The train approached Terminal B, where Rob had told Hyka they could find women’s clothing. As they crested the top of the stairs, a lingerie store awaited them.
“Tell me this is not what he meant by ‘women’s clothing,’” Valerie demanded. “I hate him. I hate him so much.”
“They have makeup and stuff here, too.” Hyka slapped her badge on the wall. As the gate rose, she ducked under and helped herself to a shopping bag.
Valerie let Caleb down. “Now listen. You can run and play, but you stay near Mommy, okay? Stay inside the store. When I say Marco, you say. . .”
“Polo,” Caleb shouted, excited about the game his father had taught him.
As she looked over the sexy garments, her heart sank. She had no intention of showing anyone her underwear. She wanted to mourn the loss of her husband, the one man she was in love with from the beginning. She remembered shopping in similar stores when she was young and surprising him in the evenings when they were dating. Caleb had changed her body. So much so that no matter how much Scott had wanted her, she felt unattractive. She wished she had not stopped wearing these things for him.
Having a difficult time concentrating, Valerie looked for things she would have picked before her transformation.
“Extra small,” Hyka said over her shoulder. “You don’t have mom hips anymore, remember?”
Valerie looked at the pair of medium panties in her hand. Embarrassed, she set them down and picked up the suggested size. She put those down as well and grabbed a handful of small panties and shoved them in her bag. Hyka returned and dumped an armful of cosmetics into Valerie’s bag.
“I don’t want any of these things,” Valerie protested.
“Oh, those are mine, but I grabbed some stuff you can use for your crowning ceremony. Go through the motions, Val.”
Hyka returned after each lap around the store with more things to put in the bag, until she just took the sack from Valerie.
“Marco. Marco? Marco!” Her heart pounded. She ran, hoping she could find him in the empty terminal.
“Polo,” a man answered. The sound tied her stomach in a knot. She cursed herself for letting him sneak up on her. She reached the front of the store. Caleb sat on Lucas’ shoulders with a smile on his face.
“Daddy. Daddy. Daddy,” Caleb repeated while treating Lucas’ head as a drum.
“No.” She glared. “Put him down. Now.”
Lucas just smiled and bounced the boy, making him squeal and giggle. Valerie pulled her son down and held him.
“What? He likes me. I don’t mind if he calls me Daddy. They’re our kids now.”
“You listen to me. You can have my father, my brother, and whoever else you think you might need on your side. These are my children. They are Scott Russell’s children. My name is Valerie Russell. My children’s names are and will always be Russell. They will grow up knowing what you did to their father, and why. They will know what an abusive and sick person you are.”
She spoke into her son’s ear, “Caleb, baby, this is a bad man. He’s stinky and mean, and he hurts Mommy. He’s dangerous.”
“Dangerous,” Caleb answered, frowning toward Lucas.
“Getting them to hate me is only going to make things worse for you, my dear. The thing is, until about thirty minutes ago, I had no clue why Ole Bernie had not died with the rest of the old and plagued people who weren’t under my protection. Until you looked at him. You looked at him and saw inside to what was ailing him. I guess I never take much time to look at people. But you found the problem. So then, I wondered what I would see if I looked at you, and boy, what an exciting discovery. Val, honey, do you want to know what I see when I look at you?”
Lucas raised his brows, waiting for her response. She did not care what he saw in her. She cared for the two children she carried: the one on her hip and the other in her womb.
“No? Not even a little curious? Because I heard Hyka tell you we don’t get sick. We heal ourselves. But you, you were very ill until you got here. Your body was not regenerating as a DiaZem should. Like Bernie misdiagnosed with a heart condition, instead of maybe anxiety. Catching an unnecessary pacemaker was great thinking on your part. Your condition was critical. You were knocking on death’s door until you got here. You were so very, very sick. So, what is ailing you? Your baby? Of course, pregnancy has certain symptoms, but should DiaZem be ailed if they are the most superior beings? The answer is no, Valerie. There’s something else brewing in there. We’re having a girl.”
Valerie failed to see the relevance of her child’s gender. She adjusted Caleb to her other hip, turned, and walked away from him. Hyka followed. Lucas did not pursue.
With her hands full...