The day Zoe was born, her parents forgot about her.
The birth was amazing. Her mother's friends had said that, even with an epidural, there would be the dreaded "ring of fire" when the widest point of the baby's head exited her body, but there was no pain at all. There was only pressure, and a cresting sensation as each contraction approached. There was the sweet midwife, who laughed that she didn't even need to be there, since mom knew when the contractions were coming before the electronic monitor did, and dad was coaching like he'd done it his whole life. There was a whiteboard on the wall, with spaces to write the room number (515), the name of the primary nurse (Gina), and any "birth requests" (yes, please, her father had written). There was no music. There was no yelling. In time, there was a little girl.
Her sex had been known for months, as had her name. Zoe was the name of her mother's mother, and her father's grandmother; the name was never in question, and there were no runner-ups. She lay on her mother's chest, wrapped in one of the hospital baby blankets and wearing a hospital baby cap, both white with widely-spaced stripes: thin and pale, pink and blue. The nurse took a photo; Zoe's slate blue eyes are closed, while mom and dad's eyes, green and brown respectively, are open and exhausted-looking. But happy. Happy like the Grinch must have felt after his heart grew three sizes in one day. Zoe was her parents' firstborn, so they couldn't have been expected to know. You never know until you're there. Another photo: they are stroking Zoe's thick brown hair. Another photo: they are looking at each other.
Then the bustling began. They had to leave the delivery room in favor of a post-partum room, two floors up. They had to pack their bags. Zoe, they were told, had to be taken to the nursery anyway to be weighed and measured, it would really be easiest to do that now, and then she would be brought to them in their new room. And so Zoe's mom and dad kissed her head and hands and face, and they let her go with the nurses.
The bags… they'd spread out so much in just a day. Was that a shelf under the delivery bed? Could they just shove everything down there, since it would be wheeled into the new room anyway? Did it fit? Would it slide off? Was there anything left in the drawers? The little closet, the bathroom?
The new room was two floors up, and the mirror image of the first. The computer there, for music. Bags along the windowsill, clothes in the new closet. Armchair closer to the bed.
They pulled back the curtains. It was the last week in April, and yet outside, it was starting to snow.
They sat together and marveled, watching the snowflakes drift slowly down. There were no doctors, no nurses, no med students or other random interlopers. Quiet, thank god. Just the way they liked it. The way it had been for over 15 years. They'd waited so long to get here, and they'd done it. Together. And now all they had to do was wait. So… what to do now?
Old habits kicked in immediately. Was there anything good showing on television? Was he hungry? Was she? Should they order something from the hospital's room service, or should he run across the street to the mall with a food court? Did he want to shower? Did she want a change of clothes? Did they need to call anyone? How long did the doctors say they were going to be waiting, again? Because they were waiting. Just killing time until…
The hatch of memory opened, and all the air sucked out of the room.
Zoe was missing.
She was only in the nursery she was down the hall and she would be back soon of course the nurses would bring her back any moment now surely she'd be back but Zoe their Zoe was missing.
And in remembering, their hearts swelled another size. No more planning movies and dinner without thinking of another soul. Now they had Zoe.
She would be back soon.
Outside, the snow continued to fall.