Gatford

The Giantess’ Daughter

Jo Gatford

            They had made an extra special effort to accommodate Delilah at her daughter’s wedding, sourcing the disused glass canopy of an observatory, turning it on its rounded end and filling it with what had to be hundreds of pounds’ worth of orange juice. It was meant to be Bucks Fizz but they sheepishly admitted they’d only been able to spare one bottle of champagne for her portion. She toasted them with solemn appreciation nonetheless, running her toughened fingers over the little panes of glass in the domed roof as she sipped. The sweetness of the juice was tempered by the earthy tone of the copper receptacle, but the giantess didn’t mind. She was content to watch the humans go about their celebration, darting like lizards on a hot rock, dressed up in dolls’ clothes and darling little hats.
            The wedding breakfast was sumptuous from ground level—seafood platters piled high with king crab, calamari, and three whole lobsters, one of which they generously offered to Delilah as an hors d’oeuvre. She declined, leaving them to their feast, and sat on a hillock at the side of the marquee to quietly observe their hurried, intricate customs. She turned the observatory cup in her palms as she listened to the bridesmaids teasing her daughter about what to expect from the best man’s speech, and the wedding night beyond it.
            Delilah’s daughter, Freya, was normal-sized in human terms. In Delilah’s community, however, Freya was known as a ‘drip’—a genetic accident that giantesses occasionally produced without even being aware that they had given birth. The babies rarely survived; abandoned, overlooked, accidentally mishandled by their thick-fingered mothers. But Delilah knew what was growing inside her from the very first kick, and treasured her one-in-a-thousand creation. A doctor broke the news of the anomaly when she failed to show even the tiniest of bumps at six months. Not a miscarriage, he told her, but an abnormality that would result in a child one-fiftieth her size. It would have to be re-homed, sent to live amongst the humans. They would be able to care for it properly. The giants were not an emotionless people but most women with a similar diagnosis felt only shame and an impatience to be rid of the pointless pregnancy. Delilah took her news and swallowed it down, holding her belly with a hand the size of a Volkswagen, wondering how her tiny tadpole fetus felt as it swam in its enormous bubble of amniotic fluid.
            She cried during her labor. Not from any pain—giantesses are a practical and efficient race, and approach childbirth with the same diligence as any other essential task—but because she knew her time with her miniature baby was almost over. She felt the tiniest of wriggles as the child was born and caught its gray, vernix-covered body carefully in her palm, snapping its umbilical cord with a single finger. She blew her hot breath upon it and watched as it stirred, cleared its lungs and began to let out piercing, mewling cries. Delilah hummed in response, afraid she would scare the baby with her deep, rasping speech, and the child quickly calmed, rooting with a tiny wet mouth at the mound of her thumb.
            A human midwife was in attendance and gingerly took the baby into a ready towel, all the while staring up at the giantess in stunned awe.
            “It’s a girl,” the midwife told her.
            “Please, call her Freya,” Delilah whispered, and she wept as the girl was wrapped in blankets, topped with a cotton hat, and whisked away into the waiting ambulance.
            Pints of colostrum leaked from Delilah’s nipples as she howled for her lost daughter over the days that followed. She collected up the droplets in jam jars and sent them by the crate-load to Freya’s adoptive mother, who was too afraid of cross-species diseases to use them.
            Freya’s new parents were an average couple whose desire for a child outweighed their closed minds and tendency to read tabloid newspapers. Freya, on all accounts, appeared to be normal. They had her tested for the gigantis gene and clutched at each other in depthless relief when her results came back negative. She was normal; she had a chance at a normal life, a normal marriage, normal children of her own.
            “Just one of those freak occurrences,” explained their doctor, “After all, our DNA is almost identical to theirs. The only mystery is which came first—did we shrink or did they grow?”
            Delilah dictated a letter to a human solicitor requesting the right to regular visits, but the case was passed between giant and human court so many times that eventually it was carelessly filed at the back of a cabinet and she resorted to the only legal option left to her: to stand at the border and gaze across at the human city, hoping she would one day recognize one of the little faces that passed by.
            Freya was seventeen before she saw her own birth certificate—a necessity in her application for a driving license—and she stood for a long while in her father’s study while she read the unfamiliar words where her human mother’s name should have been. Her parents sat together at the opposite end of the dining table and waited for her to speak, holding each other’s hands underneath the table to stop them from shaking.
            “Does that make me…a half-breed?” was her first question.
            “No, darling, no, no, of course not,” her father said. “You’re perfect. You’re human. All human. It’s just that your mother, technically speaking, is a giant.”
            Freya had always been a serious child, taking nursery rhymes and fables at their word and picking holes in their logic: Jack was an arrogant little thief, Hansel and Gretel’s parents were despicable abandoners and Little Red Riding Hood was an idiot if she couldn’t tell her own grandmother from a transvestite wolf. As a young woman, she took disappointment in her stride—average grades, less than average fine motor skills, a singing voice like cattle being slaughtered. But she worked hard, explored her strengths, and ploughed on the best she could—she was a skilled gardener, excelled at physical sports, and knew how to tell a dirty joke that would make the boys’ cheeks bloom with color while they furiously looked anyplace but her laughing face. Which is why her parents were so afraid when they watched her expression turn from confusion to despair as she read the information on the paper over and over again.
            “Didn’t she want me? Did she give me up? Why?”
            “She had no choice,” said her mother, whose heart had softened towards her giant competitor over the years. Once she discovered the endless lengths she herself would be prepared to go in order to nurture and protect her adopted child, a guilt began to ferment in her belly until any mention of the giantess brought on an unbearable nausea. Tears bulged at the rim of her lower eyelids as she repeated to Freya the justifications she had told to herself so many times: “The logistics…how would she have changed your nappy? Fed you? Stuck a plaster on a grazed knee? Freya, sweetheart, you weren’t meant to be raised by giant.”
            “But I am one. Inside. Deep down. It’s just…my genes made me too small, that’s what it is.” Freya reasoned, forming practical conclusions that would appease her straightforward nature and a lurking feeling that she had never really belonged with her normal parents in their normal-sized world. There was something much bigger inside her, she knew it.
            “I suppose so, yes. But darling, you never need worry about any of that. You’re nearly eighteen, and then you can apply for full human citizenship and forget you were ever…associated with their kind.”
            Her mother thought her words would be reassuring, but Freya could not forget, even when she received her humanity certificate a year later, and soon after that met a man who took in the news of her birth as easily as though she had told him she wasn’t a natural redhead. He gave her a diamond ring and as her mind turned to life after marriage—where pitter-pattering feet and pot roasts and large, noisy Christmases loitered—she couldn’t help feeling a twisting beneath her solar plexus. How could she become a mother herself if she had never known her own?
            Delilah almost missed the invitation, small as it was. Freya had asked the printers to enlarge the template to their largest size, but it was only when Delilah found it stuck to the bottom of her toe that she noticed the elaborate gold writing and her daughter’s name, cordially inviting her to attend a ceremony with a human boy.
            The giantess practiced manipulating the tiniest sticks and pebbles she could find, trying to simulate the gentleness required for the shaking of hands and patting of heads and kissing of cheeks, which were, she assumed, the types of things that went on at weddings. Giants didn’t marry, were polygamous with no sense of possession or jealousy or longevity. She had no idea who Freya’s father might have been, but it had never mattered—children were raised by their mothers and their mothers alone. Since Freya had been taken, Delilah had not allowed another male to touch her. She had, once or twice, allowed the warm, deep lure of another giantess’s scent to move her to find solace in the gentle nuzzling embrace that women sometimes shared. But any giant looking for a similar tryst was chased away with a screech that would have caused cardiac arrest in any human within earshot. The thought of bearing another baby—a normal baby—was too much of a betrayal to consider.
            Delilah wore a blue dress with her favorite elephant-skin boots, teasing her hair back from her face to expose smooth brown skin that was wrinkled like the folds of a blanket, and bright, glassy eyes that shone like mother-of-pearl.
            When Freya met Delilah on the day of her wedding, she drew herself up to her full height, the top of her head level with the clasp on her mother’s left gray boot, and turned her face flat towards the sky. The child shone with a soaring of blood she had never felt before. It tore through her veins and pushed her heart’s capacity to its fullest. She raised her arms to her womb-mother like a tired toddler wishing to be scooped up and tucked against a hip. Delilah reached down with a flat palm for Freya to step onto, before slowly bringing her daughter fifty-seven feet up to face level. Freya’s adoptive parents clung to each another with clawed hands that left smudged blue fingerprint bruises on their upper arms.
            “Freya,” Delilah whispered, so that only her daughter could hear. She had practiced the art of speaking with barely a sound until sometimes she could not even be sure that she would be audible to a human’s undersized ears. As she made her nomadic way across her land to that of the humans, she had spoken to herself in ever quieting tones; everything she would say to Freya when they met, everything she had longed to tell her baby through the long nights, the songs she would have sung to soothe a teething gum, the reasons for the way of the world and the whys and the hows, the way their parting had left a crack running through her, a fracture so fundamental that she knew she would one day simply fall into two pieces.
            “Mama,” Freya said.
            Her mother’s face seemed as though it were trying to collapse along a fault line that creased her eyes closed. Tears the size of water balloons fell around Freya, spattering her wedding gown with salted water. The girl took off her veil and offered it up as a handkerchief. Delilah smiled and asked her: “Do they treat you well? Have you been happy?”
            Freya looked down at her parents, steadying herself on Delilah’s littlest finger as vertigo wobbled her high-heeled feet. A laugh trickled out of her as she watched their stiff, anxious body language. “They love me,” she told the giantess, “I’m very lucky. And now I have you along with them.”
            Delilah’s tears were temporarily dammed as she was struck with the perfect delicacy of her miniature daughter, but upon hearing Freya’s words she couldn’t prevent a bark of anguish bursting from her throat. Freya jolted and fell backwards onto the firm, spongy skin of her mother’s palm. Her human mother screamed, and “Dear God!” yelled her father, as they strained to see what was happening so far above, with Freya so vulnerable, so close to the beast. Freya waved reassuringly down at them and after a moment they realized Delilah was crying, and not roaring or preparing to eat the girl, and a confused, awkward silence slowly fell upon them. Delilah could not speak for the boulder-sized lump in her throat, and Freya took her mother’s overwhelming emotion to be happiness at their reconciliation, sitting patiently cross-legged on the center of Delilah’s lifeline until the giantess’s tears came to a stop.
            Delilah could not tell her little child what it had cost for her to cross the border into the human city. Her visa had only been approved for a single day. An armed guard made a perimeter around the wedding venue at a respectful distance, drinking coffee and keeping the press at bay. Without qualifications in human relations, the giantess would not be allowed back into the city after today, and she knew she would never be able to obtain the accreditation she needed from the Gigantis University. Her blood had an ancestral flow—she followed the path that a giantess was supposed to follow. But there weren’t many like her left, the rest adapting to their proximity to humankind by emulating their little civilization in what Delilah saw as a degrading falsification. She would not be able to return to Freya, and she could not ask her puny daughter to venture into the dangers of her world, so vast, so alien.
            Freya grew bored, and began to climb her mother’s arm, careful not to tear the blue sleeves with her stilettos. Once she reached Delilah’s shoulder she sat beneath her ear and told her mother about the man she loved, about her childhood, about her plans for life now that she knew who she was, where she came from. Delilah listened and smiled, restraining her laughs into warm rumbles so as not to frighten anyone again. After a time, she crouched down to the grass and made her arm into a slide for Freya to descend. The girl’s tulle-lined skirts swept up above her waist and she whooped with delight, tumbling into the waiting arms of her little parents who bowed hastily to the giantess as they tugged their daughter away, to the church, so that she wouldn’t be late for her own wedding.
            Freya’s parents had done their best to welcome Delilah to the reception without squeaking too loudly about the footprints that left craters in the dance floor. When she made puckering motions with her lips as though she were hoping to pick off a few human morsels for dessert, they considered beginning an evacuation procedure, until Freya calmly responded by blowing her giant mother a kiss and they realized it was an attempt at socializing and tried to relax. After the ceremony and the meal, they glanced less frequently over to the other mother-of-the-bride—Delilah seemed content enough to sit on the grassy bank and observe the miniature circus before her: black and white figures turning circles in the marquee, tinkling with laughter that was no doubt mostly aimed in her direction. Delilah didn’t care. She watched her little daughter, so free, so content, shyly bringing out gifts and serving dishes to show to her giant mother, details on the cake that Delilah could barely see. The giantess nodded at each one, smiled and blew kisses back, letting loose a few more tears when her new son-in-law came and bowed at her feet, nervously staring at the elephant tusks that served as buttons on her boots.
            Delilah imagined for a moment what it would be like to fit herself into one of the silly little chairs perched around the circumference of the dance floor, raise a long-stemmed champagne flute and toast along with the others. But as she saw her Thumbelina baby twirling with her husband in a first dance of swollen hearts and tingling lips, it was just as fine to lean back into the damp grass and drain the remains of her observatory orange juice.
            When the happy couple had departed in their wedding car, tin cans tumbling behind, Freya’s human mother appeared from the marquee pushing a wheelbarrow of flowers. She parked it next to Delilah and sat awkwardly next to the blue mountain of a woman.
            “Freya wanted me to give you these,” she shouted, “She had wanted us to commission an appropriately sized cake but…budget, you know.”
            Delilah laughed from the base of her stomach, setting off all the car alarms in the car park.
            Freya’s little mother, once she had recovered from the reverberations, laughed too. “I’m so sorry,” she said quietly, wondering if Delilah could even hear her. Of course, Delilah had excellent hearing, as all giants do, but Freya’s human mother had never paid attention in her species class at school. It was easier to believe what the newspapers wrote about the bumbling morons with a taste for raw flesh and arsonist tendencies. Still, this one seemed different, at least. And she knew well enough the pain of losing a child, in the long years before she and her husband decided to adopt.
            “She’s happy,” the human said, “She’s always been happy. We gave her everything we could. I told myself she wasn’t missing anything in your world, but behind the happiness there was always a sort of wound. As if she was constantly holding something in, something…old. Wiser than us. When she found out about you, it was if her ability to be happy grew ten times larger…”
            She looked up at the face that eclipsed the moon in the sky.
            “I knew that if she found out who she was, too long before she was certified human, we’d lose her. She’d have wanted to find you, and she would have left us all behind.” She patted herself down for a tissue but found no pockets in her mother-of-the-bride dress. Delilah, with the most delicate of gestures, tore a square from her own petticoat and let it flutter down into the little woman’s lap. Freya’s mother blew her nose gratefully and laid a hand on the gigantic hairy leg beside her.
            “So, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for keeping you from her. I was selfish. I am selfish. Now that she’s married I know she’ll stay, but you should hate me for what we did. I would hate me, if I were you.”
            Delilah took a deep breath in. She was, by nature, not a violent creature, but she had spent eighteen years fighting the urge to destroy centuries of peace treaties by marching into the human world and reclaiming what was hers. The tears she had shed during Freya’s short lifetime would have swept them all away in a flash flood. But now she exhaled, blowing the marquee onto its side and exposing the best man and Freya’s cousin behind a screen doing what can only be described, in any species, as a reverse cowgirl, and Delilah felt lighter, smaller, than she’d ever thought possible.
            Delilah reached down to the grass and Freya’s mother squealed, cowering against the ground. With a chuckle, Delilah grasped the contents of the wheelbarrow in her fist and raised it above her head, standing to her full height, casting a shadow across the wedding that was darker than the night should have been. The guests froze and stared up at the abomination, blankly lifted their mobile phones and pressed record in case they survived.
            Another whooshing breath in, like an approaching Harrier jet. Then she blew it away, a gentle stream of warm, sweet air that sent the flowers in her hand swirling and tumbling across the reception, raining down on the little people, who flurried like ants to catch the silken petals.
            Before the last flower had landed, Delilah was twenty strides away, already five miles at least. Her armed escort frantically mobilized itself and trailed behind, sirens flashing red, white, red, away into the night. Freya’s father found his wife cowering under the upturned wheelbarrow and he held her close, hoping—knowing—that the retreating silhouette would be the last they saw of the giantess. Wondering if—hoping that—the ancient vestiges of Delilah’s genes in Freya’s blood would remain dormant forever.


JO GATFORD wants to live on your bookshelf. Her short works have been published in literary magazines such as Litro, Open Pen, and SmokeLong Quarterly. Her novel ‘White Lies’ won the 2013 Luke Bitmead bursary and is due to be published by Legend Press in July 2014. She lives in Brighton where she writes for her supper and wrangles two insomniac babies.

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