Storytime: Baby Surprise

Elora fussed at her outfit in the full-length mirror, then grinned at herself wryly. Jay wouldn’t mind—or notice—if the white boatneck collar wasn’t perfectly straight. The only other person she was trying to impress was his 18 month old baby who also probably wouldn’t notice or care. In fact she fully expected the collar, and the rest of her blue dress, to be wrinkled, rumpled, and probably smelling of milk-sick, by the time she was done.

That was fine. Elora liked babies, and kids in general. She couldn’t deny that one of the reasons she loved Jay was the joy he took in his baby. Whoever its mother was had taken off right after the birth, he’d explained on their second date, when they began talking about a third. He was a single dad, working full time with the help of his sister, who was a stay-at-home mum with two older kids, and looked after the baby for free.

In fact it was her who’d set up their first date, via a work friend, and from what Jay had said, pretty much ordered him to go out and have fun.

She slipped on a pair of comfortable flats—that perfectly colour-matched her dress—and headed out to the car.

Jay met her at the door when she arrived, giving her a deep kiss that she was sure would scandalise any neighbours peering out from behind their net curtains.

“Hey,” he smiled once he’d let her go and invited her inside.

“Hey, that was a nice greeting.”

Jay blushed. He’d been hopeless when they started dating properly, 8 months ago, blushing right up from his neck to his messy black hair at even a peck on the cheek in public. She was glad he’d gotten over that, glad that she’d helped him come back out of himself again. He’d never spoken about what happened with his kid’s mother, but she knew whatever it was still pained him.

“Kid’s still napping. We can probably eat before he wakes up and I try to figure out what he’ll eat today. He’s a bit fussy at the moment. Teething is all.”

“That’s ok. I don’t mind fussy.”

They ate the pasta bake that Jay had made, and even managed to finish some cake for dessert, before the baby woke up and cried for its dad.

As Jay went to get the kid up, Elora frowned, realising she didn’t actually know much about the baby. Jay had never revealed anything. No gender, no name, always called it kid or baby. That was actually a little weird.

She had no further time to think, as Jay came back out, rocking an occupied swaddling blanket in his arms.

“Here we go, come on over,” he smiled.

Elora went over and peered inside the hood. What she saw made her jaw drop. She looked up at Jay, back down at the child, and took two fumbling steps backwards.

Inside the blanket was indeed a baby.

A baby whose face was covered in soft, downy hair.

A baby whose emerging teeth were pointed and sharp.

A baby whose eyes were feral yellow slits.

Jay was quiet, rocking the baby, giving her space to decide on a response.

Elora swallowed, her mouth suddenly bone dry. But she moved closer again, and tool another look.

Without the shock of her first sight, she was able to focus past those things and, steeling herself, raised a hand and stroked the baby’s face.

Its fur was as soft as it looked, and the baby made happy babbles at her, releasing one hand from its blanket and grasping hers with tiny fingers that ended in carefully trimmed claws.

Elora looked up, “I have…so many questions.”

Jay smiled and nodded, “I’ll answer them all, I promise. I just couldn’t figure out a good way to tell you about this.”

“Does it have a name?”

“Not yet. My tribe…tradition says naming day happens on the 3rd birthday. If the child survives. It’s less common now, one of ours dying, at least for my people. We moved on with the rest of the world; we updated our knowledge and medical techniques; we lifted the ban on human hybrids a couple of generations ago. All that means it’s much easier to deal with any problems, but we kept the traditional celebration. I can name the kid any time, and nobody would mind, or give it a temporary name up until naming day, but…” Jay shrugged. “I don’t even know what gender or genders, if any, this little one might fix on. If they survive, then by three we can usually tell what they’re choosing for the moment, but sometimes it changes later and then we have another ceremony,” he smiled down at the little bundle. “And this one here, I never know what I’m getting. Every nappy change is a new adventure, isn’t it? Also, by the time our kids are three the baby fur is usually mostly gone, so it also serves as a bit of an introduction to the world”

Elora nodded like she understood, though the words were still swirling in her head.

“Look, sit down, eh? I’ll grab us a drink of something and feed this one and we can talk more. If you need space, or you need to end things, that’s alright, I’ll understand. Just let me answer your questions first.”

Elora nodded and sat. She was still having trouble making words, but she’d always been a fast learner, and always tried to be an ally to the marginalised people around her, constantly learning and trying to do better and be better. Was this any different? Sure they might not want or need her to say anything publicly—presumably their secrecy is what kept them safe. But learning, understanding, supporting? That was what she did. The question, for her, wasn’t whether she could handle this new addition to her reality, it was whether, once she had all the information, she could actively be a part of it—be Jay’s partner.

Jay returned with two cans of soda and a bottle of milk and sat on an armchair, facing Elora, feeding the baby—who barely fussed at all.

Elora opened the can and took a deep drink, “OK then. I want to know everything.”

Jay smiled, “I will answer any question to the best of my ability.”

Elora smiled back, a glint of challenge in her eyes. “Good. Then I want to start with you.”

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Team Cuddles Writing Prompt #5

You've been dating a few months now & he decides it's time for you and his baby - 18 months old, he's told you - to meet.
Arriving at his home, he reaches into a basket and hands you a swaddled bundle.
When you look inside, you see...?


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