Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here.
Read Part 3 here.
The warm, still-slimy figure on Mary’s chest nuzzled into her skin. The baby’s eyes were open. Mary’s hands held her close. This was her child. The pain was muted by this tiny, glorious person: her daughter.
Paul finished washing his hands and returned. “She looks healthy, Mary. You’ll have a few more minutes, but then I’ll need to take her for a few tests. Do you want me to let James know?”
Mary nodded at Paul’s words, but her eyes never left that head full of dark hair. And blue eyes. Her daughter had blue eyes. Mary’s hand went to stroke that little face. Though still a touch damp, the girl was so warm. Mary cradled her and closed her eyes, breathing in her child’s scent.
The door chimed, and Paul let James in. He smiled at the girl. “Mary. Paul told me you’d given birth. Are you sure you want me here, now? It’s still so soon. If you need to rest –“
Mary shook held up a hand. “Yes, I’m exhausted. My rest can wait. This is more important.”
James grinned ear to ear. “If you want it done now, absolutely.”
James turned to the sink, taking a small bowl out of a case he’d brought. The water ran for a moment, and then he turned back. He glanced at Paul. “Would you be willing to serve as a witness?”
The doctor nodded. “Of course.”
James reached down and caressed the girl’s head. “Have you named her?”
“Mary Bala, you do a God-pleasing thing to bring this child to the waters of holy baptism. Through these waters, united with God’s promise in his Word, God drowns Philia’s sinful nature and raises her with Christ. The promise creates faith, through which God grants blessings of forgiveness and eternal life. Then, Philia will be not only your daughter, but your sister as well.” James dipped his hand into the bowl. “Philia, I baptize you in the name of the Father.” Some water sprinkled on the girl’s head. She blinked. “And of the Son.” Some more water, and now she looked unhappy. “And of the Holy Spirit.”
Philia burst into tears.
Paul handed Mary a dry towel, and she patted Philia’s head lightly.
James led a prayer, and then Paul claimed the child for some testing. “Routine. Nothing to worry about.” He stepped away. There would be much to worry about in coming days, but not now. Not today.
James pulled up a stool and sat next to Mary’s bed. “How are you?”
“Are you asking as ship’s psychologist or as my pastor?”
“Both, though more as minister.” He took Mary’s hand. “You went through a lot of pain just now.”
James sighed. “You’re exhausted. You should sleep.”
“All right. Tell everyone they can meet Philia soon.”
The minister stood. “I will. With joy.”
He let himself out. First stop would be the lounge. At this time of day, there was sure to be plenty of people there. As he walked in, every head turned his way. The smaller the crew, the faster word spread. He announced, “Mom and baby are both doing fine. The captain had a girl, named Philia. I didn’t ask about the weight or the length, you’ll have to get that info later.”
Michelle and Heather, two of the pilots, were clearly disappointed, but most of the men were pleased with the report. At the bar, Trent raised his beer bottle in toast. Those who had drinks joined him. Not a few of the crew twittered about a party for the captain to celebrate. Trent should have joined in. It was good that there was new life on board, but he couldn’t.
Trent turned away from the crowd and drank deeply. He had failed. If it wasn’t for him, the captain would never have had to go through all this pain. The uncertainty. If only he’d rallied the crew faster after the initial attack. If only he’d started the counter-attack sooner. If only he’d found her more quickly.
He had failed Mary, and he’d seen visible evidence of it for a while now. And soon he’d likely see a baby every day: a baby that reminded him of his failure.
He set down the empty bottle, letting glass strike glass. Now he was failing again. Except this time, he was doing it purposefully.
Mary wanted to see the face of the father of her child. Of Philia. She wanted to prove to herself that she was strong enough to do it. Trent understood that, even if she hadn’t told him that was her reason. But he couldn’t even provide an image for her. And he certainly couldn’t tell her how the father of her child had died, though he knew how, and by whom.
Around Trent, celebration continued. He could not join in. He looked beyond. Philia was doomed to die. They weren’t back to Earth yet. There was no way she’d be able to hold out long enough.
The captain had been hurt because he hadn’t been fast enough. And now her child would die, because he hadn’t been there to prevent her abuse in the first place.
Trent ordered another beer.
Read Part 5 here.
Read Part 6 here.
Read Part 7 here.
Read Part 8 here.