The baby was up all night, poor thing. Poor new mother, her night clothes covered in snot and sour milk, standing over the sink. Too tired even to decide if she wanted a shower or a cup of coffee. And nobody around to care.
They were new settlers in a new suburb. Great big house with no furniture in it yet, only one baby (so far), now standing on a patch of cold brown sod. It was so nice when they moved in last August. A ticklish breeze and the smell of fresh grass made them feel like adults — or maybe it was the mortgage and the big-ticket lawn mower? They closed the season with a Labor Day barbecue for their friends. It was right before her last trimester and she felt so happy, ready for their life to really begin.
Now the winter was ragged and rough. He forgot to cover the grill the last time they made steaks back in November. Then snows covered the yard and grill covering wasn’t as much of a priority as being a new father and revving up his new snow blower. She sighed and chewed at her chapped lips. The baby’s crackling snores came out of the nursery monitor and she stiffened just a bit.
She wasn’t sure what she saw. It was just a sensation of movement outside, maybe a bird? She watched. It was a fat squirrel squeezing out of the side vent of the grill. Its bushy tail made a flourish as it hopped on the rounded stainless steel top. Its eyes were bright and it moved with the agility of a creature used to the luxury of deep and uninterrupted sleep.
She looked down at her mismatched, dirty pajamas and noticed her clinging, greasy hair. She wondered if that squirrel was a mother, leaving her babies to get a breath of fresh air and something to eat. Or maybe to just be a squirrel again for a little while. A warm tear rolled down her cheek. This wasn’t how she thought it was going to be. No, not at all.