From a work in progress: Obligations for Charly
by Piper Davenport

Claire's eyes looked down at the scab on her arm, covered in pus, across the whites of her pupils. It was a time of insanity in 1984 Detroit. Somewhere out there, she could hear a baby crying but in the direction she was going . . .

The previous day, she watched the woman giving birth to the child. She thought about the baby's eyes being blinded by the room's lights as it moved closer toward her. Screams of passion nine months earlier that walked in captivity now were dancing across the woman lying before her, and the doctor wanting her to leave. "You've done all you can for her, Claire. Now it is time for you to leave." She walked out into the hallway, studying the blood-stains on her uniform. Just outside the humiliation she felt as she walked away was a sense of relief that her months of patience had paid off.

She had started working at the hospital in college as a volunteer. A college professor had urged her to go into nursing after watching her carefully, calmly, and patiently help deliver a pregnant student's child. Claire had wrapped the child in her own lime-green jacket, a present to the child she would name Faith. Though the pregnant student had ultimately decided to pass on naming her child that, the little girl-baby would always be Faith to her.

As a child, Claire had always had a fascination with baby dolls. The way they cried, the way they peed, the way their plastic skin felt. She loved the way they glided through the air with her fingers wrapped around them. Black dolls, white dolls, it did not matter---she loved them all the same. She made clothes for them, clothes out of silent silks and complacent cottons. Clothes that made the baby doll hers. This fixation she told herself was normal. She even told her friend, her only friend, "Lots of young women carry a love for baby dolls into adulthood. It's called suffering."

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