MUM • by Cecilia Ryan

“What the hell is that?” Sam stared at the contraption strapped over Victor’s chest.

“I hear breastfeeding is better for babies than bottle feeding. I want the best for our little girl.” He leaned over the cot to pick up the little pink bundle wriggling and grinning at him.

“You don’t produce milk, Victor.” Sam was still too busy staring at Victor’s breasts to pay much attention to what was actually going on.

“I’ve read it’s more about the contact than the milk. I want her to think of me as her mummy.” He held the baby girl gently to the false breast he had secured for the purpose, and smiled softly as she began to suckle.

“You’re not her mother. You are physically incapable-” Sam stopped at the hurt look on Victor’s face. “I mean, you’re going to be an important part of her life, aren’t you? But you can’t be a mother.”

“I can be. Why can’t I be? I can do everything for her that a mother would do. I’d love her as though she was my own child. I can be responsible. Please, Sam.” Victor held the baby a little closer, fearful that she was going to be taken away. “I want to help.”

“Is this because you can’t have one of your own?”

“No,” Victor began quietly, “it’s because she’s yours.”

“Oh.” Sam considered quietly for a few moments, wondering exactly why that might be significant, but accepting that to Victor, it often was. His shirts and jackets also seemed to have some significance to the odd man. It wasn’t something he’d ever thought to worry about, the shirts just kept disappearing and ending up as Victor’s nightwear. He focused instead on the strange request, “and being Uncle Victor, the slightly mad one who spoils her, isn’t enough?”

“That will be James’ job. He’s wonderful with children when you catch him in the right mood. And Beagan will be like a combination of brother and uncle — he’ll never tire of playing with her. Eoin would make a good godfather, if you’re having one. She’s part of the family, Sam.”

“I didn’t realise I’d been adopted,” Sam smiled wryly. “This is important to you, isn’t it?”

Victor nodded shyly, smiling at the tiny baby in his arms, and, as far as Sam was concerned, looking at her as though she could be his whole world.

“It’s a long-term responsibility, you know. You’re likely to outlive me, all things considered. You’ll probably see her have her own children.”

“I know.” Victor smiled sadly, “but I want to be there. For both of you. Raising a child on your own isn’t easy. And it’s not as if I have anything else to do with my time.”

“I’m never going to get you, am I?”

“You’re missing the painfully obvious when it comes to me, that’s all. You’ll realise someday,” Victor smiled sadly, patting the baby’s back gently and encouraging her to drink her fill.

“Maybe,” Sam walked over to the pair, watching the little girl he’d had to sire smiling up at the creature who had latched on to him like he was the hull of a ship, and Victor a particularly tenacious barnacle, “she seems to like you, doesn’t she?” As if on cue, the tiny, new human giggled and groped at Victor and his ridiculous breasts. Sam offered a finger to play with, but it was ignored in favour of the one of Victor’s that happened to be within reach. Charming.

“If you want her to call you mum, that’s all right with me,” Sam put a hand on Victor’s shoulder and squeezed gently, “she’ll be confused enough as it is, might as well add ‘oh, and your mother is male’, to the list of things that’ll be different about her. Builds character, I suppose.”

“Just wait until she tells her schoolmates all about her family.”

“Yeah. You can deal with the upset schoolmistress, since you’re her stay-at-home mum.” He grinned, and pressed a soft kiss to Victor’s cheek. “Do you cook as well? Are you somehow obliged to look after the father of your child, do you think?”

“I’ll do whatever you want,” Victor beamed, blushing faintly, and went to sit down with his new daughter. “Thank you, Sam.”

Cecilia Ryan is a writer. In the sense that she writes a great volume of words on a given day. Some of them come out readable.

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