

The prancing stopped and a crust of animosity brushed her face before it cleared, leaving the glow of a pregnant woman’s face behind. The blanket was soft as she took a seat on it next to him. "The first thing that I noticed was that I was producing the beginnings of breast milk yesterday, so I figured I’d better get a test for today."

"Yeah?" he answered, attempting to sound interested because he knew that his wife was excited.

"I’m pregnant!" with an immense jump, she landed on top of him, hugging and kissing him until he pulled back.

"That’s wonderful, Honey," he mumbled as he rolled over and stuffed the blankets up beneath his chin. "Can we talk about this when I get up?"

Sparing him no mercy, she rolled over the top of him and off of the bed, scurrying into the kitchen. "Where are you going?" he called from the bedroom. She ignored him as she grabbed her phonebook, anxious to spread the word.

The stick in her hand waved dramatically as she explained to each of her friends the way they were planning on decorating, the names they were going to come up with, etc. She wasn’t about to tell them the secret that she had, as far as how it happened. That would make Joel feel worse than he did already. She could tell that he felt bad, because he was obviously going through a state of denial and not wanting to participate. Most likely feeling guilty in not being able to have a more active role in the insemination than he had. The fact of the matter was, she had things to plan in order to prepare for her nine-month package.

Hanging up the phone on the wall by the kitchen counter, she grunted as she doubled over, holding her abdomen. "Joel! Joel!" she called, hoping to get a response before too long. She held onto the counter and made her way, staggering to the stairs and clenched onto the railing. "Joel!" she cried.

"What?" came the answer from the bedroom. It seemed to be galaxies away to her now. She knew that there was no way that she could make it up the stairway, much less to the bedroom. Christina blacked out.

When she awakened, she was lying in their bed and Joel was standing over her. Worry and fear had taken over the nonchalant expression that had been on it only minutes before, it seemed. The color in his face had all but dissipated as he stared in disbelief at his expectant mother-to-be.

Conscious that he kept his eyes shifting between her own and her stomach, she allowed her eyes to coast downward as well. Her midsection was swollen as if she were nine months along already. How long had she been unconscious? What had happened and shouldn’t she be in the care of a hospital?

"What’s going on?" she managed to whisper fearfully, "Where’s the doctor?"

Joel gulped nervously, "He’s on his way. They said they’d hurry when I told them it was an emergency." He wiped his hands down the front of his pajamas. He was curiously wearing the same pajamas that he had on when she’d seen him last and her brows furrowed.

"What’s wrong?" he leaned over her, "Are you all right?"

"Yes," she struggled to position herself in a more upright posture as he grabbed her pillows and tried to move them with her. All at once, Christina doubled over groaning and holding her arms tightly about herself. "What’s wrong?" she cried, "What’s wrong?"

"I-I-I was sleeping and you called from downstairs…," he began.

"Oh, don’t start from nine months ago!" she screamed. Her husband stared at her in disbelief.

"I wasn’t. I was starting from half an hour ago," he corrected her as her eyes grew wide and were drawn back to her belly.

"What?" she asked, growing delirious, "What are you trying to tell me? That this all happened in one day?"

Joel nodded his head before adding, "One hour. The doctor should be here anytime."

Grunting loudly, she slid back down the pillows to the bed and clutched at her womb again, breathing, "Something’s happening now!"

"What do you mean?" he appeared even more desperate than before.

"I can’t wait! I can’t wait!"

"You have to! " he bellowed, "I don’t know how to do this!"

"I can feel it coming..Oh!" she screamed shrilly before pushing as her teeth clenched and her knees popped up under the blankets.

"No! The doctor isn’t here, yet!"

"It’s coming!" she sharply hollered as loud as she could, her voice cracking at the end.

Sliding the blankets down to get a look, Joel watched in amazement as he saw a black mass of hair approaching and two ears. They weren’t human ears… and it wasn’t a human baby! In absolute horror he watched as the head of a colt appeared.

"Is it a girl?" Christina asked before she saw the look on her husband’s face. "Is it… Aaaaaaaah!"

It was a foal, because that’s what Joel had been thinking of during her ceremony…raising a winning horse.



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