The first time Ned laid eyes on Zin, the sight hit him like a tsunami–stole his breath, laid his soul flat on the floor of Summerset High. Her eyes nicked his face and moved on, and he wanted her like he’d never wanted anything in his life.
She swept past in a dizzying swirl of color and perfume. He watched her cut a swath of destruction through the beige hallway to her locker. She wasn’t beautiful, exactly, but she had self-possession that cast all the other girls into shadow. She scared him. There was something hard, a little too bright, about her. She’d chew him up and spit him out and not even notice the pieces of him crunching beneath her sparkly shoes.
So he kept his distance. Squashed the desire. He had enough on his mind, anyway.
But tonight, as Ned emerged from the shadows of the woods and saw Zin bathed in the golden pool cast by the porch light, he knew something had changed. There was a softness in the way her body molded around the bundle in her arms, a vulnerability to the curve of her cheek and downcast eyes.
“What’s Zin got?” asked Jon. “Is that–a baby?”
Dee’s fingers dug into his arm, all her weight sagging onto him. He nearly toppled into her. Before he could correct, she let go and took the steps at a run. Grammy’s knitting needles never stopped as her eyes flickered shrewdly to her great-granddaughter and dropped again.
By the time Ned arrived, the tension had drained from Dee’s face. He knew what she’d thought, but it was just her guilty conscience. Her baby was a thousand miles away by now, with her new parents.
“But whose is it?” The words hadn’t come from his mouth, though they echoed his thoughts.
“I don’t know.” Zin’s voice was hushed, lyrical. “She was down in the woods, under a tree. I heard her crying.”
“We should call the police,” someone said.
The corners of Zin’s eyes tightened; the bundle inched imperceptibly closer to her body. Ned clenched his fists to squash a tremor, then stepped forward. He crouched down and pulled back the blanket that shadowed the baby’s face.
He froze, then expelled a long breath and dared to look at Zin, only a foot away, close enough to see each individual lash framing her eyes. As if sensing his gaze, she met his eyes, read the look there. “What is it?” she whispered. The hardness was gone. Somehow, she had fallen in love with a baby she’d only known for an hour. What he was about to say was going to hit her like a tsunami.
“Zin,” he said softly, “I think this baby has Down syndrome.”
I’ve been trying to write free-standing pieces for fiction prompts, but I’m also really interested in the set of characters introduced in “A Cry In the Dark” and “Secrets.” This continues the story told in those two, adding another point of view to the mix. Still, I think you could probably read this independently and not miss much.
I’m very interested to know how I’m doing with an older-teenage male POV. I’m trying to portray a thoughtful, introspective guy–and I know those young men exist–but I’m also worried about making him just too feminine to be real. Would love your input.
Also, enjoy this video. I couldn’t get it to embed or I’d have used it instead.