To my mind, thinking of a name wasn’t all that hard, really. I’d already decided that she should A) have a middle name, and B) what it should be, and so all that was left was picking out a first name for her. When my Da showed up (less than 12 hours after the Bun had made her entrance, bearing 2 dozen pink and white roses for me, and another fluffy white teddy bear for his ‘little grand-baby’) I told him.
“Anais, me darlin’,” he said, his eyes all a-sparkle, “You’ve done well today; look at her, isn’t she just the most beautiful baby girl since you yourself came into this world.”
I smiled, and hugged my da—he smelled equally of horses and expensive cologne, and the wet green fields where he bred the former in order to buy the latter—and said calmly, “Da, I’m going to give her a middle name,” and when he glanced at me, not really meeting my gaze because he was too busy cooing and sighing over her, I added, “It’s going to be Najah.”
For just a second, he stopped, and looked me squarely in the face. “Oh,” he said, his lilting Irish voice thick with the tears I couldn’t quite see in his eyes, “After your mother. That’s a lovely notion, Anais girl,” he said, and then he was uncharacteristically silent for the better part of 5 minutes.
As I say, his silence was uncharacteristic; long before a nurse came to check on us, long before anything at all had a chance to happen, he’d gone back to the charming, mildly informative chatter he was so good at (my stepmother was well and sent her love to myself and the new baby, 3 mares had foaled this month alone, would I like some of that perfume bringing back, what was it called, when he went to Paris in a fortnight’s time, etc). I didn’t mind. It was soothing, the way that Da did this… so soothing, in fact, that I drifted off a little, and awoke after about 15 minutes to find my da, and my baby, gone.
How ridiculous. How absolutely absurd, the shudder of terror that ran through me when I woke up, and saw that my baby was missing. I also saw that Da was gone, and I’m not an idiot—I am not, I repeat, an idiot, in spite of how this tale makes me sound—and even as I pressed the button for the nurse, even as I pulled myself out of bed, wincing and sighing through my teeth, and snatched my silky turquoise robe off the nightstand, and started heading for the door, my bare feet smacking against the carpet (carpet, yes, in a mother-and-baby room, nay, suite, for this was a privately-funded hospital that had enough money to replace the carpets every year or so) even as all that happened, I was telling myself with every shaky breath I took, that Da had the baby, and she was fine.
“Where the fuck is my baby!” I cried at the nurse who was scurrying down the corridor towards me. I was just about to launch into one of those deranged, unnecessary, if-anything’s-happened-I’ll-personally-sue-you, etc, rants that people go into, in times of great stress and fear, when she set her hand on my arm and steered me to the nearest set of windows.
Eyes a little wide, but her voice even, she said calmly, “She’s right there, miss. Your father took her into the garden, so you could get some rest. You were out cold 5 minutes ago, and there should be a note on the mirror in your room.” As she was talking, she was trying to walk me back, to show me the note; I shrugged her hand off.
“I believe you,” I said, not bothering to apologize for shouting at her, “But I want my baby now. Please.”
The please was a half-hearted afterthought, but I meant it, in a way. I would have said anything, and meant it, if it convinced that woman to take me straight to my baby—and I think she saw that on my face, or heard it in my voice, because she softened slightly and then said gently, “Of course you do. Come right this way, I’ll let you into the garden.”
“Of course. Every exit is locked, at all times, for the safety of our patients.” She managed to say it without even a hint of censure, and I was grateful. Her tone left me feeling reassured, and not quite as daft as I probably deserved, as I walked through the gently beeping door and into the garden.
“Anais, love, you’re up,” Da said brightly, looking up at the door. He was no more than 10 steps away, standing under a tree. I bit back my irritation—Da was the only man in the world I’d do that for—and mustered a half-hearted smile. Da was looking at the tree, as he continued. “I was just showing the little one the garden; this is a linden tree, did you know, and over there are some lovely daffodils and bluebells and of course, they’ve some beautiful roses, and…” As Da prattled on, I took my baby, who was quietly awake and looking about fairly interestedly for someone with limited visual acuity.
“You’re inquisitive, aren’t you,” I murmured, and at the sound of my voice, she turned her head and squinted up at me, her even, barely-squashed features peaceful yet animated. I thought to myself that my da was right. She was so beautiful.
Beautiful, and apparently, eternally hungry. As she nuzzled at my chest, I took a seat on a nearby bench and started to feed her. Before my da could make himself scarce, I gestured him over, and he sat down beside me (but facing carefully away, at the flowers). As casually as I could, as if his opinion hardly mattered, I asked him what he thought of ‘Rose’ as a name for her.
“Rose, aye, ‘tis a lovely name for a little girl, and it’ll not be ridiculous when she’s older,” he mused, still keeping his eyes away. “Ah, but Anais girl, we’re a rare breed; shouldn’t the girl have a more unusual name than that?”
“Maybe,” I agreed, looking at Da with a mixture of exasperation and affection, “But I’ve rather set my heart on a flower name, and I only know so many.”
“Ah, now, your old man can help you with that! Haven’t your stepmother and myself been planting the small gardens ourselves these past few years, at Glas Geadán?” he said, referring to his place in Ireland, the literal translation of which was, very roughly, ‘Green Acres’. Or so my da, with his smattering of Irish Gaelic, claimed... either way, I had no idea about his gardens, and whether or not my stepmother was involved with them, but I was happy enough to listen to random flower names, and I said so.
After several inordinantly long minutes, I began to lose patience; even a man who’d never named a child in his life should be able to see that I wasn’t going to call my daughter ‘tulip’ or ‘snowflake’ or ‘ranunculus’, for fuck sake; finally, Da caught sight of my face, and began to list other flora-based names. “Her name doesn’t have to be a springtime flower, of course, or one that’s actually in this garden,” he said, and moved on to much prettier-sounding names. Almost straight away, I stopped him.
“That one,” I said, and even when he raised his eyebrows at me, I was adamant. And when the nurse came up to my room the next morning, to show me to the office where they registered births (actually in the hospital—very posh indeed, even I was impressed) I never hesitated filling in her name: Amaryllis Najah Murphy.
The next bit, I did hesitate over; and then, in the space where you’re meant to write the father’s name, or ‘unknown’, I angrily, defiantly, so hard I nearly tore through the paper, scrawled ‘UNIMPORTANT’ in the largest, blackest letters I could fit into the box, before striding out the front door of the hospital, head held high, baby held against my chest (and Da, thankfully, holding the luggage). So fiercely I nearly disturbed her sleep, I whispered to my baby, “Fuck him, you’re MINE, and nothing he’s done has anything to do with you. You’re not like him, you’re nothing like him, and I love you!” and as she began to stir, I shut up and awkwardly bundled her into her carseat thing, too furious with Mr. Unimportance to be cacking myself. Once we were all buckled in, Da drove us home, resolutely ignoring the F-bomb I’d dropped (right in my baby’s ear...) and then, once we were tucked away for nap, he headed off to his 5 star hotel for reasons of his own.
My da’s like that. Always in motion, always looking for something to do, or always having somewhere to go, if there’s nothing to do wherever he is. As he left my room, smiling a bit self-consciously at us—Amaryllis was feeding, again—he promised he’d be back in a couple of hours, with lunch. I could already feel my eyes drooping, and my last thought before I drifted off to sleep was that I was glad there was no one in the house to shout at me for my unsafe, baby-in-bed-with-me habits.