The Mark
Yen Nguyen

The scents of the spring flooded the living room through the wide-open window. Children's shouts resounded like a call. Mom threw me a look over the pile of her students' homework and sighed: "too bad." As a signal, I got up and jumped up towards the door. I was at this moment far from knowing that this outing in the park was the last one of my life.

We just had to cross the road. My companions were all there, ready for a soccer match. My coming was applauded with enjoyment. But when came the moment to choose the team members, they abandoned me to battle for Enzo. Enzo was a boy a head taller than us all. He had very long legs that flew. The game absorbed us very fast. I ran and shot as if my life depended on it. Had I the presentiment of the disaster which waited for me? In any case, it did not delay occurring. Shortly after the beginning of the game, a rough collision with Enzo threw me down. My head struck the ground, and I lost consciousness. When I recovered, I saw my mother and several other women surrounding a boy spread on the grass. My mother shouted: "Mathis, Mathis!" She looked terrified. "Mom," I answered her and touched the shoulder to calm her. "I am here." But nothing could be done. She did not seem either to hear or see me. Tilting over the boy and more and more frantic, she continued to shout my name. Already bewildered by my fall, I was even more confused by her attitude. It was only when the ambulance arrived and people moved out of the way that I understood. The boy was none other than myself.  

At the hospital, I saw the looks full of empathy from the nurses and the sad one of the emergency physician. I saw my mother collapsing in the arms of my father. "Dead? My baby, dead?" she repeated without believing it several times in a row. Oh! Dad and Mom, if you knew how much I loved you at this moment. 

As for me, everything went rather well. At the beginning, I was disorientated, then I eventually accepted my new status, the one of the spirit. Everything became easier. I felt more serene. I evolved quietly, following my mother. I curled up against her when she slept. I would have found this situation completely ideal if I was not worried for her. Mom, you faded away. Months passed and your tears continued to flow. If only I could remind you of our happy days. For example, the one where to deceive the rain, we had played hide-and-seek in the living room. While running, I had banged against the coffee table. I had a big bruise on my thigh. You rubbed me with a cream and in spite of my pain, I could not refrain from laughing, because it was as if you tickled me. You had laughed too, your clear and communicative laughter.  

But in fact, there was not only you, Mom. Dad, too, knew how to only sigh, hold his head in his hands or shake it again and again. One day, he gathered his courage and proposed: 

"If we made another baby?"

"What do you mean?"

Your eyes opened wide, full of indignation and dad was embarrassed: 

"You know that I always wanted a large family."

"Say rather that you want . . . to replace him."

Dad did not answer. After this conversation, Mom, you cried more. As for him, he avoided you. I saw him wait for you to sleep before getting back to your bedroom. He sometimes lay on the sofa all night long. Sometimes also, he did not come back for days. 

One evening, you returned on the subject: 

"You really want another baby?" 

"That could be the best thing for us." 

"I could never love another baby." 

You shook your head with a resolute air. Dad closed his eyes and took his forehead between both hands:  

"How do you know?"

***

Now, I do not revolve any more around you, but I curl up very warm in you. In the warmth but not in the calmness because of the disorderly pace of your heart. I know that you still suffer, despite Dad's presence by your side to satisfy your slightest desires. Poor Dad! He does not dare to show you that he is happy. I too, look forward to the day of my relief (and of yours). I already imagine your surprise and your joy when you will find me. 

Finally, I hear you announce to Dad: "It is the moment." I hear Dad go up and down the stairs hastily. "We did not forget anything? Let's go, darling." You, Mom, you are less in a hurry. It looks like you go there reluctantly. Are you worried? Feel reassured, I will do everything so that everything goes well. Do you remember the big bruise on my thigh? Well! So that you know it is me, your new baby will have the same for a few days. For a few days only. I . . .My God! What's happening? My head is suddenly empty. What am I talking about? Who am I? I have the impression that my entire body is carried by a wave which rises, which falls, which rises, which falls, which pushes me. . .  

***

The nurse puts the baby in the hands of his father. "A boy," she says. The man stretches out his arms to receive him, the radiant face. He turns to his wife: 

"Our baby . . . He is beautiful." 

"Yes," answers the woman, motionless.  

"What's the matter?" 

"I am tired." 

She turns to the wall. The man observes, dismayed, the agitated shoulders of hardly dominated jolts. She cries, he notices. He carries his attention back to the baby. He has his eyes closed, but the father is certain that he has them long and full of mischief like his brother's. As well as the nose, a little tucked up. And the convex forehead, the square hands . . . 

"It is the portrait of Mathis." 

"I do not want to know." 

The man sighs and continues to admire his son. At one day only, his body shows itself already so harmonious! His skin shines and on his chest, there is a tiny mole, exactly like the first one. "He has a small mole on the chest,” he announces happily. 

The silence of his wife is the only answer, but it doesn't matter. The man walks his finger on the small body. Suddenly, he suspends his gesture at the sight of a dark spot on the thigh. 

"Miss," he says to the nurse, "what it is?" 

"I thought at first that it's a birthmark but it isn't. It is an ecchymosis. As if he had a shock. That's strange. The delivery was easy."  

She brushes the spot of with her index finger: 

"Look, it is already fading. It's going to disappear." 

Again, the man turns to his wife and hands over the newborn. She shakes her head, the stubborn forehead. He softly puts the child back in the hands of the nurse, and raising his head, he leaves the room.

Yen Nguyen writes primarily short stories. Her work has been published in numerous literary magazines in both print and digital format. Nguyen has access to the Energy of the Universe and regularly provides it to her circle. Nguyen lives in France and spends summers in Southern California. She can be reached at yen.h.nguyen.1@gmail.com.