The voice on the other end came from a dream but this was no dream. A second phone call in the middle of the night and I knew what that meant. It meant a long drive through the wishing hour. It meant a wait that smelled like disinfectant and old people. It meant muddy beverages and donuts that were surprisingly edible.
Tonight was a woman on the phone. She had called me “the runaway Trash” when she told me I had to get to the hospital. It was really, really time she promised. Women know these things, she declared. The man from the other night had sounded as tired and hopeless as me and I could’ve sworn he was familiar in some way. It was the memory of hiding from the law beneath my father’s desk, only to be beater beside it.
But that was a memory I didn’t have anymore; my new identity hadn’t been beaten so badly he had to go on the run. My old sister- the first identity’s father’s daughter who was three years younger than I was- eventually came out to meet me in the hallway. She sat down and squeezed my hand.
“Are you ready?” she asked.
“Are you ready?” I asked. Tears welled up in her eyes, an earnest emotional reaction from a woman who’d turned herself into an honest upstanding citizen.
“I’ve never been happier in my whole life,” she breathed, tears now sliding down. “I didn’t think it was possible to love anyone or anything as much as I love my belly right now.”
I didn’t answer. Of course, she intended to make a loving mother.
“I’m going to be a good mom,” she swore to me. “You’ve got to understand that. I will never be like our parents.
“Sofia, I know. Turns out love really does exist. I recently learned there’s this thing called pizza and I’m thinking of settling down.” My sister rested her neck on the back of the chair and laughed wildly.
“Yeah, I like pizza too; turns out there are all these awesome things we were never allowed to have as kids, like- have you ever been to the ocean?”
She never gave me a chance to respond.
“Ahhhhh, oooooh. My god,” she groaned in broad melodramatic tones. “I’m having another contraction she enlightened me through gritted teeth.
“Should you be getting back to your room?” I asked. Sophia nodded and promptly demanded help. I acquiesced because she was temporarily fat, thinking it would be a hand on an arm back to the room. No. she leaned herself, elephant baby and all, into me and made me drag uncle, mom, and child back to the prime location for helping her into her wooden cot of a bed.
“Hey, Sophia?” I mentioned a bit later. My brother-in-law was off getting refreshments; it was just us tough stuff in the room.
“This better be life-and-death important, Cowboy,” she warned, reverting back to her childhood nickname for me. “Seven centimeters,” she then murmured to herself.
I’d taken my gloves off by then and she was on a mission to wrench the life out of my bare hand, one cobra squeeze at a time until it was over. She gave me a look, and I felt my face twitch in response.
“I know I haven’t told you this in a couple decades, but I love you. You’re the only person I’ve ever had, and I know it’s not like that for you with your husband and all, but I love the life out of you.” She’d used those words on me, but I’d never told her they were the crutch that pulled me through my teen years.
“God, I used to come to your room every time you took a beating for me, or for you, and tell you that. I assumed you resented me, but wow. It’s good to hear you say that, ya know?”
“I had dirt on Mom and Dad that time and I tried to extort a meal out of you because they refused to feed me, do you remember?”
“Yeah, why? How could I forget your dirt on Mom and Dad? God, I haven’t used those words in a long time.”
“Me either. But basically I just wanted to tell you, there’s a baggie of figs in my bag if you’re hungry.”
I laughed, out of pity and because it was ridiculous. “If ever two things were unrelated.”
She’d dozed off by the time I understood the importance. The wall of ice between us had stood strong for too many years, but no more. Crack.
Thanks for reading my latest short story. I think of this as having a lot to do with forgiveness, so maybe it spoke to you for one reason or another. If you liked it, make sure you check out these babies:
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Laugh Out Loud
I saw him for the first time when I was sitting under the elm tree by the river. I had been crying over yet another…
If you’re interested in stories about childbirth, this is the poem for you. If you’re looking for something about a family struggle, here you go and if the narrator running away from home spoke to you, you may enjoy the story of a girl escaping her hometown.