A perfectly normal human girl. Henry scratched his head. He thought he heard the words, but how was it possible? A perfectly normal human girl. Hadn't the information contained in his DNA mingled with Diego's to manifest in the form of a combination of their beings? Eyes, nose, thorax, wings, feet, tentacles ... separate parts of a whole that would result in the perfectly realized symbol of their union.
He asked the nurse, Winifred, again. "Are you sure?"
She winked and said, "Honey, I've seen a lot of babies."
He pursued it one more time. "But it's dark."
Winifred responded, "You're just going to have to get used to the fact that you're the father of a perfectly normal human girl."
He didn't have to get used to it. Whatever the child was he'd love and take care of her. But it didn't add up. Where was the Henry in his child? Could she only contain his human half? Were his engineered human genes so powerful they squeezed out his insectual seeds and tossed them aside like so much lint?
Diego looked at Henry, knowingly. It was odd seeing her so aware. He sensed a reserve of wisdom in her that he'd hadn't fully perceived before.
From the floor she calmly said, "Henry, its okay."
And with her simple declaration Henry knew everything would be okay, no -- better than okay, everything would be wonderful.
He looked at the child. She cooed in Diego's arms, and he felt warmth fill his thorax that comforted and calmed like no other sensation Henry could recall.
Shakespeare glibly said to Andre, "So who's the father? I'll bet it's that painter."
"Shakespeare, you are not funny today. Henry is the father, of course. You know everything isn't apparent at first glance; before too long we will see things in that child, that will tell us without question, that child is Henry's child. Sometimes you have to look underneath."
Henry couldn't help but glare at Shakespeare because inside a small part of him he wondered if there wasn't some truth in what Shakespeare said. It was the part of him he had to fight, the part that turned from reason. The part instilled by his mother's fears that cried Diego was human so she couldn't be trusted. But he'd been struggling with those demons long before Diego, long before he arrived at Delancey Street.
"The big one is right, Henry," Diego smiled at Henry and waved her hand gesturing him to come closer.
"Thank you, Diego," Andre said, "but you must know my name by now, no?"
"Yeah, it's Chubblechunks," Shakespeare quipped.
Henry was sure the baby smiled at him, although the nurse insisted it was gas. She told him the baby was too new to the world to smile, but Henry knew better. Then Diego handed him the child. Wondrous disbelief filled his head. He was a father. He held out his index finger and the little creature grabbed it and began to bawl.
Diego reached for the child and said, "Here I'll take care of her, Henry". And out of his arms she traveled. He sighed as the baby quieted against Diego's breast.
Winifred looked down and said, "You three can't stay on the floor all night. C'mon, up everyone up, we'll find you a room."
"Um whadda'bout us? Are we chopped liver?" Shakespeare snapped.
"When you have a baby, midget man, you can get a room too."
"So do you still like her, Shakespeare?" Andre gleamed, his lips quivering.
Diego winked and handed Winfred the baby. As Henry helped Diego up she said, "I like her" then she paused, looked whimsically at the ceiling, and said," Henry let's name the baby Winifred."
Winifred? Winifred? Why not? An uncommon name; a magical name, for an uncommon and magical child. The shadows of his eyelids flickering interrupted his thoughts and instantly he became aware that the lights were back on. It had to be a sign -- Winifred it was.
"Ah, let there be light on the new baby! Oh she is so pretty. Kootchie-kootchie - coo, little baby," Andre said, patting the baby on the head.
"Winifred, her name's Winifred," Winifred said and she handed Winifred back to Diego.
"What's wrong with Shakespeare? Why not call her Shakespeare?" Shakespeare said, tugging Andre's leg
"But she is a girl, Shakespeare," Andre said while he made funny faces at the baby.
"Sexist," Shakespeare grumbled, and then he pled, "Can I hold her?"
"When we get to the room, little one." Diego breathed as they began to walk towards the elevator.
Upstairs, on the third floor, bustle ensued as the hospital came alive again. Nurses strolled down the hall pushing carts. Orderlies in pale blue uniforms scrambled between rooms. The buzzing hum of machines and doo-hickeys beeped through the air. As the elevator doors opened Diego could see the sign Maternity Ward and the glass of the nursery reflecting little faces and little bodies in cradles.
"She's not going in there -- she'll stay with me," Diego hushed to Henry as they made their way to the room.
Winfred said, "Sorry, honey. She'll have to go into the nursery soon."
Henry intervened and said,"Let her spend the rest of the night with us, please."
At that point Andre said, "C'mon, be a sport! She is your namesake! Let her spend her first night with her new mommy and daddy, kootchie coo."
Winfred paused as she turned the sheets on the bed. "Kootchie- kootchie -coo yourself. All right, okay, just for tonight, understand? But mum's the word."
Diego crawled into the bed. Slowly and deliberately she said, "It's a good idea, anyway, because my child is a different child."
The room hushed.
Different? How? Henry wondered. As anyone could see, she was a perfectly normal human baby as Winifred kept repeating. Either Diego knew something, or it was one of her funny thoughts. They were both on the bed now, mother and daughter, a perfect picture.
"Say, ain't I ever gonna get to hold her? "Shakespeare suddenly said, pressing his fingers on the blanket.
"Relax, Herve," Winifred snapped.
"Yes, Shakespeare, what has gotten into you? Diego has just had the baby. Let her breathe for a moment." Andre patted the baby on the head. Koothchie. Kootchie- kootchie coo."
"Its okay, c'mon here little one,"Diego breathed, calling Shakespeare over.
Shakespeare waddled to the side of the bed. Diego carefully placed the baby in Shakespeare's arms and the baby cooed.
Andre, seeing the baby in Shakespeare's arms, was just about to burst. "Oh, oh! Can I hold her too! I love holding babies! Please oh please oh please!" He cheered and waved his hands wildly.
"Hey, wait a second, I just got her," Shakespeare cried, holding the baby tightly.
It seemed everyone was holding the baby except for the father. But he'd have plenty of time with Winifred. This night would be the most memorable night of his life. All he had to do was breathe it in.
"Oh here, already, "Shakespeare said as Andre pulled the baby from his arms. "You two be careful with Winifred," Winifred warned while she checked Diego's blood pressure.
Andre held Winifred high in the air. Henry's breath stopped for a second as the blanket that was covering the baby fell to the floor revealing a small gentle wing protruding near her bottom. And then he pointed and cried, "Look a wing! A wing! "
All eyes in the room darted to the baby's bottom. Happily, Andre pulled Winifred down near his chest. He turned her over, and he proclaimed, "What did I tell you? Sometimes you have to look underneath!"