I never knew I could resent a baby so much. My new brother was being passed around like a popular exchange student’s yearbook, but there weren’t cries of “I’ll miss you so much!” and promises to keep in touch. No, just regular, piercing baby cries and the same comments over and over. He’s beautiful, has little feet, and Dad’s chin apparently.
Mom finally shooed the majority of the crowd away, leaving my sisters and I. Dad had gone home to grab the breast pump, and some other new baby things. He laughed, “That’s what happens when you have him three weeks early, you forget things,” as he headed out the door. Abby had retrieved a vending machine cupcake for me, muttering a quick birthday wish. I accepted it enough to put it on the bench next to me, glowering at the baby's curly black hair nestling against my mom's chest.
It was November 10th. I was thirteen. And he had to be born at 12:05 this morning. My parents still hadn't decided on a name yet, stuck between Joseph Matthew and Xavier Matthew. I hoped they picked Xavier; he took my birthday, he doesn't have to take my initials too. I glanced back at the plastic wrapped chocolate and pouted at it. I guess it was something. The bite I took tasted like cardboard with rich chocolate frosting that had sat out for a few days.
"Jay, have you held him yet?" I shook my head and gulped down my cardboard. Mom pried him off of her chest; he didn't like that. He made short whimpering sounds and shook his fists at the beige walls. "Well, come here then" She smiled at me and so did Abby and Chey. All with bright eyes and excited held breaths.
"I don't want to." I carelessly threw away the rest of the cupcake and lay on my side on the green cushioned bench, facing away from the rest of them. Earlier they gave me a heated blanket so I could sleep. It wrapped loosely around me like my mom's arms had recently due to her belly. I pulled it tighter and squeezed my eyes shut.
"Jada Marie, why not?" I didn't answer. Maybe they would assume I was tired and wanted to sleep. This all began right before dinner at seven, and it was now noon. Halfway through my birthday. And all I've gotten was a cardboard cupcake. "Honey, don't think I've forgotten about you." My eyes relaxed some and peered open to stare at the wall. She continued, "I didn't mean to have him today, it was supposed to be three more weeks. He decided it was time, not me. Baby girl, come here and let me give you a birthday hug." My lip started trembling and I felt a tear itching at the corner of my eye. I sniffled. Careful not to face them as I sat up, I wiped my nose on my sleeve. Turning around, I noticed Mom had passed the baby to Chey, and she and Abby were absolutely enthralled with his pudgy cheeks and tiny fingers. My pout stayed firmly in place while I walked to my mom's bed side, taking care to not bump the medical equipment.
"Jada." She took my face in both her hands. "You know you'll always be my baby girl. Not a damn thing is going to change that." I nodded, feeling like crying. "Now go hold your brother. Let him meet his big sister." She smiled again, the brightness of her teeth beautiful against the dark brown of her skin. I always loved that about her. Her smile was the most beautiful I've ever seen. When I smiled, it was awkward and toothy. I felt like Bugs Bunny in every school picture.
"Okay." I muttered and took in a deep breath. Abby had him now, kissing his forehead and giggling at his wide-eyed expression. He looked silly with his mouth open and brown eyes fixated on her bright blue scarf with dandelions on it.
"Are you ready now?" My oldest sister laughed. Abigail was almost seventeen, but looked more like twenty-two with her long legs and perfect complexion. Her face had a soft edge about it, and her lips were full. Usually they were also red or purple. College boys liked to invite her to parties while we were out shopping; she liked to laugh uproariously as they scuttled away after learning her age.
Chey returned from the bathroom, surprised. "Oh! Is little miss attitude over herself?" She sneered at me and crossed her arms. Cheyanne was only a year and a half older than me, but she took great pride in that. We were already the same height--Dad had said in a few more years, I'll be as tall as the oak tree in our back yard--but she was rounder. Not in an unhealthy way by any means, but enough to resent people in her grade with perfect figures. Chey's dinner table talk was mostly complaints about the girls showing off in gym class to the boys she liked.
"Don't give her none of that. It's just as much her birthday as it is his." Mom defended me with a stern finger, Abby looked personally hurt by Chey's question. I ignored my older sister and marched the couple of feet to Joseph or Xavier, gazing upon the whole 5 pounds and 3 ounces. The diaper was ridiculously big on him and the plastic yellow clamp stuck to his belly button contrasted sharply against his darker skin. My hand awkwardly patted his thick forest of hair, noting the greasy texture. Abby gently held him out to me, impatient with my hesitancy. Stupidly, I held my arms out in front of me, palms up like I was Oliver Twist asking for more soup. Abby masterfully worked my arms into the correct baby-holding position and placed him there with a reminder to support his head.
Gracelessly, I did. My right elbow was under his head, which must not have been comfortable at all. My arms were bony and too long, and Joseph or Xavier must have noticed because he wailed. Thrusting his tongue and limbs out, squirming, I didn't know what to do. I felt pure horror as Abby threw her head back to laugh and softly took him back. Holding him didn't last long because a nurse came in to take him for mandatory genetic testing.
Dad came back, knocking on the door. Chey was sitting in a chair close to the door so she absently got up and opened it, never looking up from her phone. He immediately made his way to Mom and gave her a quick peck before finding the rolling table and setting down a large green and brown diaper bag. Out of it came the breast pump and some clothes. His hand was going to reach into the bag again, but he stopped.
Instead, he closed the flap and sat on the edge of Mom's bed apologizing for taking so long. He had stopped the construction company's office to tell them about the new arrival; apparently he ran into his site manager. Recently whenever he came home from work, he always had a story about her to tell us with distaste on his tongue. Most recently it was another anecdote about her showing off her powers. Dad's manager, Ashleigh I think, was a woman with a tan too dark and large brown bun on top of her head. And super strength.
"Just because she's a freak doesn't mean she's better," he said. He said that a lot. About all of the freaks. Well, the politically correct term was Extrordinarily Abled People, or EAPs for short. A lot of people didn't like them. The emergence of her powers happened one day on a site. A new guy was joking around and lost his balance four stories up. She didn't think as she reacted, just grabbed toward his leg and caught him with one hand by his jeans.
Ashleigh's emergence happened during panic, and she saved his life that day. Experts say most emergences happen during moments of extreme emotion.
So it made sense that when my mom clutched her chest and said in shallow, pained breaths "Get the doctor," I began floating.