I brought you home after three days. That’s all the hospitals let you stay now. Insurance they say. I’m not sure how that works. It’s probably for the best anyway. People get sick in hospitals. They get infections and viruses from all the other sick people. You’re safer here.
I worked for months getting your room perfect, of course at first you will sleep with me. I’m afraid I won’t hear you when you wake, hungry or wet, in the night. Your room is too far down the hall. It’s easier to feed you this way as well. All I have to do is bring you in the bed. We can both rest that way. You’re safer here.
At first, your father wanted us to come live with him. But as the months went by, I knew that couldn’t happen. His apartment wasn’t going to work. It is filthy, full of scurrying at night. I tried to explain it was no environment to raise a child, an infant not capable of escaping the creepies and crawlies, the night biters. He said I was imagining things. He said I was delusional. Then he said threatening things. I’m not sure I ever truly knew him. I don’t think you will. You’ll be safer that way.
I think your father may have been here. He came to the door demanding to see you. I pretended we weren’t here. But, when we went to the grocery, you giggling in your carriage, I think he broke in. I could smell his musk when we returned. There were prints from his grimy fingers on the sink. I can’t remember if I left that glass out either. I know he didn’t go in the bedroom. I keep it locked. Just to be safe.
Now I know he was here. You have little bites on your stomach after you played on the floor. He brought his filth into our house. No worries. I will clean everything while you nap. His germs and crawlies won’t hurt my girl. It will be spick and span. I’ll make it safe.
It’s worse than I thought. I cleaned all evening, but neither of us could sleep. As soon as the lights went out, I could hear the night scurries. Not in our room, but out toward the kitchen, where he left his glass. It had to be his, I always wash mine when finished. I will go to the store for spray today. If I don’t kill them now, they will spread. They will work their way through the walls and vents, down the hall, into our rooms and bath. I can spray while you nap in our room. The kitchen is far away. You will be safe in there.
I don’t know why it didn’t work. I sprayed all the corners, the walls, even the counters, and under them where I found the droppings. Maybe they moved on before I could kill them. They are getting braver too. I hear them in the daylight every now and then. Your bites are worse as well. Maybe it’s a rash. The doctor said he doesn’t see, but he doesn’t know my precious like I do. He was just mad because your father took away the insurance. I couldn’t pay. You will have to stay in the bedroom until I can fix this. It’s the only place that’s safe.
Your father called. He was angry. He is always angry. He said he was worried about you. He said he had a right to see his girl. He said something about a court, but I’m not sure what he means. I’ll never let him back in after the havoc he has caused. You cried all night. I don’t blame you. Your soft porcelain skin is riddled with welts. How are they getting you. I bleached all the linens. I sprayed the whole house. I scrubbed you in the tub until I worried it was hurting you. I hope it didn’t. I’m only keeping you safe.
There is knocking at the door. They are threatening to break it. Your father is calling to us. He’s pretending to be kind and worried to the people outside. We know better. He says I’m a danger to you, but I’m the one keeping you safe. I’m your mother. That’s what mothers do. It’s all his fault, his filthy, filthy fault. I think the banging is making the night scurries anxious. I can hear them in our room. No, it’s closer. Their little scratches are coming from my baby girl. I can see them now, just under your skin! No! No! Don’t worry sweetie, I’m getting the spray. Mommy will keep you safe.
William Hubbard writes prose and music in Winston-Salem, NC