The child started screaming immediately.
“Olivia!” The mother had stopped in shock as she spoke, however sensing no immediate reaction from her daughter she quickly stepped over and grabbed the hand which held the needle.
“What are you doing?”
There was still no reply and her daughter’s face was blank, her eyes far away. The young girl was still screaming, its kicking legs sending tiny splatters of blood from the puncture wound onto the bedding. The old woman reached down, wrapping the child in her blanket before picking her up.
“Olivia, what were you doing to her?” She shook her daughter’s shoulder as she spoke and finally elicited a response.
“She doesn’t cry mother, she hardly ever cries. Is she even alive in there?” Saying this, she reached for Claudia’s head, however the old woman pulled the girl out of Olivia’s reach.
“You need to go to bed. Just go. I will take care of her.” As Olivia continued to try to touch her daughter, seemingly deaf to her mother’s command, the old woman stalked out of the room with Claudia in her arms.
Shaking as she closed her own bedroom door behind her, Olivia’s mother settled into her rocking chair with her granddaughter. Although she had understood for several months that there was something wrong with her daughter, she had never believed for a second that it would turn into anything that would threaten Claudia. Now she understood that it was far more serious, however had no immediate answer about how to remedy the situation. She kept the girl through the night, and in the morning, with the child sleeping well, walked into the kitchen and found Olivia sitting at the table.
Several minutes of silence passed and then the older woman sat down next to her. Reaching out, she placed her hand over her daughter’s and then spoke.
“What happened yesterday Olivia?”
“I’m not completely sure, but I was just overcome by this emotion, this belief, that something was wrong with Claudia. It seemed so clear at the time, so, well, it just seemed like there really must be something wrong with her or she would cry more often. It’s natural for small children to cry and fuss mother and mine hardly ever does, not after she was born and not since. It frightening, worse than if she cried all the time. What’s wrong with her?”
“I don’t think anything is wrong dear, she’s just a happy child, one with few complaints. One of those does come along every once in awhile you know.”
“And when has that ever turned out well in the end?”
Her mother did not have a positive answer for that question, knowing that silent children often grew into odd or sickly young adults, if they even managed to live that long. She did however feel differently about Claudia.
“She is a strong girl Olivia and she is going to be fine. Look how well she has managed to handle her,”
“She’s not fine mother,” Olivia interjected, “and I just wanted to hear her cry.”
Silence returned to the room as the old woman drew her hand back from her daughter’s, troubled thoughts running through her head. Finally Olivia rose.
“I need to go check on her.” As she walked away, the old woman’s heart fluttered with trepidation, although it was soon put to rest as Olivia came back holding Claudia gently. Sitting down again, the girl’s head held closely against her chest, she sighed before speaking.
“I’ve felt so strange mother, so strange inside for so long. I wonder sometimes if I’m going mad.”
“Hmm, yes, I’ve noticed that you have not been right exactly, not for awhile now. You’ve been acting quite differently. Do you feel sick at all?”
“I don’t know. I feel tired, very tired sometimes, like I just can’t move and don’t even want to. So I just sit in my room. Other times I have all this energy but cannot contain it, as though it just wants to jump out of me. And when I sleep I wake up sometimes, hot and drenched in sweat, because of my dreams I guess. Those are so often about fire and burning, these big furnaces of heat. And graveyards. Strange, don’t you think?”
The reference back to those fevered cries from immediately after the delivery startled Olivia’s mother. Perhaps there was some deeper connection between the events of that night and her daughter’s current condition. Olivia continued on, her voice dropping to a whisper.
“And sometimes, well sometimes I just don’t feel like I love my Claudia. It’s such an empty feeling, like a big hole opens up underneath my heart. It doesn’t last long, and I soon find myself just as full of love as always, but it’s so real when it happens.” Her voice trailed off completely as she stared out the window, gently rocking her daughter in her lap.
The old woman knew that she needed to contact Dr. Martin as quickly as possible. During the days in which she waited for a reply after writing him, in which she described in detail what she knew of her daughter’s symptoms, the old woman kept a close eye on Olivia’s interactions with Claudia. Although there were no exact repeat occurrences of the needle incident, there were enough troubling moments to cause her level of concern to increase substantially. Worn down by the time the letter did arrive, both from the care she continued to provide for her grand-daughter, and the additional time spent monitoring Olivia, she opened it expectantly. The doctor suggested a very specific remedy. Sepia.