Keep in mind that I refer to the main character as "the baby" because he hasn't been named yet. I had originally started with a name his birth mother intended for him, but deleted that reference because some thought it was too confusing.
How much longer do I have to stay here? The baby thought lying in his clear, plastic hospital bed, which was more like a box with no lid. The bright lights, noises, and cold air no longer bothered him, but he deeply missed his mother’s presence. Her voice and thoughts comforted him. Now he felt disconnected from everything – completely alone.
He recalled memories his mother had unknowingly shared over the past months. After she decided to keep him, she looked at different formulas promising herself, nobody’s ever going to bite down on my tits again. As their ability to communicate progressed and their bond formed, she began to reconsider nursing him. He had wondered what it would be like to taste. Unfortunately, some of the women caring for him did not really feed him. They simply hooked the bottle to a small machine that forced the formula through a tube running into his nose and down his throat - a very uncomfortable experience. Fortunately, some of the hospital employees showed him more compassion. They sat with him, fed him, and one or two even sang to him. He listened to their songs of sorrow over his recent loss.
“Poor thing,” one said picking him up for an evening feeding. “All of the others have parents come to see them while they’re here. Someone to say they’re loved, but not you. Well, as long as you’re here, I’ll be your friend.” Her voice was soft and soothing and she had a tone that reminded him of his mother. Despite the affection she showed, the baby refused to cooperate. He did not trust this woman. The only person he trusted was his mother, but he had lost her.
He needed desperately to communicate with someone, but he had not learned how to use his body for anything more than sucking from a bottle and other bodily functions. The latter were still automatic, unfortunately. Listening to the words of others without their thoughts was no way to build trust in Trevor’s opinion. He missed his mother and the comfort of her womb where such foreign and uncomfortable actions were not necessary.
Why can’t I hear others? Why can’t they hear me? He thought, referring to the mental communication he shared with his mother, and then he remembered what his mother said before they were separated. She did not know if their telepathic bond would remain. The child believed that they would, not only because of their bond, but because he heard one of her attackers, so he knew he could hear thoughts other than his mother’s. For a moment, he touched another mind. Now he needed to know how he did it.
If I can control that, People can’t hurt me like they hurt Mommy. He remembered things his mother said and thought. She was always afraid others would come for her. He did not know which scared her more, fear for her own life, or fear for the baby – fear for him.
Those fears came from memories of his birth father. Through his mother’s eyes, he had seen the man point a weapon at her. He felt her fear and he relived it in her nightmares. He hated the man for the pain and fear his mother went through. He promised himself never to consider that man his father.
He did not know how long he had been in the NICU when he received a new visitor. An older woman approached and picked him up. The brown-haired woman holding him had grey lines in her hair and wore a medium-length skirt and blouse that told the child she was not a doctor or nurse. So who was she? He continued struggling.
“Well, aren’t you just beautiful,” she said to him before turning to another woman wearing medical scrubs and a long white coat. “When do you expect to discharge the baby, doctor?”
“Hopefully in a couple of days,” the doctor replied. “He was born slightly premature under traumatic conditions. At first, he seemed to have difficulties eating. We have to make certain he can take in enough nourishment on his own before discharging him.”
“Are there any long-term problems I should know about?” the woman asked. “I have a couple ready to adopt him already lined up, but they will need to know about any health risks.”
“All things considered, he’s in good health,” the doctor said. “He seems very aware of his surroundings and curious. Some of the nurses have said he watches them and tries to make eye contact more than other infants.”
Well at least they notice I’m paying attention, he thought. However, “curious” would not have been the term he used. He was suspicious of anybody who interacted with him. Why not? I’ve got no reason to trust them.
“The couple at the top of the list wanted to know if the baby has a name,” the woman said returning him to his bed.
“No,” the doctor said. “The mother passed away just after he was born, so she did not have a chance to name him.”
Mommy called me Trevor…Trevor Masters!
“Could I bring them to see him tomorrow?”
The baby had no sense of time since losing his mother. The closest reference he had were feedings and changings, but it was easy to lose track, so he did not know how much time had passed when the old woman returned with two more people – a man with thinning hair dressed in a business suit and a woman with long, red hair wearing a light blue blouse and navy skirt. As the woman leaned over, a tear fell from her cheek onto the baby’s.
“I’m sorry,” she said, slightly choked up. She looked to the man and other woman. “He’s beautiful.”
“And observant, Mrs. Taylor,” the other woman said.
“Ms. Stevens, I’ve told you to please call me Angie,” the red haired woman said. “Can I hold him?”
An attending nurse nodded and he watched Angie Taylor reached in and lift him.
“Hello precious,” Angie said cradling him in her arms. “Would you like to come home with me?
Who are you? he wondered, staring at her nervously. You aren’t a nurse or doctor.
Swaying gently, she turned to her husband, “Ted, he looks like my grandfather.”
Ted’s eyes moved from his wife to the child she held, tilting his head with a wrinkled brow.
“Take my word for it sweetheart,” she said. Then she looked down to the baby and whispered, “Don’t worry sweetie, Daddy’s only seen pictures of Grandpa Mark.”
Daddy? the baby thought. His mother had warned him about someone called that.
“Can I ask what name you were thinking of?” Ms. Stevens asked.
Angie leaned over to her husband and whispered something in his ear. Ted looked surprised as he pulled back. “That’s not what we talked about,” he said. “Are you sure?”
Angie’s lips turned pouty as she raised the baby up to gently press his cheek against hers, “Twust me Daddy,” she said in a baby-voice. “He’s the spitting image.”
“All right then.”
Angie lowered the baby, cradling him against her ample bosom. Her eyes fixed on his. “Marcus,” she said. “Marcus Ulysses
But Mommy called me Trevor, he thought and started screaming.
Angie bounced him lightly making a shushing sound. Ted approached and said, “Let me try.”
“Are you sure, he seems a little grumpy,” Angie replied.
“Trial by fire,” Ted said smiling. “It’s not going to get easier.”
She passed him over to Ted, who held the newborn a little clumsy at first, but after a slight hand adjustment looked more comfortable.
“Go ahead, kiddo,” he said. “Believe it or not, I know how you feel.” I was adopted as an infant, too, so I really do understand what you’ll go through. You’ll never be anything less than my son.
The cries stopped as this voice echoed in the baby’s mind, the first voice he had sensed since his mother’s death. Despite her fear of a man called Daddy, the baby found the strange man’s voice soothing, trustworthy.
“It seems like you’re a natural,” a nurse said.
“I guess so,” Ted replied.
Trevor thought about his promise to his mother. Daddy scared you, but this man isn’t the same. I won’t forget you.
“Angie, when the baby is discharged from care, we can arrange for you and Ted to care for him as foster parents,” Mrs. Stevens explained.
“How long will that take?” Angie asked.
“I don’t know for certain. The authorities are searching for any other family. If none are found, we can move forward with adoption proceedings.”
“What do you think, buddy?” Ted asked looking at the baby. “Would you like to come home with us?”
“Look,” Angie said sweetly. “He’s smiling.”
“That’s not really a smile,” the nurse said. “I’ve seen that look before. He’s straining.”“Straining to what?” Ted asked. Sniffing the air, he did not need a response.