Later, staggering slightly, he goes out into the street. The moon is fat above. When he reaches the apartment, all is still. His mother sits beaming by the side of the bed, where Aliette sleeps. In his mother’s arms, he sees a tiny sleeping baby. A boy, he knows, without being told.
When Aliette awakens, she finds L. sitting where his mother was. She smiles tiredly.
“I am thinking of names,” L. says, hushed. “I like Franklin and Karl.”
“I have already named him,” Aliette says.
“Yes? What’s my son’s name?”
“Compass,” she says. And though he presses, she won’t tell him why. At last, grinning, he accepts the name, vowing to nickname him something more conventional. He never does. After the child is a few months old, L. will find the name suits his son to perfection.
They have a month together in that tiny flat. L.’s mother bustles and looks after them, feeding them elaborate meals, and rocking the baby while L. reads Aliette his new poems.
“You are growing into the best poet in America,” she says.
“Growing?” he jokes. “I thought I already was.”
“No,” she says. “But now you might be.” And she lies back, letting the words from his poems sift into her memory. She looks a little ill, and doesn’t complain, but L. can see that something is not right with her. He worries. At night, he hears a soft rasp as Aliette grinds her teeth in pain.
Soon, the detectives return. L.’s mother does not let them in this time, but their voices grow loud in the hallway. They shout and rage at her. At last they leave. L.’s mother is shaky and collapses into a chair, and puts a cloth over her face, and weeps into it, unable to look at the couple for fear.
L. looks at Aliette. “I am taking you back,” he says. “I’ll keep Compass with my mother.”
Aliette says, very quietly, “No.”
“Yes,” L. says. He tells her that he knows she is ill and her father can afford physicians that he cannot. If she returns without Compass, her reputation will not be tarnished, and no one will know about her pregnancy. Later, when they marry, they can adopt him. Their argument is quiet, but goes on for many hours, until Aliette finally succumbs to her illness and the pain and his arguments. She has been afraid that she is growing worse: she feels herself weakening, and allows herself to be convinced about something that, if she were stronger and less frightened, she never would have countenanced.
At last she clutches Compass to her chest and smells her fill of him. Weeping, feverish, longing for him already, she agrees to go.
L. stops the cab a half a block from Aliette’s father’s house, and leans close to her. Their kiss is long and hungry. If they knew how often they would remember it, for how many years it would be their dearest memory, this kiss would last for hours. But it ends, and she climbs out, wincing with pain, and he watches her walk away, so lovely, the feather of her hat bouncing.
When Aliette walks back into the house, her father is sitting in the parlor, head buried in his hands. When he looks up, he clearly does not recognize her. She looks at the mirror above the mantle, and sees herself: pale and skinny again, hair dun-colored, her face above her fur looking a decade older than her age. When she looks back, Rosalind is in the doorway, and the tray she is holding is chattering. Her face is pinched with unhappiness, while a broad, bright smile spreads across her father’s red face.
After the doctor visits Aliette, she is forced into bed rest. She sleeps while, across town, L. holds Compass and sees Aliette in his son’s small face.
Only years later does Aliette trace the pieces of her loss in the evidence scattered through her fever. Her father’s expression when he looks at her as she first walks in, a mixture of hurt and relief. How the doctor asks probing questions about her delicate parts until she admits to the pain, and allows him to examine her. How her father’s expression changes after conferring with the doctor, how he looks at her angrily. And a year later, she will hear him shouting at Rosalind one night when drunk. “Nobody, nobody abandons a Huber,” he’ll say. “We were right to do what we did.”
Two nights after L. has returned Aliette to her father’s house he is feeling a little restless, anxious to hear of Aliette’s health. He decides to take a walk in the wintry streets, to kick through the snow and work off his anxiety. He leaves Compass in his mother’s lap, and hurries down the dank stairwell and into the night.