The wrapping paper’s lost its crispness. It lies limp on the carpet, wet with the day’s humidity. The damp hands of the expectant mother wade through gift bags of bibs & onesies. A bathrobe covered in bears. A dolphin dances on a cloud. There are rainbows & elephants, blankets crochet from scratch, some completed in the wee hours of the morning.
Effie unwraps a blanket big enough to cover a sofa. Is this what’s expected of her now, covering herself? The women crowd the living room, holding forks & foam plates. The cake that cost $70 is 3/4 gone. Effie wanted the $200 two-story cake, but her mother said no way. She looks at her mother, aunts and grandma, the women who, till now, coddled her and brought her birthday gifts. Now here she was, surrounded by birthday gifts that, for the first time, weren’t her own. A cellphone chimes from beneath the crumpled paper & flattened gift bags.
Effie’s best friend digs out her phone. She leans over Effie’s rounded belly to kiss Effie’s check. “He’s here, babe. S’ya Effie!” Her friend springs up, dodges the bosoms & hips circling the room, and disappears out the screen door. Through the open window, Effie hears tyres on gravel. A car door opens. “What about Effie?” asks a guy’s voice, his voice. The music gets louder. The door closes. The women are cooing. Effie just unwrapped a year’s worth of tear-free shampoo.