“Make me happy.”
Dot’s arms sink over the edge of the railing and sift through the salt-speckled air. The sun slithers onto the rough angles of the waves and appears like snakes of light dancing in the corner of her eye. Adelaide is also there, in her peripheral vision, her stomach swollen and stretching the front of her floral blouse until the threads peel and screech.
“You will, won’t you?” Her voice is camouflaged by the whispering thrum of the boat.
Adelaide’s hands are unconsciously orbiting around her tummy and Dot recalls when she first found out about the baby. To be honest, she was a little late in knowing, showing up to their monthly lunch date trailing shoe laces with plastic wings everywhere she went. She was even out of breath, her heart playing with a toy drum once she heard the news.
“I thought you’d gained weight,” Dot joked that midday. “Emotionally overeating because you couldn’t stop thinking about me.”
Adelaide bumps her shoulder like she did back then. The sun’s robes wash over the sky and it begins to settle onto its afternoon knees.
Dot gazes at the island. It looks small from a distance but every broken window is a black eye staring at her. The trees grow in uncomfortable directions, their long arms of wood squirming limply between the leaves.
Adelaide had told her over the phone it’d be a fun experience and a chance to catch up. Dot with her leather purse knew she was pregnant but apparently forgot. Because now, as her best friend retires onto a lifejacket chest, one knee jetting forward and the other stabilizing, she thinks of something else. Adelaide begs her with her fingers intertwined and the leftovers of a seagull dropping tangling in her hair.
It’s unfortunately the same position Dot was hoping Adelaide would be in someday, holding a ring and swallowing messy rivers of words and ocean water.
But there was already a ring compassing her finger. One that was painted gold by the cheap paint you can get at Michael’s and that has a shimmering, fake diamond glued carelessly onto the tip. It was either made by Ted, her husband, himself or a factory in China. Either one.
Dot sighs. “I need some time to think about it.”
“I understand,” Adelaide nods, caging her stomach in her hands. “I just need to know by my baby shower, which is on Tuesday. Is three days enough?”
Clinging to the rails of the boat with what sanity she has left, Dot smiles. The island grows ever nearer. She gulps, glancing at all the strangers around her, bundled up in scarves and hats with pom-poms. She wonders if they’re thinking about the island and the haunted, abandoned hospitals on it. Their eyes reflect the gray waters and some turn when Adelaide complains that the baby is having a synchronized swimming lesson inside her belly.
“Babies always complicate things,” Dot mutters. Adelaide hears her and pinches her earrings but says nothing. “Just to be clear, though, I won’t have to wear pink fabric wings and pretend to make a molding pumpkin and some rats into a horse-drawn carriage?”
Adelaide laughs lightly because she knows if she’s too loud it’ll hurt. But the wind whisks the tinkling sound away, back to the mainland where they sell ice cream with rainbow sprinkles in the dead of winter.
“None of that, no,” she faces away so her hair flutters into her face in soft waves.
Dot taps her nails against her palm where she’s written conversation topics. Her handwriting is sloppy but she can still manage to decipher it. “So what’s the gender?”
The chatter of the strangers in the background dulls to the melody of a gentle him. Adelaide opens her lips like she’s going to laugh again but no sound escapes. “Like I’d tell you. Everyone’s going to find out at the shower. I don’t even know.”
Dot frowns, “How do I bring a helpful gift if I don’t know the gender?”
Adelaide laughs, and for a second it seems like all she can do. Just laugh until the waves crash and lick her cheeks and carry her away. “We both know you’re not bringing a gift.”
She always tells the truth, behind maroon veils of velvet. It’s part of the reason Dot has to hold back from cradling her and kissing her soft lips when tears blossom and glimmer under her eyes. Adelaide has blue eyes, she always has. And now her baby will too.
‘I love you,’ does somersaults in the back of Dot’s throat. But she could never say it aloud so that’s where it stays. It hisses through her teeth and relaxes onto the clouds.
The baby does somersaults in Adelaide’s stomach. She grits her teeth. The boat has just arrived at the island and Dot already wants to turn around.
* * *
Adelaide was right, she brought no gift. Dot waltzed into the baby shower, her hands caught in the pockets of her sweatpants, and her hair tied up with a pencil. And she felt fine.
“Aphrodite, you came.” Adelaide’s mother greets her with a salty smile like grains of sand are stuck between her teeth. Dot doesn’t notice this but she notices the balloons. They’re swelling into the ceilings of the house and they’re different varieties of a beautiful periwinkle. A girl.
Dot knows the responsibilities of a godmother. She’ll have a female godchild who will be treated like a princess when around her. With sparkly ears of Minnie Mouse headbands and polka dot dresses that sweep the floors. And crusted makeup that washes off like a temporary marker. They’ll tell expired dad jokes, laugh, and listen to old songs on the radio in her tree house.
But somehow, it scares her. The girl will be tumbling into her dried palms if something were to happen to Adelaide. And Dot didn’t think she’d be able to handle it, seeing the woman she loves in the child’s robin egg eyes every day.
“You made it,” Adelaide sings, her voice lilting like in an elementary chorus and her chest rising and falling steadily like the tide.
Dot sucks a breath in. “I’ll be the godmother.”
Her face cracks and the weary, timeworn, two-in-the-morning-mugs-full-of-coffee mask crumbles away to reveal a heartbreaking smile. “Thank you so much.” Adelaide rushes forwards and tries to lock her arms around Dot’s neck but her inflated stomach is blocking the way. “I love you, my goddess of love,” she murmurs into the depths of her ear.
Dot smiles. She thinks it’ll be okay in the end, her and the princess and their somersaults through grassy hills until the end of time.