By Lisa McCourt Hollar
Marissa sung to the baby, a lullaby her mother had sung to her as a child. The words rose and fell in tone as the young nanny crooned and the baby’s eyes slowly closed. While she sang, Marissa made sweeping motions over the child’s body, rubbing the skin lightly with an object concealed within her hand. Finishing the tune, she lay the baby in her crib and tucked the blanket around her. “Sleep well, my Lucia.” Then she bent and placed the object in her hand under the crib.
“Yes ma’am?” Marissa turned, smiling at her employer. Amanda Walker didn’t look happy. Marissa’s smile waned when she saw what she was holding.
“I went in to check on Lucy and found this under her bed. Did you put it there?”
“Yes, ma’am, I did.”
“Why would you put an egg under my baby’s bed?”
“She’s been congested lately. I know the doctor said the antibiotics would help, but she’s not getting better and she hasn’t been sleeping well. I thought maybe it might help…”
“I swear I will never understand your people and their superstitions. What if it broke? Then the nursery would smell like rotten egg… that’s a hard odor to get out, not to mention the bacteria could make Lucy sick. Get rid of it.”
Marissa took the egg, bowing her head in deference to her mistress. “Of course. I’m sorry.”
“She wasn’t hurting anyone,”Mr. Walker said later that night. “She cares about Lucy.”
“I know that,” Amanda said, joining her husband in bed. “Sometimes I think a little too much. Do you know I have heard her call the baby my Lucia?”
“So? That’s Spanish for Lucy.”
“It’s just strange, the way she says my, like she believes the baby is hers.”
Fred Walker laughed. “That’s… a bit reaching.”
"Is it? We don't know anything about Lucy's birth parents."
"Well, that's what a closed adoption means. Honey, relax. No one is going to come and take Lucy away from us.
“I just don’t feel comfortable having her here in my house. That thing with the egg, well it’s weird and when I talk to her, there’s something, I don’t know, in her eyes. The way she looks at me. It scares me.”
“Maybe it’s the way you talk to her. I love you, dear, but you can be overbearing. Referring to her people… that can be taken the wrong way you know.”
“What are you saying? Are you calling me racist?”
“Never dear. I know better, as does anyone that knows you… but when you feel threatened, you can be a bit bitchy, and you know it.”
“I don’t feel threatened.”
Fred kissed his wife on the cheek. “If you say so, dear.” Then he turned off the light.
Amanda lay in the dark, her eyes on the ceiling. Shadows leaped across the room, flickering along the walls and creeping toward her bed. She closed her eyes, defiantly vanquishing the demons. “I don’t feel threatened.”
Marissa waited until she was sure they were asleep. Stopping at their door, she listened. Mr. Walker was snoring loudly, with an occasional raspy cough. He didn’t sound well. Slipping past their room, she entered the nursery. She used to sleep in the adjoining room, but Mrs. Walker had suddenly insisted that she sleep in the guest bedroom on the other side of the house. Lucia was making small sobbing sounds, not loudly, but she was certainly having a disturbing sleep. Marissa picked her up and began to sing. When the baby had stopped crying, Marissa put her back in the crib. This time she tucked the egg further under the bed. If Amanda got up in the night to check on Lucy, she wouldn’t see it unless she got down on the floor and stuck her head underneath.
Marrissa looked concerned as Amanda stumbled into the kitchen. She didn’t look like she’d slept well and her skin appeared. sallow.
“Are you feeling well, ma’am?” She put down the bottle she was warming and put her hand to the woman’s forehead. Amanda waved her off.
“Just a bit under the weather.” She reached into the refrigerator and pulled out some orange juice. “I’m probably getting the crud Lucy had.” She sighed. “At least she seems to be getting over it. I looked in on her and she’s sleeping peacefully.”
“I know you’ve been worried about her.”
“I have… I think it’s been making me grumpy. Marissa, I need to apologize for how I spoke to you yesterday.”
This time Marissa waved her off. “I’ve already forgotten it.”
“It’s just that you are so close to Lucy, sometimes I get jealous.”
Marissa laughed. “Mrs. Walker, that’s silly. You are her mama.”
“Well thank you for being understanding.” Amanda looked at her watch. “My goodness, I need to get ready for work.”
“Go ahead, Mrs. Walker. I’ll take care of things out here.”
Marissa retrieved the egg while Amanda was in the shower. Looking into the crib, she smiled. Lucia grinned back at her. Mrs. Walker was right, she was looking better. Her skin was a healthy shade and she seemed to be breathing better. Picking her up, she whispered into her ear, humming another tune her mother had taught her. It was a happy song, celebrating the Mother’s healing power. “It’s not over with yet though,” she said. “We have to finish it. Until we do, you won’t be safe.”
Taking Lucy with her, she tiptoed into the Walker’s bedroom. Bending she placed the egg with the others she had concealed under their bed. They shells were beginning to blacken as the curse she’d placed inside of them grew. She heard Mrs. Walker coughing in the bathroom. She sounded nearly as bad as Mr. Walker had when he’d left for work this morning. Tonight would be the night, she knew it.
The baby began to fuss. Marissa quickly left the room before Amanda heard her. Outside the room she whispered softly, “Don’t worry, Lucia, soon it will be just me and you and no one will ever again be able to take you from me.”