by Miss Mouse
This story is a sequel to “Willow” and you should probably read that first. It should be available anywhere this story is.
The storm hit as I was coming back down the mountain. It was one of those freak things, a summer storm clear out of the blue. But as the first raindrops fell on the path before me, I knew that Willow had been right.
“Willow? Hey, Willow, can you hear me? Over.”
Silence, a short burst of static.
“Over what?” Willow’s voice came through amidst the sound of rain on leaves.
“It’s what you say when you’re done talking on the radio.”
“Willow, how are you doing? Are you staying dry? Over.”
“I’m fine. Everything’s fine, haha,” she laughed unconvincingly. “How are you, Lucy? Over?”
“Are you sure you’re alright? You sound a little…tense. Over.”
“Tense?” Willow laughed again, her voice crackling through the radio speaker. “Noooo, I’m fine!”
“You don’t sound fine.” I checked my watch, 6:40pm. “Sit tight, I’ll be at your camp by 7:00. Will you be okay until then? Over.”
“You worry too much, Lucy! I’m fine, really!”
“Listen.” I stopped on the trail, taking a moment to think, to look around myself. “I’m on my way. If anything happens, call me, understood? Over.”
There was a tension in her voice that made me deeply uneasy as I hurried down the trail. I went as fast as I dared in the rain, the path before me becoming slick with mud. I felt weirdly uneasy, but I knew I wouldn’t get any more information out of Willow over the radio. The best thing to do was to get to her and see how she was in person.
Easier said than done as the winds picked up and thunder started to rumble. When the trail came over a ridge or was clear of trees on one side, I could see lightning striking in the distance amidst the sheets of rain.
Normally, I would have found shelter and waited out the storm, but I had to get to Willow, and I wasn’t going to let a bit of rain stop me.
I stumbled into camp, soaked to the bone and coated in mud up to my shorts. The fire was out and the wind had whipped through, scattered odds and ends, knocked leaves and twigs from the trees…Willow sat underneath her makeshift tent, smiling and waving at me as I made my way to her.
“Lucy!” She scooted over and made room for me in the little tent, one hand holding the loose flaps of the tent open.
“Hey!” I crawled into the cramped space beside her, glad to be out of the rain. “Sorry for tracking mud all over your camp.”
“It’s cool, I think the whole thing’s kind of a loss if I’m being honest.” She winced as she finished speaking.
“Hey,” I turned to look at her. She was almost as wet as I was, her homemade skirt clinging to her legs. “Are you alright?” I stared hard into her grey eyes.
“Yeah, it’s cool,” Willow wrung some water from her curls. “Just having some contractions, no big deal.”
“No big deal? Willow, you’re having a baby!”
“I know, that’s why I hiked all the way up here, silly!”
“Why not?” She seemed genuinely excited at the idea of giving birth in the middle of storm, her face almost shining with a sort of motherly light.
Everything inside me was saying to call the ranger cabin, get down the mountain and to a hospital, but as I looked into her eyes, saw the smile on her lips, felt her sitting next to me…I knew I couldn’t. This was Willow’s thing, and that wasn’t my place.
“Can I help?” I asked.
She leaned towards me, putting her hand on mine.
“I’d like that.”
“What do I do? I’ve never done this before.”
“I’ll walk you through it.”
She leaned forward and I helped her stand up, although she had to crouch a little inside the tent. Stepping out into the rain, she turned back to look at me, her hands pressed against her lower back for support.
“The contractions are getting stronger, but I’m not there yet. I’m going to walk a little to ease the discomfort and help the labor along.”
“What should I do?”
“You can walk with me if you want, or you can sit tight and try to dry off.”
“Shouldn’t you try to stay dry?”
“I’m fine,” she said, holding her hands out and looking up to the dark sky above. “It feels nice and warm. Besides, people give birth in water all the time; a little rain won’t cause any problems.” She laughed that musical laugh of hers and I couldn’t help but smile.
Willow was so beautiful, so confident, even laboring and drenched as she was. She was strong and primal, a part of that natural world that drew me out of my comfy apartment and made me want to explore.
She walked barefoot through the camp in the rain, her voice rising and falling in a wordless song of patience and joy. I stayed in the tent and watched her for a time, watched as she brushed her fingers through her hair and toyed with her skirt. Now and then I would see her falter as a contraction came, her hands touching her stomach gently and her breath catching in pain.
When the big one hit, it almost knocked her over. Willow bent forward, one hand on her knee for support, the other grasping at the taut skin of her belly out of reflex. I was beside her in a moment, helping hold her up.
“Willow, are you alright? Are you hurt?”
“I…I’m fine,” she panted. “This baby’s coming kinda fast though!”
I took her hand to help her back to the tent and I could feel her grip tightening like a vice as another contraction hit. The wind was picking up, whipping the rain at wild angles and stripping more leaves from the trees around us.
We re-entered the tent and I set out a blanket for her to lay on and a pillow to support her head. It was cramped, but I gave her as much room as I could. As I was scooting around, I found a water bottle and passed it to her.
The wind howled through the open-ended tent, tearing wildly at the canvas.
“What’s next?” I asked, taking the water bottle back. I was kneeling up by her head and could see the huge mound of her belly rising from her abdomen. For a moment, she just lay their, her hands pressed against it, then her whole body began to tense with a contraction.
It was…incredible. Her distended belly shifted upwards, becoming rounder as the muscles tightened around the ovoid mass within. This came about as part of a larger motion, her limbs flexing, her back curling forward around her womb. Her whole body was working in concert for the process of labor.
“I feel like I need to push,” she panted, one hand moving to hold mine.
“Alright, I’m here for you. Push!”
“Not yet,” Willow looked up at me, squeezing my hand. “I don’t think I’m ready. I need you to check my cervix and see how dilated I am.”
“I…how do I do that?”
“Just take a couple of fingers and insert them. Feel for the end of the vagina. The opening needs to be about ten centimeters.”
I suddenly felt as if my hands were extremely dirty and I couldn’t imagine doing something so unsanitary during a medical procedure, but as I looked into Willow’s eyes—soft, yet confident, grey as winter clouds—it dawned on me that this wasn’t something medical, wasn’t something clean. This was a natural and ancient thing, something beyond her and me, a play that had been acted out since time began, and we were merely the actors of the moment.
My left hand still held hers, but I scooted down to her legs, which she bent and spread to allow me access. The layers of her colorful skirt shifted as her knees moved beneath them, tenting up as she got into position.
“Sorry, I still have my skirt on. Need me to remove it first?”
“No, this is fine,” I said, not really know if it was fine or not.
I lifted the skirt over her knees, slowly revealing her bare and muddy feet, the pale lengths of her legs…I swallowed hard and looked at my hand before leaning forward and hesitantly inserting two fingers between her labia.
Immediately my face started to burn and I looked away, focusing completely on my task: measuring how dilated her cervix was. I pressed deeper, afraid I might hurt her, but Willow said nothing and seemed no more uncomfortable for my intrusion.
My fingers brushed something. Something firm but yielding, almost like a pair of open lips. It felt so strange that I just sat there in wonder at the whole experience, the sense of her body opening to allow the child’s passage.
“Are you going to measure or just feel me up?” she laughed in a nonchalant way, but both of our faces were bright red.
Willow groaned and leaned her head back as I moved around to sit beside her again. The wind shifted, blowing droplets of rain into the open tent.
“So what does that mean?”
“It means—” she let out a grunt as she shifted, turning over onto her side to face me. “—oof, that we wait.”
She set her hand on mine.
“For how long?”
“Not too long, the pressure of the baby helps with the last little bit. For now I just need to hold off on pushing and let nature do the work.”
“Anything I can do to help?”
She smiled in a contented way.
“Just be here for me.”
She was on her right side, her right hand on her stomach, her left held in mine. The contractions came with increasing frequency, slowly gaining power as they came. We talked. I was trying to take her mind off of the discomfort, and she seemed to appreciate it. After each contraction I could see little flutters of movement against her skin, which would draw her attention. Willow pressed against these, sometimes laughing a little, despite the pain that still lingered.
Outside, the summer storm got worse, the rain battering the sides of the tent so hard that conversation soon became futile. The open ends flapped wildly, now and then bowing out like a sail. With a loud “THUNK,” almost lost in the rain, one of the pegs gave way and the tent failed, completely coming apart and becoming little more than a canvas banner hanging on by a corner.
I started to stand, to move away and fix the tent, but Willow pulled me back down.
“Forget it!” she shouted over the wind and rain. “I—” she curled, groaning. “It’s time!”
She reached up and I took her hands helping her get into a crouching position. Squatting over the blanket, she leaned on my arm for support and unfastened her skirt, tossing it aside. I took this and draped it over her to help keep the rain off.
“What now, what happens now?” I took both of her hands and she gave squeeze in response.
“Now,” she panted. “The baby comes.”
With a long, tense cry, Willow bore down, her stance spreading a little as she pushed. I could see the movement, could see her labia swell outwards as the child entered the birth canal. This receded a little as the contraction passed and her breathing returned to a more normal rhythm.
She leaned forward against me, her head against my chest.
“I know but you’re almost there. Just a little more.”
“I—” she was cut off by another contraction, now actually taking a hand to press against the top of her belly. Rain streamed from her hair, dripped down her skin, shifting as the muscles beneath bulged and strained.
She let out a long and exhausted scream.
“I can feel it,” she panted.
“What doesn’t it feel like?”
“It feels…” she slowly reached down to support the underside of her belly. “Powerful.”
The next contraction began and I could see her lips parting, the top of the child’s bald head beginning to emerge. Willow touched it, holding it in the palm of her hand, and I couldn’t help but stare at this image of life: the mother’s first, nervous touches with her child.
“Just a little more,” I urged her on, brushing the hair from her face. “Almost there, just give me one more big push. Okay?”
She opened her mouth to say something, but the contraction took over, and she pulled the hand I had been holding away. Child’s head came out in one great push and there was a moment’s pause as she touched her stretched lips with either hand, helping spread them around the infant’s shoulders.
With the next push, she drew the child out of herself, emerging like a release of held breath. Willow laughed, drawing the child up and holding her—she was a fat and pink little girl—to her chest, heedless of the weather.
“She’s beautiful,” was all I could think to say.
“She is…” Willow’s mind was entirely focused on her daughter.
I grabbed the tarp and draped it over us, and she leaned against me, turning to the side to cradle the baby. It was warm in that shadowy little world, where just the three of us existed in the rain, and some part of me wished it would last forever.
“I need to call the ranger cabin, we should probably get out of the storm.”
“Just a little longer,” she smiled down at the daughter in her arms.
I listened to the storm, the little cooing sounds that Willow made to the baby.
“Do you have a name for her?” I asked.
“Rain,” she said with a smile.