I wrote this story as my assignment for University of Iowa’s ‘How Writers Write Fiction’, an online course I’m taking. The assignment was to showcase a world where a momentous or devastating event has occurred. Writers were asked to show glimpses of the world before and after the event. Do comment and let me know if I did justice to it.
Alana tossed and turned. Her cozy bed had turned into a brier patch. She kicked the heavy blanket off her body. Her t-shirt, now soaked in sweat, was stuck to her back . She glanced at her bedside clock. 2:00 AM, it pronounced with a soft green glow. Josh snored softly beside her, ensconced in the cocoon he had created around himself with his blanket.
She dragged her feet to the bathroom. A tired, groggy face looked back at her from the mirror. Just two days ago, she had bent over the marble sink and looked into this mirror while applying her red lipstick. A sour taste flooded her mouth and bile rose up like a rocket from her belly. The retching drained every ounce of energy from her body. Sprawled on the cool gray porcelain floor, she thought back to that day again. Josh had winked at her. How happy they had been going out to dinner with Andrew and Miriam!
The source of her sickness lay on the counter. A white stick camouflaging against the white marble. Two blue parallel lines stared back at her from a small oval window on it. The lifeless stick was the harbinger of the life growing within her. This was the third one. Three tests couldn’t be wrong. They had taken every precaution, how could this have happened?
Josh had had the exact opposite reaction of what she had expected when she made the announcement. He had danced a little jig. “Oh baby, you’ve just made me the happiest man on earth!” They had both known and agreed that they didn’t want kids. Did she even know him?
Motherhood seemed like driving full speed towards a twister. The tears came unannounced. She felt like a kid who has to make it through the day alone because his best friend didn’t show up to school. Her brain oscillated between keeping the baby or….,she shuddered to even think of the other option. The sobs abated, but she didn’t have an answer. She crawled back into bed and fell into a fitful sleep.
In the morning, she stood in her tiny closet and chose an all black ensemble for work. Josh beamed at her downstairs. “Good morning, hon! I made pancakes!” He kissed her on the cheek. She had made pancakes just last weekend for brunch. They had both devoured them at the breakfast bar she now sat at. From her spot, a bottle of a ten year old tawny port on the granite counter mocked her.
“Eat up.” Josh pushed a plate towards her with syrup.”You have to be eating for two now.”
She cringed at that thought. “I’m not hungry. Besides, I have an early meeting.” She fibbed.
Everyone at work was going about their business as usual. It made her irrationally angry. Printers whirred and phones rang. People stood around the coffee machine talking about their weekend. How could they be so normal when her life had been turned upside down?
Miriam came over to her desk at 11:00 AM, just like clockwork. “Hey, how was the weekend?” she started, but changed course when she got a good look at Alana’s face. “You look like shit. Party much last night?” she laughed.
Alana cringed again. She contemplated telling Miriam, but she checked herself just as the words were about to roll off her tongue. Miriam wasn’t exactly great at keeping secrets. “No, just didn’t sleep well last night. See you at lunch. I have to get on a call in five minutes.”
At lunch time, Alana and Miriam walked over to Main Street which was lined with trees punctuated by charming restaurants with wicker chairs and gingham tablecloths. Display windows of little boutiques flaunted skinny jeans on skinnier mannequins. She struggled to breathe. The short ten-minute walk was exhausting.
“Mir, let’s just eat here.” She stopped outside an Italian restaurant and caught her breath.
“But I thought you didn’t like Italian. You look tired, Alana, are you okay? You should go home and rest!”
Her brain was in a haze as she drove home. The sprout in her belly was already taking a toll on her. She shuddered to think what would happen when it came out. Life as she knew it would be over. They would never be able to go out and party or spend weekends lolling about in bed.
She would be bypassed when it was time to announce new partners in the firm. Andrew and Miriam wouldn’t hang out with them as much as they did now. She was in a dark tunnel with no light at the end. How she got home safe driving through this fog was beyond her.
Josh wasn’t home yet. She tried to get some sleep, but the stubborn brier patch had lodged itself on the bed. She decided to go out for a run to clear her mind. Sunnyside Drive was a circle of modern condos flanking a grassy park and a tiny playground at the end. It wasn’t a great school district, but these were starter homes. For people who weren’t exactly thinking about school districts when they were looking to buy. People like Josh and Alana. Their home was perfect for a twosome. It was soon going to get crowded.
She ran a couple of blocks before the fight for breath began. The sidewalk looked tempting to sit on, but she persisted. She wasn’t going to get a tiny group of cells weaken her. She leaned on a broad tree trunk. Wild hibiscus bushes were in bloom on her right. A fluttering of wings came into her line of vision. A tiny iridescent hummingbird fluttered close to her. It was like being touched by a fairy. A lightness engulfed her.
She heard a familiar ice-cream truck tune playing on the opposite side of the road. A gaggle of children surrounded it almost immediately. Their laughter, full of innocence and abandon was one of the sweetest sounds to fall on her ears. A lost smile made its way to her lips. As she walked back home, something inside had changed. She wasn’t sure how long the feeling would last, but in that blissful moment, she was at peace with her metamorphosing world.