Faith in the Baby Aisle~ by Crunch

Everywhere was the smell of baby powder and breast milk. It lingered in the air like the sparkling amber perfume her mother splashed on by the gallon each Friday night- her date night- though this smell was sweeter. It was the smell that trailed along in a milky cloud behind those kind of women.

Women who had husbands- husbands who yelled at them for doing the laundry in their delicate conditions, who stopped by Toys R Us on the way back from the store to pick up tiny baseball gloves and china doll tee-shirts that said "Daddy's Boy", who brought cases of cigars and sonograms to work.

It belonged to women who's friends squealed at the "good news" and threw baby showers with blue and green and pink balloons, and shared their own baby stories over pints of ice cream.

Women who's own mothers, wrinkled and threaded with silver in their mounting age, hugged their daughters with tears of joys glimmering in the backs of their eyes because they would finally be Grandmas, and hear the pitter patter of little feet. Women with mothers like these, they were the ones who got to smell like baby powder and breast milk. But not Electra.

Those other women would know their way around the baby aisle of Price Choppers, with a sixth sense that all females inevitably gained when they were with child. But not Electra.

Electra was lost in a soaring sea of baby seats and plastic bathtubs, of bottles and bassinets, bibs with little dancing teddy bears, potty chairs and stuffed animals piled higher than you could shake a stick at, and everywhere she looked, stacks and packages and crates of receiving blankets.

And what were receiving blankets anyways? Electra sure didn't know, but they were right there in front of her, smack in the middle of the shelves, on sale for $3.99 a dozen, so they must be important. Certainly any women in the world with half a brain (and that was every woman except for herself) knew exactly what a receiving blanket was, and just exactly how to used it.

But there hadn't been anything about them in the book she'd slipped from the library, buried under a mountain of paperbacks with strange names like Gone with the Wind, and The Internet for Dummies. There'd been more than ten books in all, but that librarian must have been psychic, because her beady eyes all squinted up behind sharp tortoiseshell spectacles had searched out that baby book from among the rabble. Then they'd flashed to Electra's face as quick as heat lightning, flickering away a second later, but leaving her cheeks scorched just the same.

Yes, the librarian had seen straight through her, exactly like the bag lady at the Wal-Mart where she'd gone to buy the pregnancy test, along with whatever candy bars and electric toothbrushes and TV Guides had been handy at the check-out counter. Just like the cashier at the maternity store where she'd gone to browse for a blouse that would hide her blossoming stomach with out looking too mother-ish. Of course, being a maternity store, she couldn't very well disguise her purchases in a jumble of candy and toothbrushes, so she'd slipped out as quietly as she'd slipped in, with the cashier's eyes burning a hole in her back all the way.

But the book and the evil psychic librarian encounter had been all for naught, because she'd read that thing from back to front, slipped in between the stylish pages of Vanity Fair, of course, and it hadn't said anything about a receiving blanket. She figured she'd better ask a sales person, because surely a baby who grew up with one would be happier and healthier and smarter and far more beautiful than one who grew up without. If she could only get up the courage to hunt down one of the crimson vested employees. but of course, she couldn't. She couldn't the last three visits, and she couldn't now. Perhaps in another month.

Just as she reached a hand towards the nearest package of blankets, tracing her finger over the velvety warmth of yellow ducks and pink elephants, a sugary voice beside her ear said "Excuse me, miss."

Electra shrunk backwards, startled and shame faced, as a women with wiry, nut brown hair threaded with gray, twinkling blue eyes and a stomach far larger then hers reached across her chest for a bright pink package of diapers. Though she wouldn't have dared to meet the woman's eyes, she could feel the blistering stare boring into her, scanning her from head to toe like the green laser that scanned for prices at the check-out counter- the one she tried to stay away from because she'd read in Everyday Woman that it could hurt babies- coming to rest on her stomach.

"Sorry." Electra mumbled in a splintered voice and reeled away. This had been a mistake, she knew, but she could fix it, just like she always did. She could scurry from this forbidden aisle and never come back, not for days and days until she was sure the pregnant women in front of her had left the store, gone back to her balloons and her cigars and her wrinkled mother.

"Faith." Electra paused on a dime, her plans for escape foiled now that she'd been spoken to, but the blue-eyed lady didn't seem to notice, just smiled wistfully and cradled her diapers. "That's what I'm naming the baby, darlin'. Faith Eliza DeWittle. Has a nice ring, don't you think? How about you?"

"My name's Electra."

"No, not yours, darlin', the baby's." Electra started like a bird on a livewire. "Haven't thought of one yet?"

"I'm not. I mean. me, pregnant. I'm not." She gasped out by way of explanation. The blue-eyed lady laughed.

"Oh, I didn't mean you were, darlin'! I didn't think that! Why, you can't be a day over sixteen! But who ever you're buying for- you give em' my best wishes, alright? And you kiss that sweet little baby for me, hmm?" Electra nodded, and the woman left with her bright pink bundle.

Sixteen and pregnant.

Pregnant.

I'm pregnant.

I'm pregnant with a sweet little baby.

Electra gave a silvery ghost of a smile and placed a hand on her stomach, lowered her eyes, and left the baby aisle.

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M'eh.. I'd like to enter it in a contest, so I said to myself, why not post it, myself? And so I did. feel free to flame? Critique/ laugh uproariously? Much thanks!