Caleb Smiled

By Denise Drake

The baby was crying, again.

Susan sat quietly on the edge of her bed, hands folded in her lap, head bowed. She didn’t even glance at the crib this time. She knew there was nothing she could do to stop it. A single tear escaped, traveling down her face to the tip of her nose. It paused briefly before landing silently on her arm. She didn’t notice.

Today Caleb was nine months old. She had listened to his wails, unable to calm him, every single day for nine months. She had only a vague recollection of what life was like before Caleb.

The doctors all thought she was insane. They hadn’t told her that directly, but she saw the looks they exchanged when she brought the boy in yet again, demanding they find a reason for his incessant cries. She heard the murmurs from behind the desk, saw the nurses roll their eyes. And why wouldn’t they think that? He never shed a single tear in front of anyone but her, just watched them soberly as they poked, prodded, and tested. The results were always the same; he was a perfectly healthy baby boy.

She wouldn’t go back. She knew what was wrong now.

He hated her.

Her vision was blurred as she looked at the empty pill bottle on the dresser. Beside it, the letter addressed to her best friend. She had made arrangements earlier for her to stop by, so she knew it would be found in a few hours. She was getting sleepy; it was almost time.

With difficulty, she raised herself off the bed. She hoped she didn’t wait too long. There was one more thing she wanted to do, had to do.

Slowly, yet determined, she walked over to the crib. She barely heard the cries as she gazed at him. A torrent of emotions fought within her as she stood over the child… her only son. Sorrow, regret, but most of all love. Pure love.

Hands shaking, she caressed his cheeks. She leaned down and gently kissed his forehead, her lips lingering as she inhaled his scent, her tears flowing.

“I love you, Caleb,” she whispered.

His screams grew louder.

She kissed him once more, then felt her knees buckle. Sliding to the floor, she wondered if she could make it back to the bed. The wooden floor was cool on her cheek, and she was tempted to stay, but she could not. She had planned this carefully. It had to be perfect.

Dragging herself the few feet to the bed, she drew on her last reserve of strength to pull herself up. As she settled into her pillow, she drifted to sleep.

Her breathing slowed, and five minutes after closing her eyes her body shuddered. It was over.

At that moment, the room became quiet.

For the first time in nine months, Caleb smiled.

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