There were two of them, born just slightly apart. Identical, they emerged from Justine’s womb like twin butterflies from a chrysalis. Their skin was almost translucent, and it shone like mother of pearl underneath the pilled cotton baby blue receiving blankets (hospital issue). This was of course during the time in our American history that if a young girl got pregnant by an Irish lover, and if that Irish lover had no interest in marrying the fetching sixteen year old he had made feverish, selfish love to, the young girl had to go have the babies in seclusion. She had to watch as they were whisked away down a bright corridor that she wasn’t allowed to go down. She might get to hold the babies briefly, she might try and kiss their velvet foreheads, but a nurse or her mother might advise her that it wouldn’t be wise to linger on their beauty for long. It would probably be best to tuck the moment away in their hearts for later, when their bodies and minds had caught up with the breathlessness of it all, and even then, even then it would be a dark trip down that corridor.
If Justine loved something, she loved it to obsession. These fleeting twins were no exception. Years after the they were whisked away (she didn’t know if they died since they were early or were adopted by some beautiful barren couple, or if they lingered in some Gothic orphanage in Ohio), she saw them as perfect animated dolls, as angels, as vicious imps who taunted her for her youthful foolishness. Their eyes were shiny turquoise baubles, their lips tiny red rosebuds, and when she dreamt of them they spoke to her with clipped musical tones –
We loved you as you grew us
We missed you when we left
Your hair we’d love to touch
We loved you as you grew us
Their Irish-lover father Justine didn’t dream about at all. He was fuzzy to her now, his voice with its bristling accent fading away with each passing year. He was comely, and he made her feel all lit up inside with gold and white fireworks, and he now was gone. He had fallen for someone else, and she had gone to university and painted in bright and bold oils and slept on studio floors.
It’s like this: If Justine knew you, she loved you. Even if she didn’t particularly like you. She wanted to touch your hand, she wanted to look into your eyes so you’d know that even if you didn’t feel loved by anyone else in this world that at least she loved you. If you were spouting nonsense on street corners, your sign held high above your head, loathed by everyone in the community for disrupting their straw-hat-white-glove Sunday, she loved you. Imagine how she felt about those perfectly identical nymphs that she sang to for almost nine months? Those early birds who flew from her and flew to unknown kingdoms?
The twins were boys. They had wisps of blonde curls and blue veins close to surface of their pale skin. She had expected them to have raven hair, like hers, but they seemed to be the bas-relief of her. If she was able to keep them, people who saw them with herprobably wouldn’t think they were hers, anyway. She was so young, she might be confused for their nanny or their older sister.
While her daughter lowed and wept and grew tense with transition, Justine’s mother was with her. She sat quietly near her Justine’s head as she screamed and fought the arrival of those who had to immediately depart. In an act of defiance to her own nature, Justine’s mother stroked her daughter’s hair, and cooed a small lullaby as the first boy’s head crowned and the little prince screamed in protest of the cold Ohio air. Nurses whisked him away and cleaned him, and Justine’s eyes rolled back into her head as the other boy made his own way, taking his own time. When he finally stumbled through to this dimension, Justine’s mother gasped at how perfect he was, more beautiful than any of her five babies had even been (and they were something almost unworldly beautiful). Her eyes behind her glasses spilled over with the tears of a grandmother, of a mother, of a woman, of a human, and Justine sucked her lips and didn’t speak for two weeks – she had yelled and screamed and embarrassed herself in front of nurses and a medical doctor in vain. She couldn’t own the screams, just as she couldn’t own her own children.
The twins were warm. They relaxed into each of Justine’s arms and rooted for her breasts. She couldn’t offer any of her body to them so she offered every single beat of her heart.