From "Ebony and Ivory"


Ruby looked forward to working with the flannel. As soon as the dishes were done, she pulled out the material and pattern she'd purchased yesterday. Mark and Tycie were playing in Tycie's bedroom, leaving her free to do as she pleased.


It didn't take her long to cut out the pieces to an infant kimono. Then she realized she'd forgotten to purchase a package of needles. She was about to set the project aside until she found the time to return to the store when she remembered where she might have a sewing needle. The year before, when her grandmother had died, she had inherited a small tin box. Ruby remembered her mother saying it held antique sewing needles and buttons. Too busy at the time to sort through it, she'd set the box aside, intending to investigate its contents later. Now seemed as good a time as any. After all, needles hadn't changed much over the years, had they?


She pulled open the drawer in her bedroom where she stored odds and ends of personal items. There. She pulled the box out and really looked at it for the first time, noting the antique flower drawings in black against the light blue background. Slowly, she pried it open, the rusty hinge fighting her efforts.


Yes, the box held an assortment of buttons, none of them seeming to match and all in a style used long ago. She didn't see any needles, however. Gently, she pushed the buttons around until something pricked her index finger. "Ouch!" She jerked her hand away, surprised to see a needle tenaciously poking into her finger. After withdrawing the weapon and setting it aside, she squeezed her finger to force it to bleed as immediate first aid against any germs. After all, the contents of the box were old and dusty.


Strange, the tiny wound had already closed. In fact, she no longer felt any pain. Still, as a precaution, she poured some peroxide over the area. That chore completed, she returned her attention to the culprit.


Curious, she studied the needle, held between thumb and index finger. What an unusual color, gold versus the usual silvery steel. Was it really a sewing needle? Yes, it had an eye, so she guessed it would work as well as any. Mindful of its sharp point, she shoved it through a piece of paper, then carried it into the living room along with the flannel and thread. After making herself comfortable on the couch, Ruby threaded the needle, lined up the edges of two pieces of the kimono, and slid the needle into the fabric to start the first seam.


Immediately, she was overtaken by the strangest sensation she'd ever experienced-- a feeling akin to weightlessness. At the same time, the room began to shimmer, and her vision lost focus. . . .


She was no longer in her living room. Looking around, she recognize her whereabouts-- a hospital room. Before she could do more than wonder what she was doing here, a nurse entered, carrying a small bundle in her arms.


"Here's your little guy. What are you going to name him?"


"Charles, after his grandfather."


"He certainly is a big one. Nine pounds and twenty-three inches. Is his father a large man?"


She nodded, accepting the warm baby boy into her arms. He smelled as if he'd just had a bath. Unwrapping him, she saw he had an abundance of dark curls on his head. His skin was light, though not quite as light as his father's. But her mark was on him. He had Negro lips and her flat nose. He turned his head to root, and her breasts ached with the need to feed him. She pulled her nightgown off her shoulder and settled him on her breast where he eagerly latched on.


She winced at the initial pain, remembering it from when she'd nurse Tycie. After a minute it went away, and she delighted in the feeling of the baby suckling. Able to talk once more, she turned to the nurse who patiently awaited her reply. "Yes, his father is six-foot three."


"I imagine little Charles will be at least as tall as his dad."


She nodded and watched the nurse leave the room. She looked forward to visiting hours when she could see. . . .


"Mom, come kiss me goodnight."


Ruby blinked, and suddenly she was in her living room once more. Wow. That had been the most unusual experience of her life. She'd actually felt herself in another place and time.


But, no. It couldn't have happened. She must have fallen asleep and had a dream. A vivid dream. Had Mark been in the hospital room? She hadn't seen him. Was he the one she'd been looking forward to seeing?


Shaking her head to clear the remnants of the dream away, she called, "I'm coming, Tycie."


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