Premature

Sangi was admittedly not fond of snakes, and often said that such animals did not belong indoors. But she knew how much the reptilian interest meant to Tommy and never demanded that he should have to choose between her and Tarzan — the two and a half-meters Boa Constrictor. Tommy loved her for that. They had met in Thailand two years ago, and got married shortly after.

Tommy and Sangi’s daughter had been born a month and a half prematurely in the neonatal ward. Her frail body was only 35 centimeters long, and she weighed only one and a half kilograms. Sangi had contracted pre-eclampsia and that was what had led to the premature birth. After three weeks in the hospital, they were finally able to bring little Amanda home.

Tommy started the car and turned to the back seat to make sure that his little family was securely strapped. It was very important for the baby not to get cold, the doctors had said. Sangi had wrapped Amanda in a fleece blanket on the outside of the thick pink overalls. There was more fabric than child and Tommy thought it looked hilarious. He snapped a picture of his wife and daughter, with his smartphone. Sangi laughed and held out her tongue to him.

It was a cloudless evening and the full moon reflected itself in the lake they were passing by. A bus swerved past them, and they were almost through the intersection when a motorcycle roared and came towards them at full speed from the right. Just as he thought the motorcycle was going to ram them, it veered off and missed the car with by just a knife’s edge. “Bloody idiot!” he said with clenched teeth. He twisted backwards and saw that both Amanda and Sangi were asleep. It was surely a Hells Angels member he thought. Their clubhouse was not far away.

The motion detector light reacted, as the car rolled into the driveway and the garage next to the yellow villa. Sangi and Amanda were still asleep in the car. Tommy sat still for a moment, listening to the silence and the ticking of the engine. “Sangi, we’re home now” he whispered so as not to wake Amanda. Sangi opened her eyes and squinted at the stinging halogen light outside. Amanda gave off a gurgling sound and stretched and screwed into her warm nest. “Welcome home” he said and kissed his daughter on the forehead. Sangi said something in Thai and kissed Amanda in the same place. “What did you say? he asked. “Same as you” she said, laughing.

They hung off their clothes, and just as he had thought, Sangi reacted to the mess he had left behind during her stay at the hospital. Two weeks of dishes stood in an overcrowded sink, and the stove was a minor work of art of dried-up and burnt-down food scraps. Sangi looked at Tommy and rolled her eyes. They had time to eat some cheese sandwiches before Amanda woke up and started screaming. Sangi picked her up and gave her the breast. “Are you tired?” Sangi asked. “Yes. I’m getting up early for work tomorrow, so I better go to bed early.” Tommy said.

After Sangi finished breastfeeding Amanda, they walked up the winding pine-tree staircase. There were four rooms up there: Sangi and Tommy’s bedroom with attached bathroom, the nursery, Tommy’s office, and in the middle was the livingroom, that Sangi decorated in Thai style. They went into the bedroom and put Amanda down in the crib that Tommy had put together himself. He’d even engraved her name and date of birth in squiggly style in the wooden headboard of the head end. Sangi was delighted and kissed him. “So, you like it?” he asked. She nodded with a broad smile. “Good night little Amanda, see you tomorrow” Sangi whispered.

Tommy woke up with a jolt. He had a feeling that something was wrong, terribly wrong. He sat up in bed and looked at the alarm clock next to him. The numbers were pulsating with a malevolent red glow in the dark. Quarter past twelve. He had only slept for about three hours. He turned his head and looked at Sangi. She lay on one side facing away from him, snoring lightly. Why had he woken up like that, he who always slept so heavily? Amanda, he thought in panic.

Tommy tore off his quilt and rushed over to the crib with a pounding heart. It was dark in the room but the cold moonlight seeping through the lace curtain was enough for him to see that she was gone. His first thought was that Sangi had picked up Amanda and put her in the bed next to them. He rushed up to Sangi and tore away her quilt as well. She wasn’t there either. Tommy found it hard to breathe and began to hyperventilate. What the hell is going on, he thought. Has there been anyone in here who has taken her? But he had locked properly and turned on the alarm, he was sure of that. Tommy looked at the crib again, and now he noticed Amanda’s blue blanket sticking halfway out through two squirts at the foot end. No! No! No! It can’t be like that, he thought, and rushed out of the bedroom and straight ahead to his office where the door was wide open.

Sangi was right. Snakes don’t belong indoors.

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