Someone started clapping and cheering and then everyone was talking at once, slapping each other on the back, and the tuxedos and warriors were intermingled, shaking hands and hugging, as Marion went back to see her granddaughter and Cameron followed her and Ginny Tabor kissed Brett Hershey just for show. The Admitting nurse told everyone to quiet down but no one listened and I just stood and watched it all, smiling, committing everything to memory so that later I could tell Scarlett, and Grace, every single detail.
Much later, I sent my mother home and sat with Scarlett, watching her sleep. This had been our Special Night, just not the one we’d expected. I was so excited about the baby and what was coming next, I wanted to wake her up and talk about everything, right then, but she looked so peaceful that I held back. And as I left, I walked past the nursery and looked in on Grace, curled up so tiny in her bassinette. I spread my fingers on the glass, our signal, just to let her know I was there.
Then I walked downstairs and out into the night to go home. I didn’t want anyone to start this journey with me.
I bent down and took off my shoes, hooking the straps over my wrist, and started down the sidewalk. I wasn’t thinking about Macon, or my mother waiting at home for me, or even Scarlett dozing behind one of those bright hospital windows. I was only thinking of Grace Halley with each step I took, in my prom dress (safety-pinned tight, now), barefoot, heading home.
I wondered what kind of girl she’d be, and if she’d ever see the comet that was her name, and Grandma Halley‘s, and mine. I knew I’d try, one day, to take her and show her the sky, hold her against my lap as I told her how the comet went overhead, how it was clear and beautiful, and special, just like her. I hoped that Grace would be a little bit of the best of all of us: Scarlett’s spirit, and my mother’s strength, Marion’s determination, and Michael’s sly humor. I wasn’t sure what I could give, not just yet. But I knew when I told her about the comet, years from now, I would know. And I would lean close to her ear, saying the words no one else could hear, explaining it all. The language of solace, and comets, and the girls we all become, in the end.