Security saw her as soon as she came in. How could he not? The store was nearly empty; it was just before closing time. She nearly waddled in the way heavily pregnant women do, sizing up the bedroom showcases as though looking at an enemy. Security watched her walk through the displays, running her hands over the bedspreads, opening bedside table drawers, turning lamps on then off. She tried first one bed, then the other. Staff came up to her, wanting to make a quick profit then get her out of there as soon as possible.
She wasn’t going anywhere.
It had gone on for two months now. She would toddle in around 10 minutes ‘til close, find a bed towards the back of the store, near to where Security sat in his office, and fall asleep on it until the time came for him to wake her up. He would watch her silently, trying to figure out why she kept coming here. Up close, he could see the shadowy moons under her eyes; he could feel a tiredness that seemed almost overwhelming. It didn’t stop him from noticing she was lovely, and that she wore no wedding ring. She seemed sad and he badly wanted to help her, to alleviate some of her sorrow, but he wasn’t the sort of man who cured the problems of lonely women. He wasn’t handsome, or all that smart. Security was his name – his mother had named him for the gift she said he had given her – and now it was his job. He wasn’t the sort of man who entered a woman’s life in a mysterious and winning way, the way some men seemed to. So he watched her, watched her as she prowled through the aisles, never choosing the same bed twice, largely left alone by the staff now as they’d all become used to the bizarre pregnant lady who fell asleep in their store. He watched her though, and he saw that she held everything close to her chest, as though she had some cards she didn’t want anybody to see.
On this day though, things would be different. She had found a bed, near the back of the store and she lay down on it. She felt the cushioning beneath her back, felt the rough threads under her fingers as she traced lazy circles on the duvet. She decided this would be the place where she would spend the next hour. One of the staff members caught Security’s attention from across the store – pointing at the person next to them – a woman in a suit, pointing at the pregnant lady, then miming her own throat being cut. Security recognised the woman in the suit as Comfort Maver, the ironically named area manager who smacked fear into the hearts of several employees with her surprise inspections. Comfort claimed it was to ensure the smooth running of her company, but they knew better. These visits more often than not served to cut staff by at least two in any given store, and no one wanted to lose their job today.
Security approached the sleeping woman, tentatively as always. He had been waking her up for two months now, just before he left the store for the night. He would touch her lightly on the shoulder, and she would sit up quickly, dazed and happy, for a brief moment. Then a cloud would come over her and her shoulders would wilt slightly, like a flower who has been in the sun for too long. He would gesture to her to advance toward the doors. She never said anything, just blinked a few times, nodded, and left the store a little before him. He had yet to say a word to her.
“Miss? Excuse me, Miss? You need to leave.” The light tap on the shoulder didn’t seem to be working today. She was in a deep sleep. This close he could see the faint purple tracings of the veins on her eyelids, the slightly parted mouth with each breath she took. He felt a quietness come over himself as he watched her, almost as though he was trespassing on some miracle about to happen.
Suddenly, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and without turning around, he knew. Comfort was there.
“What the hell is going on here?”
The sleeping lady sat up so quickly she might have been spring-loaded. Comfort’s voice did that to most people. She stretched and yawned, smiling at Comfort. Security nearly melted, and felt a trembling somewhere in his knee region. He had never seen her smile before.
Comfort wasn’t impressed.
Comfort turned to the staff member anxiously tagging along behind her.
“Why the hell was a customer asleep on one of our beds? Do you know how unhygienic that is? Do you realize that we are missing out on a sale right at this moment due to someone else not being allowed to test this mattress? You know the rule – ten seconds to a bed. And you!” She turned now to face Security, finger pointed as though he was a naughty dog. “I don’t even know why you still work here. Slow and steady doesn’t quite win the race when you’re a security guard.”
The pregnant lady stirred, a pained expression coming over her face.
“It’s really not their fault, I’m so tired lately I can just sit down anywhere and fall asleep in a second. I’ve barely been here for a minute. I really think that-” Saying this, she had been struggling to stand up. Security hurried to help her, and she flashed him a brief smile. “-you’re being too hard on them”.
Comfort’s face turned the colour of the puce bedspread the pregnant lady had just vacated. She opened her mouth, and everyone braced for the onslaught. It never came.
“My water just broke,” the pregnant lady gasped.
There was an ambulance, there was Comfort screaming for someone to clean the floor, there was staff surrounding the pregnant lady, and there was Security, feeling awkwardly impotent, not knowing whether to fetch towels and pillows from the display racks or to run to his car and leave for home. The ambos were mentioning dilating and cervix and he wanted very much to not have the mental images he was coming up with in his mind right now.
Then, a hand. Outstretched towards him. Her hand.
“Come with me?” Her tone was hopeful, her eyes were watery, and in the harried frenzy going on around them, this moment was quiet. This moment was theirs. No one could touch it.
He didn’t even know her name, but he didn’t need to. In this moment, he was the sort of man who entered women’s lives in mysterious and winning ways. He loved her.
“Nothing? You have a baby girl. 10 fingers, 10 toes, doing beautifully.”
Nothing looked up, smiling as the little parcel was handed to her, squirming and pink and so tiny she couldn’t believe it. Security bent down next to her, staring in awe at the miniscule red face, screwed up and messy and so breathtaking he felt like the Grinch who realized the true meaning of Christmas – his heart felt too big for his body.
“She’s something isn’t she,” he spoke to Nothing in a voice only she could hear.
“She’s something,” Nothing agreed.
Security looked at Nothing, and for a moment he saw her as a baby, pictured little Nothing growing up alone, learning to tie her shoes with no one around to place their finger in the middle of the bow, and he saw her having this baby alone, always alone, for that is how he had known her. He vowed that from this day on, Nothing would never be alone again.
Nothing lived with Security for the rest of her life, and they named their daughter Something. They wanted her to know that wherever she was, whomever she might become, she would always remember that something could come from nothing.
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