The Bearfield Baby Heist(3)By: Jacqueline Sweet
“Saturday kicked me out.” Mina snuggled under the covers and tried to find a way to cuddle with her mate that didn’t involve squishing her belly.
“You knew you’d have to take a break sometime,” Matt rolled over and maneuvered himself so his arm was under her head and her baby bump was resting on him. It felt good. Really good. The little one never kicked or surged inside her when Matt was around.
“I know. I know! But I’m not ready. There’s still so much to do. I haven’t trained Saturday on half the recipes.”
“She’ll figure it out.”
“And the cub keeps moving at exactly the wrong time.”
“He’ll be here soon.”
“She,” Mina said. “It’s a girl.”
“Are you sure?”
“No. Yes. I don’t know.”
Matt kissed her head and held her. His body radiated a soothing heat that sunk into her bones. It was relaxing in a way that made Mina want to nap like immediately.
“What if Saturday is a better baker than me?”
“What?” Matt asked. “Where’d that come from?”
“She’s just so good at it. It scares me. What if when I go back to work in a few months everyone loves her muffins more than mine? What if they get so used to her, they forget about me?” Mina didn’t mean to express her fears so nakedly, but being next to Matt had a way of disarming her.
“They won’t. You’re an incredible baker. You work hard at what you do. Everyone in this town loves you, you know? And not just because you feed them. They can see your heart. They love you because you’re an amazing person. Some other woman baking your recipes out of your shop for a season won’t change that.” He squeezed her close with both arms, and she could almost feel the anxiety flee her body. Almost.
“What about Maureen?” Matt asked.
Mina pursed her lips. “That is a white girl’s name.”
“Shut the hell up,” Mina laughed.
“Minx!” Matt’s voice was excited.
“Yes, perfect,” Mina said sarcastically.
“Well, I’m sure the right name will come to us in time.”
The baby rolled over inside Mina and she could almost swear it was laughing.
Matt Morrissey had a bear in his heart.
It’d always been there, always been a part of him. It didn’t have a name—it didn’t need a name. It was just his bear. You didn’t give your foot a special name. You didn’t name your favorite thumb Joshua. And you didn’t name your bear. It was just your bear.
The bear had been a part of him since before he had memories. The baby books said that kids didn’t develop real memories until they were three, sometimes four years old. It had to do with language acquisition, and how we use words to organize our thoughts. Words were a memory hack. A way to trick your brain into remembering. Before words, there were only feelings and sensations. Matt couldn’t recall memories from before words, but he remembered his bear.
He shifted for the first time when he was a baby. The way his mother told the story, she’d put him down in his crib for some quiet time, while she dealt with Marcus’s temper tantrum, and when she came back to the crib he was gone. Six months old and he was gone. The windows had been open in his room and she was sure he’d crawled out and fallen, despite barely being at the sitting-up stage of development. She was about to scream out the window for help, the story went, when she heard Marcus laughing in the kitchen. One thing about Marcus was that he never laughed. Like ever. He was one of those kids who went from sad to sullen, even as a toddler playing with blocks. But he was laughing and Matt’s mom ran to see what was going on.
And there Matt was, shifted into a bear cub, curled around a half-eaten jar of peanut butter and fast asleep.
Matt’s child had a bear in her heart. His heart. Their heart. Whatever. He could hear it, or rather his bear could. It snored, loudly, most of the time. When it woke it made little grumbling noises, like it couldn’t find its car keys even after looking all over the inside of the womb. It was a ridiculous, silly little thing and Matt was not even close to ready to meet it.