The baby came a few weeks later. Randall spent a disagreeable night shut out of the bedroom once again, too far away to hear the details of what was happening, but too close not to be awoken by the screams. At least, he reflected, Mary’s lungs were also stronger than he would have thought, which must be a good sign.
Once she had finished screaming, the doctor and midwife kept Mary to themselves for another hour. When Randall finally entered the room, he expected her to look utterly drained, as his mother always had after she had finished producing yet another doomed infant. Instead she was – there really was no other word for it – glowing. The tiny bundle of human flesh, which she had wrapped up in a pretty yellow blanket Randall hadn’t seen before, while not moving much, was definitely alive. Randall even thought that he saw a wisp of dark hair peeking out from underneath the fabric.
Slowly, he approached her. His mother, he remembered, had never been quite lucid after giving birth, and sometimes his father would get a slap in the face if he approached the bed too fast. Randall was definitely not in the mood for any of that.
Mary didn’t notice him at first, as she was entirely wrapped up in looking down at the baby in her arms. Carefully, Randall lowered himself into the chair beside the bed, groaning softly from discomfort as he did so. That got her attention. She looked over at him, then back down at the baby, and, to his surprise, made to place it in his arms. Randall awkwardly took hold of it, taking care to balance the head, which was surprisingly heavy, in the crook of his elbow.
The baby, sensing the change, scrunched up its face into a tremendous number of wrinkles, and let loose a shriek which, if final proof of life were needed, could leave no-one in any doubt. Gratified beyond understanding, Randall grinned helplessly down at the little creature, which was now peering up at him with precisely the same bright blue eyes and sceptical expression with which Alex had greeted him all those years ago. Jack, equally sardonic, smirked back. Then he leaned forwards, and scooped the still wailing lump back into Mary’s arms.