An eternity passed while Molly waited for Esther to pick up the phone. Her mother’s voice came from the three thousand miles distance. It was expectant, expectant as though Esther was waiting for her call.
“Mom, something happened.” In speaking the words, she realized she would relive the horror of it all over again. Her words pushed out in gasps as she walked through the moments of her discovery, when she woke, at dawn, knowing something had to be wrong. Stella did not cry out for her feeding, the cool breeze on her breast as it wept the milk awakened her.
“Mom,” she started again. “Mom, Stella stopped breathing. Sometime during the night, after her ten o’clock feeding, she went right back to sleep and then when I woke to feed her this morning she was gone.”
She expected wailing or recrimination, but Esther went inside herself as she did when Molly’s father died. “Did you call emergency paramedics?” Mercifully Esther was asking questions, leaving Molly to answer monosyllabically. She answered alternatively, yes she had or, no they could not resuscitate her or yes, they thought it was SIDS. She didn’t tell her that she refused to let them take her baby away, that it took three strong men besides Javier before she relinquished her daughter. That for a while, they let her sit rocking Stella, bundled in the softest of her blankets, that she crooned to her over and over, my pretty girl, my pretty girl until there was no breath left in her either. She didn’t tell Esther that she let her go only after they agreed to her written conditions for an autopsy on the forms and initialed them; that the coroner would look at all other means to a diagnosis, would take blood and other samples to arrive at what seemed obvious, then and only then would she let them take her away.
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