Last Week’s SS- Welcome to the World
At the start of the contractions, my parents closed up their wagon and headed to the hospital. They received questionable looks at first, and were nearly refused access. But when they produced the purse of gold that they had amassed over the past months, they were then welcomed warmly.
The hospital was the nicest place my parents had ever stepped into. The tiles that lined the floors glittered with flecks of precious stones. The curtains in the birthing suite were made of silk and available in any color requested. The sheets were of a high thread count, and the pillows stuffed with duck down.
Merchants were not allowed into the skyscrapers that made up the city. They had to keep to themselves and impose their presence on the public as little as possible. They could not taunt or entice the passersby’s, but were only allowed to interact with them upon their initiation.
As happy as they may have been to welcome me into the world, it was this moment, the treatment as if they were first class citizens, the view from their room, the food and service, that was the happiest they had ever been.
My mother felt almost nothing as I burst into existence. She was given the finest of drugs that made the whole experience feel full of light and love. The labor was the greatest of bliss for her.
The whole process took less than an hour. I was born exactly at noon. Not a moment before, not a second after. Labor was quickened with drugs and technology. They say in the woods that things progress naturally and can take more than a day from the onset of labor to birth. Also that forest women experience the most terrible pain imaginable. I can understand why my parents would want a city birth.
In truth, the saving and scrimping, the desire for me to be born within the city limits, was not for me at all. True, they wanted me to have a destiny. Yet, they wanted that destiny for themselves. The possibility existed, though slim, that I could be dealt a card that would allow them to continue this life of luxury that they had now received a small taste of. They were truly disappointed when I got my card.
My father had to leave my mother for the evening and take his wears back across the bridge before nightfall. I’m told that she held me all night, deep in love. However, this may be something that Victoria lied to me about out of kindness.
The next day, when my father returned, he found my mother sobbing, unwilling to swaddle me. In the night, while he was away, my mother received a visit from the High Priestess.
She is said to be a beautiful woman, although nobody knows for sure. She dresses all in white, and keeps her face covered by a thick veil. Though her age is undeterminable, she commands herself with wisdom and exudes knowledge. She understands the world in a way that none other do.
She is the one who deals the cards.
Her determinations are final, and her judgment is largely unquestioned. So when she came, in the dead of night, exactly twelve hours after my birth, to deliver my destiny, my mother knew it was serious.
Excited at first, though disappointed that her husband wasn’t present, she took the card eagerly. Upon turning it over to reveal the image on the other side, she dropped it to the floor and looked as if she was about to weep. Luckily, I was not in her arms at the time, or I may have met the same fate as the slip.
My mother, hopes shattered, experienced the stages of grief out of order. First there was anger. She cursed the woman, saying words that should never be said in polite company, much less to a holy being. She was upset that the future she had worked so hard for and the sacrifices that she and my father had made to get to this place were wasted.
Then she attempted bargaining. She begged the woman, pleaded, even tried to barter, but the High Priestess could not be swayed. She said not a word, yet somehow implied that this is how it was, and how it shall always be. Turning away from my mother, who was transitioning rapidly, the Priestess left, perhaps to deliver more destinies’ to those with whom I share a birthday.
My mother spiraled into denial and fear together. She attempted destroy the card. No destiny had to be better than the one I was handed. She hoped to buy a new one on the black market somehow. Even if it was the lowest destiny, it had to be better. She strained to rip the card up, but it would not tear. She tried to set it on fire, but it would not burn. She considered throwing it out, but it was not safe to do it here. Even if she did rid herself of the physical evidence, word would get out. Secrets always did.
Finally, at long last, all she was left with was acceptance. Her daughter, her flesh and blood, her only tether to this world, would not last for long. This fate, this destiny that I had been dealt, was not one anyone else would lift from me. No one wanted to purchase such a thing, no one would even consent to being paid to take it on. It was my burden alone to bear.
My father went through a process of his own. Upon hearing the bad news, he punched a wall, set off an alarm, and nearly wound up imprisoned for creating a disturbance. Lying about why he was upset, and swearing it would never happen again, he was left alone.
This was, after all, a city hospital, and all the staff knew about these two was that they were able to afford it. That was enough. It helped that the nurse working the morning shift had made it her mission to linger a hand upon my father whenever possible.
Unsure of how to proceed, my mother lied as best she could to the nurses about my destiny. She produced her own card to pass off as mine. It was a card from the house of Coins, implying the fate of a merchant. This worked on the nurse, who then regarding them with far less respect. Suddenly, my father’s clothes and the pair’s lack of finery made sense to her.
While a working class woman herself, she was a native. Her scrubs were made of only the finest materials, and were designed to show off her flattering figure rather than hide it. Her flowing blond hair was woven with thin strands of sparkling platinum, and she wore a permanent necklace, the stones embedded in her skin. Status was everything here, and the more dazzle, the better.
The afternoon nurse was older and wiser. She could tell that the card my mother offered was aged and untrue. When my mother refused to reveal the true card, the hospital staff searched the room. During the commotion, my parents grabbed me, and anything else they could easily steal from the now disorganized room, and snuck out.
The typical hospital stay for a birth is no less than two days. My mother had spent so many months dreaming of this place. But now, little more than a day into her vacation from her life and status, she had to leave. I know that she resented that sacrifice. With a life as hard as hers, any bit of better is hard to give up for any reason, especially when so much is taken away at once.
But she saved my life that day.