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by Solace Hayate


Chapter 1

Which is worse: the pain that the body feels, or the anguish that the mind apperceives?

Which is worse: the acute, tearing agony of a fresh wound, or the dull, persistent aching of the chronic torment that nags and corrodes the soul.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

"Just hang in there a little longer, Kaye. You are doing great!" The nurse flashed a professional smile as she wiped the sweat from the young woman's forehead.

Kaye tossed her head aside and closed her eyes. The nurse's "occupational kindness" annoyed her; in fact, everything in this room agitated and taxed her febrile nerves. The glaring brilliance of the surgical lamps made every drab detail of her surroundings provokingly obvious. So she closed her eyes and shut herself inside the meager comfort of blackness that this simple action could offer.

Oblivion is what she prayed for: to be oblivious of the stinging stench of the antiseptics, the stiffness of the starched hospital bedsheets, the ceaseless currents of pain that ravaged through her body, and most of all, the curious questions written so plainly in the nurses' and doctor's prying eyes--the same questions that burned inside her distressed mind. Where was the father-to-be? Why wasn't he pacing impatiently along the corridors of the hospital, anxiously awaiting for the birth of this new life, like he should have been. He should have been. He should? Instead, Kaye's aging father had brought her to the hospital.

"Poor Papa…" Kaye murmured to herself. She could see her father clearly in her mind, waiting outside the delivery room with saddened concern on his face. He blamed himself; but none of this was ever under his control. She had fallen in love, and she had made the decision to have this child. Her baby would grow up possibly without ever knowing a father's love; she had always known and accepted that truth, but now she wondered if her love alone would be enough? The endless hours of labor had worn down her fortitude…

However, the struggling little life inside her didn't allow any room for doubts; a sudden spasm send a torrent of pain surging through her body with new intensity, and she screamed out involuntarily. Heaving for breath, she heard the doctor's command to push. More violent spasms forced themselves one after the other; she let out another cry as she gathered her strength. All doubts and thoughts ceased. There was nothing but pain. The kind of pain that ripped one's body to pieces; the kind of pain that tore one life from another…

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Mr. Paradis quietly settled into the chair beside the bed where Kaye lay sound asleep. The fading light of dusk diffused throughout the small hospital room, shedding a faint glow on its objects and occupants. The infant made a soft whimper inside Mr. Paradis' arms as he shifted the little body into a more comfortable position. Looking down at the newborn that he held within his arms, his care worn face softened into a proud smile.

The baby boy was beautiful, and indeed, quite unlike any other newborns. Instead of the usual purplish pink skin, his complexion was smooth and ivory white, and instead of the cute sleepy expression, his tiny delicate face beamed with innate intelligence. The child let out a gentle coo as he surveyed the surroundings with his lively dark eyes. They shone brilliantly, untarnished by the world, but concealed deep within them was something resembling of surreal sadness, as if they had witnessed and understood the sorrows of humanity. Mr. Paradis wondered with curiosity just what this one-day-old infant understood…

"Papa…"

Kaye's voice broke off his contemplation, and looking up, he found his daughter awake; her cheeks were stained with tears.

"Papa," Kaye stifled her sobs and whispered, "I am sorry…" She wanted to say that she was sorry to burden him with an illegitimate grandchild, and that she was sorry to have fell in love so hopelessly and so unwisely, but all the words muddled into confusion and come out as a series of subdued sobs.

Mr. Paradis turned his head towards the window and focused his gaze on the slender maple trees that stood gracefully upright outside the hospital walls. It was nearly mid-October, but the maple leaves still burned a vibrant shade of red. Quivering in the crisp autumn wind, several leaves severed themselves from their branches and fell silently unto the ground.

"What are you sorry for, Kaye?" Mr. Paradis' voice came out gentle and low. "For falling in love? For giving me a beautiful grandchild?" He paused for a moment, and then looking into his daughter's face, he continued, "I thought I had disappointed your mother by not taking good care of you like I promised her…" He paused again, allowing the memories of his dead wife to guide his words. "You mother would be proud of you," he announced decidedly, and standing up abruptly, he added in an almost inaudible voice, "and so am I." With that said, he walked over to the bed and transferred the infant into the young mother's arms. "Kaye, your son needs a name."

Kaye wiped her wet cheeks with the back of her hand and snuggled the infant closely against her own body. The child cooed softly, and his tender mouth curled into a tiny smile.

"Vincent," Kaye uttered, and after a moment of deliberation, she added, "Vincent Valentine."





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