Finally. The blanket feels welcoming yet unfamiliar, like a visit with an old friend that’s long overdue. However, this friendship finds relaxed interaction much sooner than that. They don’t have to catch up and explore what topics are comfortable enough for conversation. No, they can just be quiet company to one another. The lack of possible judgment makes every muscle in her body seem to exhale in relief.

Sure, her husband who lays beside her could make a judgement. If he were awake. But he looks so blissfully and deeply unawake that she needn’t worry. During the day, she looks to him for affirmation that she’s doing her job well, praise for her motherly selflessness. Yet at night she’s appreciative of his habit of heavy sleeping so that he’s unaware of her snapping impatience, no matter how infrequent, towards the baby’s fussing.

Why is she even thinking about judgment right now? Sometimes, she doesn’t know if she’s the one trotting inside the market fence, being lead in circles, or if she’s the one with the ball cap, saying, This one should go for cheap. She knows that she isn’t always one or the other. Yet the unfounded sense that she should be is constant.

She’s laid here for a few minutes now and all she’s done is call herself a cow and humanize a homemade quilt in order to befriend it.

Pushing aside those silly thoughts, her mind begins to fall into the dreamy mist of sleep while still knowing that her legs reside in a queen-sized bed in a mortgaged house in a small Midwestern town, that feeling of a deep sleep being in her reach although she is still just awake enough …

to hear the baby cry.

She sits up slowly. Groggy and angry. The streetlight barely peeks through the curtains beside the crib and illuminates a wiggly baby. He cries again. She spits out to no one in particular, “Seriously?”

She walks across the room. She tries to relax her jaw because she knows when she starts to clench it in frustration, that the tight anger has a way of radiating all the way down her neck and arms and into her hands. Not that she has ever hurt the child nor is she afraid of that, but she doesn’t believe clenching anything in frustration is a pleasant habit to have.

She reaches into the crib, picks up the babe and walks back to the bed to the nurse him. Even though he shouldn’t be hungry, that’s the only thing she can think of to console him in her sleep deprived state.

She sits down with the baby and her husband slowly flips over, his eyes open. Please say he didn’t hear here the spiteful seriously she had just said aloud, that could easily be assumed had been directed at their child. She suddenly realizes that she’s the one walking circles in the fence.

“I appreciate you.”

Such simple words. Such strange words. They would sound unusual in every situation she can imagine, even between other people doing other things. Those three words are used for team building exercises during awkward company meetings. Or between a couple in the dramatic climax of a romantic comedy. Something scripted. Yes, they sound strange and out of place. And yet they make her feel so good.

This buyer in a ball cap is looking right at her, inspecting her worth. And for once, she is glad that she is on this side of the fence. Because if she were in his spot at this moment and inspecting the same creature that he is looking at, she would offer a much lower price, if any at all. So it amazes her when this man says, “Thank you for being the mother of my child. I love you.”

He flips back over to finish his sleep and she nurses their baby at 3:20something in the morning, smiling because out of all the others, she is the one he decided to take home. Even though she wanted to hear these things all day long every day, she knows she doesn’t deserve this moment.

“I love you too.”

And they all go to sleep.

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