“Really though, I can’t thank you enough, Georgia. Ever since that day I called you in a panic, you’ve been an absolutely lifesaver.”
“I’ll admit that I’ve become pretty fond of your little gift from the stars, Reuben. I never thought of myself as much of a maternal type, but there’s something about Neil that just brings it out of me,” she murmured in between bites of cake.
Reuben grinned back at her, shoveling forkfuls into his own mouth. “He’s done a lot more than that! You were wound tight as hell before he came around and loosened you up!”
It was amazing how much Neil had grown. No longer was he stuck in swaddled blankets, now he was crawling around the house and getting into any and everything, the only notice of trouble being his odd laughter echoing throughout the walls. But for his laughter he was silent and never made a sound.
Soon enough it was Neil’s birthday, and both Reuben and Georgia could hardly believe that he’d been enriching their lives for a year already.
“Thanks so much for coming to celebrate with us, Georgia. The secret’s out about Neil, but that doesn’t mean that the people here tolerate his presence. I think they might be scared of him.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Since the dissolution of her relationship with her longtime boyfriend, Georgia had indeed been more than a little lonely during the day. Her interior design business was floundering - Reuben had been her only client in months - and she’d simply been going through the motions for a long time. She couldn’t even remember what it was like to want this, and it no longer fulfilled her.
Neil, however, certainly did. He always had a smile on his face when she entered the room, his eerie coos echoing with delight. She adored the boy with every fiber of her being.
The nursery remodel had gone over great, as had the remodels of his own bedroom, study, both bathrooms and the living room. Slowly but surely Georgia was making over every room in his small house. Neil was thriving, a giggling little green goober that sat contently in his bouncer as Georgia directed Reuben where to hang sconces and picture frames. The stiff designer had grown fond of the baby, and Reuben could safely say that he and the older woman had become fast friends. It was the only reason he felt comfortable asking her.
“So, I took an extended leave of absence when Neil … arrived … and all of my sabbatical days have run out. I know this is a lot to ask, but since you’re the only one that even knows about him, would you be able to watch him during the day while I’m at the lab?” He refused to meet Georgia’s eyes, braced for her refusal.
“Of course! My new apartment is so unbearably lonely, and I’m more than a little fond of your glow worm.”
“Georgia may have gone a little overboard with the space theme here, but it’s good, right, Neil? I can see you growing up in this room, playing with your toys and learning how to tie your shoes. Doing homework and having sleepovers. Maybe someday I’ll talk to you about girls in this room. Just go to sleep now, and everything will always be alright. I promise. I love you, Neil.”
Reuben settled into the beaten, threadbare couch as Georgia surveyed the house with a careful eye. She was silent, taking notes in her head, making lists of all the things that would need to be changed and fixed and eventually the list became so long that her eyes widened.
“Is there a problem?” Reuben asked, Neil crooked in his arm.
“This is going to be a lot of work. A lot.”
Help arrived in the form of the only neighbor that had introduced herself to him since he’d moved in several months ago, an interior decorator called Georgia.
“Thanks so much for coming such short notice, I really appreciate it.” Reuben welcomed her into the house cautiously, making certain none of the other neighbors caught a glimpse of his unusual child.
If Georgia was stunned by Neil’s appearance, her carefully controlled expression didn’t show it. “When you told me it was a special case, I assumed you meant that you were looking after someone else’s infant on short notice, not that the baby was so … different.”
It was true, Neil was different. And he’d be different his whole life, except at home, where Reuben promised himself that he’d treat his son just like he would any other child. Just because Neil’s conception was freakish didn’t mean he was. “But you’ll help?”
Soon enough everything was explained, and he was more than a little embarrassed. The baby he’d miraculously given birth to on the cold tile of his bathroom floor was decidedly not human - his green skin and black, bottomless eyes told that story clear enough. His cries echoed eerily, at a frequency that was prone to give Reuben a mild headache. Laying his newborn in a “scavenged” crib, Reuben came to the realization that his house was no place for a child. But there was no way he would be willing to relinquish his son … his Neil.
He needed some professional assistance babyproofing.
He couldn’t remember what had happened that night after the light lifted him up and away. All he recalled was waking up muddy water, nearly drowning himself as he swam to the bank. It’d taken a lot of careful running and a few well placed bushes to make it back to his house without being spotted.
Maybe it was a bit of a coping mechanism - choosing to supersize his fries and add on the apple turnover - but soon enough Reuben found his pants stretched to their limit. He attempted to lift weights and workout in the privacy of his own home, where people wouldn’t be able to gawk at how much he’d changed in such a short time, but nothing could stop the pounds from piling on.