To his credit, Aksel tried. He really did. Most of the time, he is a quiet, patient man. But he had been struggling ever since I confessed to him about my relationship with Arvid. Whenever Arvid stopped by our house to bring supplies or check on the garden, Aksel’s face would flush beet red, and his jaw muscles would tense.
“Are you okay?” I asked him the first time this happened.
Aksel shook his head. “If he lays a hand on you, I swear, I’ll kill him!” he said through clenched teeth. The intensity in his eyes frightened me.
“Aksel, you have to let this go,” I said, resting my hand on his. “Violence isn’t going to help. If he decides to punish you…” I shivered, imagining Aksel chained up in some cave while Arvid tortured him. “Just keep your cool, okay?”
But Aksel did not keep his cool. One day, I woke up and felt…off. As the day progressed, a band of pain wrapped around my lower abdomen and squeezed – tighter and more frequently with each passing hour. Could I be in labor? Was this the day my baby would be born?
As the realization sank in, I was overcome with a wave of fear and apprehension. I was going to have a baby. Here. On this foreign planet. Without a fancy earthling hospital, without a doctor, without a doula.
Suddenly, I wished my mother and grandmother were here.
Just then, I heard raised voices from outdoors. I peeked out the window and saw Aksel and Arvid facing each other, expressions enraged. “My baby, not yours!” I heard Aksel shouting.
The shouting match erupted into a full-fledged fist fight. I wanted to stop it, but my contractions were too strong, too close. The baby was going to come soon, and whether it was Arvid’s child or not, I knew with certainty that he would not let Aksel and me raise it.
I had to hide it. It was the only way.
So I fled. While the men were still fighting, I slipped out the back door and stumbled toward the rocky cliffs. Every few minutes, I had to stop, nearly sinking to the ground with the pain of the contractions. But I had to keep going. I couldn’t let Arvid take away my child.
At last, when I could barely hold on any longer, I found it – a deserted quarry of sorts, with rickety staircases leading into a deep pit. I discovered a small, dark room with cinder block walls and an old, stained tarp on a concrete floor. There were a few boxes stacked in a corner, some old rags, and a bare, functional light bulb dangling from the ceiling. It was the last place I would have imagined giving birth. But it would have to do.
Lying on the tarp, I gave myself over to some animal instinct and began to push. Sometime later, I don’t know how long, I brought my daughter into the world. She was beautiful. Pink and perfect, with a tiny shrill cry. And as human as Aksel and me.
“Meiying,” I whispered her name into her tiny ear. Meiying for her Chinese name. Sini for her Scandinavian name. Meiying Sini Jin.
As I was nuzzling my daughter, inhaling her soft, sweet fragrance, I realized that something was very wrong. My abdomen tightened again, and the pressure to push returned, as strong as before. What was happening to me? I placed little Meiying on the floor and began to push again.
Moments later, I was holding another baby girl. She had the same tiny shrill cry as her sister. But this baby, with her pale skin as green as a flower stem, was not human like her sister. There was no doubt that Arvid was her father.
I couldn’t help it. Hot, salty tears dripped onto her small head as I held her close. “Your name will be Jia Meri,” I told her. “My beautiful sea.”
I rested with both my babies for as long as I dared, feeding them from my breast and savoring the moment. Who knew if they would ever be together again? Then I kissed Meiying, bundled her as comfortably as I could, and left her on the floor of the tiny room. “I’ll be back soon,” I promised. Then I scooped up Jia and returned home.
Aksel was nowhere to be seen. I prayed that he was still alive as I rushed into the house. Arvid was there, looking haggard, but unsurprised to see me cradling our newborn daughter. “Her name is Jia,” I told him. “Jia Meri Jin.”
His cold eyes met mine. “You mean Jia Meri Bergfalk.” he said. I could only stand helplessly as he scooped her from my arms.
“Will I get to see her?” I asked, unable to hold back my sobs.
He smirked. “If you behave.” With those cruel, callous words, he swept out the front door, taking Jia with him.