Word Count 450
How The Future Comes
Portsmouth, rented house, not far from the dockside, 4:40 am by the clock down the hall.
“Oh God--” his voice was rough and his head rolled on the pillow. He resisted the urge to cover his ears.
“Again so soon--” Saphronia said. The sound was not loud, but it was unrelenting.
“I'll get her—maybe I can--” Christopher said.
“No. She's hungry I can hear it. And I won't be able to sleep now anyway. My front is all wet again. ”
Dawn had come. Saphronia was already sitting up. her hair was sticking up on one side and stuck to her mouth on the other. The front of her shift was stained and she smelled of milk. Christopher Cleveland shivered as she left the bed.
The little cradle was close to the hearth-- not too close though. They had spent 20 minutes arguing like fools over how close was safe.
The room was in shadow. He let his eyes close in a long blink. He knew when she bent over the cradle and took the little bundle up though. The sound stopped instantly, and the quiet was exquisite. And now he could hear the creak of the rocking chair, (a grand chair, a gift from the Pellews.)
He heard Saphronia murmur something, something indistinct, and tiny sounds the sounds of cloth and skin.
Sleep was rising again to claim him-- he forced it down. His feet were cold against the floor. A moment of cold splashing was enough. He took the blanket from the bed, it was warm against his arm. He would not need it. It was day, he was up.
The light was filtering in the window now, he could see the way her shift sagged, worn and yellowed, and her skin, clean beneath. He saw the way she pressed down with her thumb on the swell of her breast to make a breathing space for the world's tiniest nose.
He set the cup where she would be able to reach it.
“I got your water,” Christoper Cleveland said.
“Thank you,” her voice was small and hoarse.
She brought her eyes to his, but in a moment they were both looking at the baby again. He took a great draft of a look, the shape, the smell, the heat of them, would have to hold him all day at the dockyard: Saphronia's bent head and luminous breast, the hem of her shift, the arch of her foot against the cold floor, and the baby, drinking with the enthusiasm of a coal heaver.
“Here now,” Cleveland said, and he tucked the blanket over them both, his girls.