The baby was due on a Sunday – on one of their lunch dates, in fact. At first Peter assumed they would cancel, but the other three seemed determined to carry on as usual and have their roast chicken. After all, Pixie had to eat, didn’t she? Peter said it was ridiculous, but the others overruled him, saying, ‘Oh, first babies never come on their due date.’
Well, this one did.
What is more, at the precise moment on that Sunday afternoon when the waters broke, Peter was alone in the house with Pixie! Maureen had just nipped out to the supermarket for milk, and Kevin had just nipped out to the hardware store for screws.
At first Peter thought Pixie had peed on the parquet flooring, which was embarrassing enough, but when he realised the awful truth he went into a flat panic. What if the baby came really quickly? What if he had to deliver it? He’d have to look at Pixie’s private parts!
Between contractions, Pixie did her best to reassure him, and when the others came back they were all so busy laughing at him that they forgot to time the intervals. Perhaps the laughter hurried things along too, because suddenly the baby was coming and there was no time to get to the hospital. So Star was delivered from the squatting position onto the dining room floor, with Maureen providing support on one side and Kevin on the other, while Peter phoned the midwife and fetched the towels and boiled the water and paced up and down like anything.
Star arrived intact, in possession of all her bits, and bawling in the accepted manner. She didn’t get too squashed on the way out, and the amateur birthing team did most of the right things. So when the midwife arrived she was quite pleased with them, though Peter could see she was disappointed to have missed the main event.
Feeling they’d done most of her job for her already, Kevin and Peter felt under no obligation to help deliver the afterbirth, and retired to the lounge with a bottle of single malt, to recover their strength.
‘Here’s to Star,’ said Kevin.
‘A Star is born,’ said Peter.
‘You had to say it, didn’t you?’
‘Somebody had to. Cheers.’
After the bonding experience of Star’s arrival, Peter and Maureen saw more of Kevin and Pixie than ever before. Maureen was always going to their place help out, and the family came round for meals two or three times a week.
In fact, Peter was seeing more of Pixie than he was comfortable with, because she turned out to be the sort of assertive breast-feeding mother who yanks out a breast at the drop of a hat and doesn’t even try to cover it up. Maureen said he would get used to it, and indeed it only took a month or two before he stopped breaking into a sweat every time she did it.
He also got used to Kevin changing nappies and bathing the baby. Which helped prepare him for Pixie’s announcement, that at the end of her maternity leave she would return to work, and Kevin would stay at home with Star. It made him squirm a bit, but he couldn’t fault the logic. And he did wonder if this was part of the reason that Pixie had chosen Kevin – because she wanted a child but preferred to go on working, and therefore needed a partner who was happy to stay at home. Nothing wrong with that, Peter told himself, and over the months he gradually came to believe it.
One Sunday afternoon when Star was about three months old, she and Peter were alone in the lounge – Peter in his armchair reading the Sunday papers, and Star in her bouncer. Pixie was taking a nap upstairs and Maureen was in the garden with Kevin, sowing vegetables.
Whenever he looked up Star seemed to be staring at him, but he assumed it must be coincidence. After all, he told himself, if her eyes are open, she’s got to be looking in some direction or other, hasn’t she?
He started reading an article on vaccination. It was all about the irresponsible parents who refuse to inoculate their children, thereby putting the lives of other children at risk.
‘Bah!’ said Star. Peter looked up. She was still looking in his direction.
‘Bah!’ she repeated, with greater emphasis.
‘That’s right, little Star. You tell them!’ said Peter, giving positive reinforcement.
‘Exactly right. That’s what I always say.’
She was now bouncing up and down quite energetically.
‘What are you trying to say, little Star? Eh? What are you trying to tell your Granddad?’
As if in response, she stopped bouncing and opened her eyes really wide, staring straight at him.
And in his head, clear as day, Peter heard the words, ‘It’s not true.’
‘What’s not true?’ The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them.
‘What you’re reading. It’s a lie.’
They stared at each other in silence for what seemed an eternity. Then Star’s eyes glazed over and she fell asleep.
‘She must be coming up to her first vaccinations soon, mustn’t she?’ said Maureen, one Wednesday evening. I can’t remember when they do them nowadays.’
Kevin and Pixie exchanged one of their special looks, which Peter was beginning to interpret as, ‘Are you going to handle this or shall I?’ And Kevin drew the short straw.
‘Actually, we’ve been reading a lot about vaccination,’ said Kevin. ‘We’ve looked at the issue from all angles and we’ve thought about it long and hard and…’ And here he took a deep breath, ‘… we’ve decided not to vaccinate Star.’
‘Oh, aye,’ said Peter.
‘Now I know what you’re going to say, Dad… What did you say?’
‘I didn’t say anything.’
‘I thought you said something.’
‘He said, “Oh, aye,”’ said Maureen.
‘Oh,’ said Kevin, the wind taken out of his sails.
‘We thought you might be upset,’ said Pixie.
‘What, me?’ said Peter.
‘Yes, we thought you would think we were being irresponsible.’
‘Well, as it happens I’ve been doing a bit of research on vaccinations myself,’ said Peter. ‘On the Internet, you know. And basically it depends who you listen to. Of course, the medical establishment is very strongly pro. Very strongly pro indeed. But the medical research has been funded by the pharmaceutical companies, and they make the vaccines, so they’ve got a vested interest, and that seems a bit dodgy to me. And on the other hand there are serious questions about vaccine effectiveness and toxic content, and thousands of successful lawsuits for vaccine damage.
‘So to be honest, I’m just glad it’s not me that has to decide. You’re the parents, it’s your decision. That’s my view.’
There was astonished silence for a few moments.
‘Well,’ said Maureen, finally. ‘Hark at you!’
‘Being all reasonable and seeing both sides.’
‘Why not? I’m a reasonable man, Maureen.’
And everybody laughed.
‘What are you laughing at?’ asked Peter, and they laughed even more.
‘Look, Star’s laughing too!’ said Kevin.
Peter turned to look, and Star was chuckling away while looking straight at him. She closed one eye and opened it again.
‘She’s winking!’ cried Pixie. ‘She’s winking at Dad!’ And they practically wet themselves.
It was a particularly warm and sunny Sunday afternoon a few weeks later. Maureen came into the lounge and picked Star up. ‘Come along with me, poppet. We’ll go and do some gardening together.’
‘Ah! Ah! Ah!’ said Star, reaching out to Peter.
‘Granddad’s reading the paper, darling, he doesn’t want to play.’
As Maureen carried her out of the French doors, Star began to wail.
‘Oh dear, what’s the matter?’
‘Ah! Ah! Ah!’ cried Star, leaning back into the room.
‘You want to stay with Granddad?… Oh well, if that’s what you want. Though I don’t know why – he doesn’t pay you any attention. Look at him, reading the paper. What a silly man, not to want to play with Star. He’s a silly man, isn’t he? Isn’t he? Eh? Eh?’
And she tickled Star until she chuckled obligingly, though her eyes remained fixed on Peter. So Maureen put her back in the bouncer and left them to it.
Peter looked up, to find Star staring at him.
‘Well, little Star. Any comments on the Sunday paper?’
‘Now, let’s see. There’s an editorial on Russian aggression in the Baltic.’
‘So you don’t agree with that, then?’
‘How about this one? An article debunking Homeopathy.’
‘Not keen on that one, then. Okay, so what’s your take on these recent terrorist attacks?
‘Per-babbie-ooper-boo. Ey-ah-bah! Bibibibibah!’ accompanied by vigorous bouncing.
‘Well, now. Can you make that a bit clearer for your old Granddad?’
Star stopped bouncing and opened her eyes wide, and Peter heard the words in his head as clear as the first time.
‘So who’s doing it?’
‘Not terrorists, then, sweetie?’
‘The terrorists work for the Cabal.’
‘Who are you talking to, Dad?’ asked Kevin, stepping through the French doors.
‘Oh, hello Kevin. Just venting my spleen on this stupid journalist.’
‘But you just called him “sweetie”.’
‘Did I? Must be losing my marbles.’
Star’s commentary on the contents of the newspapers became a regular feature of Sunday afternoons. And to Peter’s mind the strangest thing about it all was his own response. Somehow he’d come to accept – with hardly any resistance at all – that this little baby was indeed a telepath with access to higher wisdom and knowledge. This was so foreign to his world view and experience that it would surely have made more sense to accept that he was indeed losing his marbles, and hand himself over to the proper authorities.
So why hadn’t he resisted? Maybe because Star was so unthreatening. Maybe because no one else knew it was going on, and in the last resort he could just deny everything. And anyway, it was interesting. And fun. So whatever the reason, he soon forgot how weird it all was.
At first he was expecting Kevin and Pixie to report similar experiences, but they didn’t. Nor did they treat Star as anything other than a normal baby. So she seemed to have singled him out, which was as strange as anything else. If it was true that these children had come into the world to help transform it, why pick on him? Still, he wasn’t going to complain.
In the evenings he spent quite a bit of time on the Internet, researching the subject matter of the latest Sunday afternoon’s exchange, and in this way he quickly got up to speed with the true global situation, as opposed to the one presented in the mainstream media.
But even in the mainstream media, the truth was starting to come out…
‘Between you and me, Star,’ he said one Sunday afternoon, ‘there’s something in the paper that I’m dreading your Dad getting hold of. New evidence about 9/11, implicating all the people he used to go on about – the Bush administration, the Israelis, the Saudis. It’s going to really set him off. And all the other Conspiracy Theorists, too.’
Star was sitting very still in her bouncer, watching him intently.
‘Any thoughts, little one?’
The blue eyes widened, and the words appeared in Peter’s head.
‘Tell him about it. Tell him he was right.’
‘Yes. Say you owe him an apology.’
‘You didn’t look at the evidence.’
‘Ah. Maybe you’re right, at that.’
Half an hour later, Maureen and Kevin came in from the garden. Pixie was still asleep upstairs. Maureen went to put the kettle on, and as Kevin entered the lounge, Peter held out the paper to him.
‘Something you might be interested in,’ he said.
‘Oh, right,’ said Kevin, taking it and sitting down. ‘Blimey,’ he said after a minute. ‘I don’t believe it,’ he added after another. And finally, ‘My God. It’s all coming out. At last,’ and looked up at his father.
Peter glanced at Star. Her eyes were on him, too.
‘The thing is, Kevin,’ Peter began, clearing his throat, ‘I think I owe you an apology…’
‘Oh Dad, don’t worry about that.’
‘…Only, the truth is, I never looked at the evidence before today. Like a bloody idiot, I trusted the BBC instead.’
Kevin gave a snort of laughter.
‘And I’m sorry,’ Peter continued. ‘Because you were right, Kevin. You were right, and I was wrong.’
What took Peter by surprise was the huge relief he felt in saying it. In fact, it was so overwhelming that he could feel his eyes becoming wet, and had to blink rapidly to clear them.
‘Thanks, Dad,’ said Kevin. ‘I appreciate that.’
Final part soon.
© Sue J Davis 2015
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