David cradles his baby daughter in his arms. She is wrinkly, purply-pink, her head covered with a soft beanie, her mouth a tiny rosebud, her eyes squeezed shut.
Although she did not emerge from his body, he knows for the first time in his life what it means to be physically connected. There is a thick rope that joins her to the base of his spine. He knows he will never be just one person again; he will always be split in two, part of his body walking and breathing and laughing and crying outside the rest, the opposite of a phantom limb.
He sways gently, his protective hospital gown crinkling, murmuring the story of his love for her in nonsense syllables through the surgical mask.
This little being brings new life with her. She will open her eyes upon a world in turmoil, in the closing weeks of a winter of endurance. Before those brand-new eyes learn to focus, a touch of spring will be in the air; already, as she sways in her father’s arms, buds form on trees, seeds rotate themselves underground, ensuring their sprouts will find their way toward the light.
Our friends on Pine Street notice that there is still light in the sky after five p.m. Their morning food deliveries still occur in freezing temperatures, but they see slivers of sunrise before they are done. Their route is shrinking, too; more folks are able to fend for themselves. Franny’s apartment has been used by a half-dozen people for isolation; Rosa says there is a growing sense of optimism again inside the hospital. She’s been able to go back to work, part-time.
Kassandra’s boss calls. The coffee shop is planning its re-opening; they want her back as a manager for the weekday morning shift. Allison plans to repaint the exterior of her old green house – matching the color, of course, and adding bright trim. She and Leo use the lengthening days to scrape old paint, protected by respirators, and consider how to build a scaffold to reach the upper levels.
Douglas and Louise, vaccinated and still cautious, take long walks for no particular reason. Franny notices small ideas for new writing projects tickling the back of her neck.
They all carry deep sadness. They all rally around David and his baby daughter, who face the seeds of spring together, alone.
Sasha did not survive the birth of her daughter, who carries the name she and David had decided on together: Penelope Jane.