Ama only opened the door wide enough for her to look out. Two men stood on her doorstep, both dressed in black tube trousers, frock coats, and top hats. The more portly man carried a book in one hand and a walking stick in the other. He had a medium-length gray beard. The thinner man was clean-shaven, wore spectacles, and carried a large, black bag. She opened her mouth to tell them that she wasn’t taking any clients as a Seer currently, then blinked. Her exhausted mind had finally recognized the portly man. “Papa? What brings you here?”
“This is Dr. Hough.” Jos gestured to the younger man. “I’ve asked him to take a look at Klara for you.”
Ama could still hear Klara fussing upstairs. “Why? My doctor says that Klara is just a cranky baby.”
“It never hurts to have a second opinion.”
Yes, but Jos was also the leader of the Seer Guild. If he had brought a doctor with him, then he must have seen something in Klara’s future that concerned him. Ama swallowed. “Come inside. I’ll go get her.” She opened the door and gestured for them to enter the sitting room to her left. After they had entered, she walked up the narrow stairs to the nursery, where Klara whimpered from her cradle.
Ama paused near the cradle, looking down on her six-week-old daughter. Klara’s face was scrunched up in discomfort, as it had been constantly ever since she was born. Her arms were waving weakly in the air. Ama lifted Klara’s long, white dress to check on her diaper. The linen cloth was still dry, and the pins were nowhere near her skin. She checked the collar of the dress. It wasn’t wet or tight, though it was stained yellow from past spit-ups.
“What’s ailing you, little one?” Ama asked, as she had every day since Klara’s birth. In all the futures Ama had Seen during her pregnancy, Klara had always been a content baby. But something had changed, and Jos being here meant that it was serious. Was she sick? Klara’s forehead felt cool to the touch.
Ama picked up Klara, then paused to consider her own clothes. Though it was nearly noon, she still wore her white chemise and the powder-blue dressing gown she had worn since yesterday afternoon. She rarely put on an actual dress these days. At least a doctor would understand, as would her father.
The men stood as Ama entered the room. “Where do you want me to put her?”
“On the table, if you don’t mind, and take her dress off,” Dr. Hough said.
Jos cleared away the vase of dying daisies and the picture of Ama’s husband in his Navy uniform. Ama watched her father out of the corner of her eye. When had he gotten so old? Had it really been so long since she’d seen him in the flesh? She was used to seeing his spirit as a Seer, which showed him in the prime of life.
Ama soon had Klara lying on the low, dark-stained table, wearing only her diaper. Dr. Hough knelt down and began prodding her. “She seems thin. How much does she eat?”
“I really couldn’t say,” Ama said as she sat down on the floral-print sofa. Jos sat next to her. “I nurse her almost every hour, since that’s the only thing that can calm her down. But she’ll only suck for a few moments before falling asleep, then wake up soon after in a fit.”
“Hmm.” Dr. Hough opened each of Klara’s eyes, and took her diaper off to check her bottom. He gently lifted her to check her back, then set her down and covered her lightly with a blanket. “I’m going to scan her organs for any problems, so please don’t disturb me. This will take several minutes.” He settled himself more comfortably on the floor, then placed the index finger of each hand over Klara’s temples and closed his eyes.
When Jos didn’t speak for a few moments, Ama broke the silence with the question that had been haunting her since she recognized her father. “What did you See to make you bring him here?”
Jos folded his hands in his lap. “What have you Seen?”
Ama sighed. “I haven’t had time to See since Klara was born. I’ve needed real sleep. When I do See, I barely have time to check on Devid’s ship before Klara wakes me up again.”
“How is Devid?”
Ama pressed her lips together. With Jos changing the subject, his news about Klara had to be bad. “They’re slightly behind due to a storm last week, but he’s in good health. Now tell me about Klara. How bad is it?”
Jos turned to look at her more fully. “Klara’s futures have . . . changed since she was born. I’m not sure why.”
“What happens now?”
“She passes away within a month from now.”
Ama looked back at her baby. If that future came true, she would die before Devid even got the letter announcing her birth. He would never have the chance to see her. “How does it happen?”
“That’s just it—I don’t know. She just grows weaker and weaker until she gives up the ghost. No doctors are able to give any answers other than that she failed to thrive.”