Category Archives: Short Stories
If anyone has ever taken a Pilates class, you know that it is the quietest workout you can do. The lights are dim, the music is soft and the movements are slow. It was in class that I got the following opening line:
“It was in Pilates class that Sheila realized what she had to do. She would have to kill him.”
I left class and the thought stayed with me. Who is Sheila? What is her life like? Who is she thinking of killing and why? I don’t know where this character came from. I have a novel in progress and three short stories and none of them involve a Sheila.
Soemtimes the best plot points or character flaws are revealed in the shower or during the afternoon commute. Now I can add pilates class to that mix. I go back to class tomorrow. Maybe I will find out what else Sheila has been up to.
To my writer friends, have you ever been hit with inspiration while doing a mundane tasks?
In place of a Story Soundtrack, today I have a short story that I wrote a couple of years ago. Feedback is always appreciated. Enjoy!
It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was a simple procedure to erase a complex problem. Who needs to make a lifetime commitment when the suction of a machine can make things go back to the way they were before – before you had the wrong plus sign, at the wrong time, by the wrong man. There would always be another time, a better time.
That’s what I told myself. Now regret covers my body like the ultrasound gel that blankets my stomach. Maybe if I hadn’t done it then. Maybe if I had sung like Madonna and screamed, “I’m keeping my baby!” none of this would be happening now. I will not cry this time. I will not cry this time; I chant the refrain in my head.
“Laura,” says Mary as she enters the room. “Are you okay in here, hon?”
Mary has been Dr. Stewart’s nurse for years. I’ve been coming here since I was 21, right after I exercised my right to choose. It’s twelve years later. Doctor and nurse are still together while I seem to be falling apart.
I answer her with a nod. How can she still look the same when everything has changed? Whenever I see Mary I think the word wholesome. She’s a short, round woman with black frame glasses that do little to shield the twinkle in her eyes. Her sandy brown hair is pulled back into a ponytail and her uniform is neatly pressed. She always has on her signature orange and white running shoes. I asked her about it once and she explained, “Orange just makes me feel good.” I believe she wakes up happy. She is a glass half full type of person. Normally I find that much perkiness irritating but today I find myself trying to live in her world.
My world has fallen to pieces and nothing will be the same. I don’t feel the same. But I’m still lying here in the doctor’s office. The paper cover on the table crinkles when I turn my head to stare at the ceiling. Someone, a nurse perhaps, has installed a picture of a handsome actor over my head. During what I thought was a routine exam, I remember remarking that it must make women more inclined to spread them. We laughed then. That was before the sound of silence from the fetal heart monitor. That was before I was rushed into the ultrasound room and hooked up to see a 9-week-old fetus with no heartbeat.
I’ve done all the right things. I eat healthy and started taking a multi-vitamin with folic acid last year. I don’t smoke or drink. And Dr. Stewart says that at 5’8” I’m the perfect size to bear children. I even started attending an aerobic class three days a week to stay in shape. Now my perfectly prepared womb holds a child that I will never get to name.
“Is your husband coming?” Mary asks. I nod and she proceeds to tidy up the room. She continues to chatter as she works. I’m not really listening but I watch her every movement. She switches off the ultrasound machine and turns it away from the bed. The wand is sanitized and replaced in its holster. The antiseptic smell fills the room and suddenly I’m back in that clinic.
I remember feeling scared and ashamed but determined to go through with the procedure. I remember how sure I felt that I was doing the right thing.
I don’t realize that some tears have escaped until Mary hands me a tissue.
It’ll be okay, hon,” she says. “I had two miscarriages myself until I got my Steven. You have plenty of time to try again.”
“Yeah, I know.” My voice is a hoarse whisper. I clear my throat and struggle to sit up. No need to make a scene. Get it together, I tell myself.
Mary pats my arm, glances back at the door and leans close. “You know, sometimes this is for the best. It’s God way of correcting a mistake.”
“You don’t know what you are talking about!” I snatch my arm out of Mary’s hand and stand up. The cold tile seeps through my socks when they touch the floor and I feel lightheaded. I ignore the nauseous sensation and point my finger in Mary’s face.
“This baby was wanted. I fell in love with it from the moment the stick showed that plus sign. It’s time. It’s the right time. We’ve been trying for almost two years. This baby was wanted.”
I collapse back on the bed to catch my breath. To her credit, Mary never stopped smiling. I know she realizes that my anger wasn’t really directed at her. Her eyes tell me that she knows the real source of my pain. Before I can apologize the door opens and my husband walks in.
Everything will be all right now, I think. Kevin has always had that effect on me. We met through mutual friends. When we got engaged, I found out from a friend that Kevin didn’t have any money to take me out on our first date. He was late picking me up that night because he had to stop at the mall and sell some CDs and video games. Five years later and he still makes sacrifices, large and small, for our family.
Last night Kevin laid his head on my stomach and told the baby that he was waiting to see him. He spoke to his unborn child about all the things they would do together. Now his peanut colored face is a collage of emotions. His lips try to form a smile but falter midway through the attempt. I wonder if the baby would have had his father’s dimples.
“How’s my chocolate chip?” he asks.
“Better now.” We meet each other half way and embrace. I inhale his familiar musky scent and relax into his arms. I feel strength transferred to me. We’ll get through this, he communicates without saying a word.
Mary leaves to find the doctor and Kevin helps me dress before they return. Together we listen as Dr. Stewart explains the D & C procedure that I will need to have tomorrow. Kevin takes charge and I let him. He asks all the right questions and handles the paperwork.
We walk out together hand in hand. Kevin asks if I want him to drive me home. He’ll leave his car here and come back for it later.
“No, I’m okay to drive,” I say. I just want to get home.
Kevin walks me to my car but before he closes the door he stoops down.
“Laura, this miscarriage is not your punishment for having an abortion.”
“I know.” I turn away and put the key in the ignition.
Kevin caresses my face and turns it toward him. “This is not your punishment.”
I search his eyes and don’t see the judgment I envision, only love and concern and sadness. I smile and he kisses me on the forehead. “I’ll be right behind you.”
I start the car and pull out of the parking garage. Kevin follows in his car. Life has a way of showing you things. Years ago I gave my gift away. This time it was taken. The pain is the same. Maybe this is my retribution. But every time I look in the rearview mirror I see my husband. Every time I change lanes he is right behind me. Somehow I know that we’ll be all right because he is my greatest gift of all.