Ending Denial

    Sunar carried the breakfast tray into his parent’s room. He had to contain his excitement in order to keep from spilling the orange juice. Today. Today, his sister would be born. Today, he would show them all. She would be just like him, and he could…
    He calmed himself again as the juice shook, then resumed his steady pace. Mother lay sleeping, but he had heard her begin to stir. A few weeks before, she had begun to wake slowly. By listening as her breath increased in speed, Sunar timed his arrival for the moment she woke. His mother’s eyes opened as he stopped beside the bed, and they shared a smile.
    Mother sat up in bed, took the tray, set it over her lap, and then waited for him to join her. When he had settled himself on the bed she picked up a piece of bacon, looked over her tray at him, and smiled, “Yes, my dear, brilliant, attentive, sensitive son, your sister will come today.” She reached out to stroke his face. “It won’t be long before it starts, but the process will take time, as with so many things. You will have to be patient a little longer, my brave, bright boy.”
    Sunar smiled slightly. Everyone else had figured out that his mother carried a sister only recently, but he had known from the beginning and, soon, they would see he had been right about everything else.
    His father had gone to early morning katas, so he had her to himself. They talked through breakfast, about how life would change with the baby, about how he could help, what fun they would have with her. He could have sat on that bed forever, but breakfast didn’t last that long.
    They talked for a few more minutes, then he climbed down and she handed him the tray. He’d just turned to walk away, when his mother gasped. A glance over his shoulder brought him up short. Her eyes closed, hands on her belly, sweat beading on her forehead, her lips a tight, then line… She appeared to be concentrating very hard on breathing.
    Worry shot through him and he moved to set the tray down but, her eyes flew open, and she smiled at him, “It has started, my son. Your sister is on her way. Everything is fine, it just caught me a little by suprise. Go. Fetch your father, and the doctor.”
    He smiled, gave a quick nod, rushed to the kitchen, set the tray on the counter, and dashed off to find help.

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    Some hours later, Sunar sat with Master Ikthan in the meditation room. He struggled to remain calm, to match the Master, to hold his meditation, but anticipation kept getting the better of him. Every time he opened his eyes, however, the first thing he saw was the Master, serene and unmoved. A moment later, Master Ikthan’s heart rate would increase, his eyes would flutter open, he’d give a small, knowing smile, then his eyes would close, and his heartbeat would slow again. Sunar was not used to frustration.
    To make it worse, he could hear Father speaking encouragement to Mother in the other room. Her replies came back with a certain strain in them some of the time, but mostly, her voice sounded calm. That brought comfort, at least.
    Finally, suddenly, several sounds hit him all at once, too fast for him to process, ending with the wailing of a baby. He sprang to his feet and started to go around Master Ikthan to get to the door. The master neither moved nor opened his eyes, but laid his hand down with precision on Sunar’s shoulder. “A few minutes more, child. Let your parents compose themselves.
    He reluctantly returned to his mat and sat back down, listened to the baby’s cry, and gave up trying to meditate or to understand the sounds from the other room. He simply watched Master Ikthan and waited. After an eternity the Master opened his eyes and rose, then motioned for him to go ahead.
    He needed no further encouragement. A broad smile decorated his face as he bounded into his parent’s room. His sister had been wrapped in a blanket, but he could see her arms and face. Her small, long nose, her tiny flailing… pink… fleshy…. hands. Her smooth…. scale-less…. rosy… ROSY… cheeks. ROSY, not dark and scaled like his, not a scale on her.
    Master Ikthan gave him a gentle forward push, which made him realize that he had stopped, hand outstretched, and his mouth had fallen open. The girl was nothing like him, not in any way. His dreams of teaching her to fly, of having someone like him, someone could believe in his dreams of flight with him, all fell away. He felt the nudge again, and let his hand fall.
    A single tear rolled down his cheek
    He wanted to flee, to outrun the pain and his childish humiliation at being wrong, but stubbornness made him turn around slowly and walk, head up, shoulders back. He could hear the adults speaking, addressing him, addressing each other, but the words seemed distant against the rush of blood in his ears.
    Alone, with dreams shattered, possessed of a sister that was no real sister, in a world where no else was like him. He walked out of his parent’s apartment.
    Alone.

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