I re-entered my son's room, creeping as softly as an old house would allow and stood over his crib. In the dim light cast by his clock-radio his porcelain skin emitted a soft, rosy glow, his two impossibly small arms outstretched above his head on each side as if signaling a touchdown or some other celebratory moment.
It was the same way his father slept.
Another shudder erupted from my bones and clenched my stomach. The weight of the resemblance under the circumstances cut me to the core. I didn't have time to let it in and sit with this new pain, so I pushed it aside for for the inevitable later and took the deepest breath my drained body would allow.
I reached over the rail and attempted to cradle my hands around his head and rear as stealthily as shaking hands could manage, but upon contact his big green eyes flew open and stared straight into my swollen brown ones.
Behind his pacifier, a sleepy smile formed as he awoke, wiggling excitedly.
"It's okay, Monkey, it's okay," I cooed despite his lack of a display of distress or upset. I sniffed his diaper region to make sure he didn't need changed, then strapped him into the car seat. "We're just going on a little adventure."
The last word stuttered and choked as my vocal chords released it. My vision blurred immediately as my shoulders and chest collapsed towards the car seat, physically recoiling from the emotion my heart was trying so hard to release.
This was not an adventure. This was a narrow escape.
My mother appeared in the bedroom doorway and cooed sing-song nothings to my son as she picked up the car seat, relieving me of the perilous journey back down those banister-less stairs while trying to force myself to function beyond utter shock and heartbreak while juggling the awkwardness of that seat full of tiny child. I watched as she clutched the wall herself, counting her steps while managing a smile for the boy who sat elated upon seeing her face, even if it was the middle of the night.
Upon reaching the foyer once more, my mother turned and gave me a long, serious look in my periphery. For the first time in two days, I lifted my head to level and took a long, slow look at the house around me. A new heartbreak began to well in my chest, my eyes brimming with tears as I took in my home and all the hard work I'd done to make it as much.
"Tabatha, come on," my mother spat more sternly than necessary. "We need to go."
A jagged sigh escaped my lungs and my head released and hung once more. I nodded silently, following her out the door, turning to lock it behind me. She placed the baby in the seat base in my car, then moved to her own, opening the driver's side door as she turned back to look at me.
"Your dad's, then?" The frustration and disapproval were not well masked in her voice.
"Yeah, Dad's. I'll call to tell him we're coming," I barely managed to state loud enough for her to hear.
"Alright. See you there." The sound of metal latching on metal, an engine turning, and taillights occurred rapid fire as she pulled away onto the street.
I looked up at my night-blackened house as my son began to fuss slightly in the car, wanting to commit to memory what it looked like at this exact moment.
With another staggered exhale, we disappeared into the early autumn night.