A Girl, A Dog, A Boat

Fiction By Audie Cockings
Chapter 1: Listen to Your Mother

She told me this would happen. At sixty-eight years old, my mom, Flossie, hit the nail on the head, yet again.

She was right about Andy, Marc, James, Julian, Miguel, and now Todd. I should have stuck with serial monogamy. That seemed to hurt less.

I knew it was coming. But seeing Todd’s wedding announcement in The Capital Paper to a certain female named Barbie Joe caused a pain in my chest that I didn’t think possible. Todd may as well have hung me upside down on a cross, cut my heart out and BBQ’d it for his new anatomically correct well-bred southern fiance. I was done.

I’ve heard that the mountain people of Peru say "my lungs hurt" instead of "my heart is broken". Perhaps their take on the physical feel of emotional pain is more accurate. Seeing that photo of my happy ex-fiance with the woman he cheated on me with certainly made it hard to breathe. Perhaps my heart is fine and it’s just my lungs that are broken. Either way, Todd is the worst kind of cheater. The kind that dumped me for a floozy that he met at a party while I was home with 24-hour morning sickness. Some party.

Todd said that he decided the whole "baby" thing was too much. He wanted out. Inside I felt the same way but didn’t tell him what I was considering. It seems that his enlightening night with Barbie Joe had only confirmed that he wasn’t ready to commit to a family.

I wonder if he would have left me for her anyway. Maybe if I hadn’t gotten pregnant. The funny thing is that after he left I went from not wanting to be a mom to possibly wanting to be a mom in a matter of a few days.

I was six weeks pregnant at the time. But my latent resignation to motherhood was too late. I wonder if the baby somehow knew that he wasn’t wanted enough and decided to simply stop being.

Mom was with me when it happened. She’d been staying with me, helping me adjust to the fact that at 38, I was single and pregnant. Not that unusual for this day and age but terrifying nonetheless.

We were out for brunch when felt the dampness begin. I thought I’d wet myself from laughing so hard. After all, mom and I spent most of the morning talking about how Todd proposed after I took the pregnancy test, then promptly passed out five minutes later when I told him that it was positive. Todd is 6’4" and my wood floor has a sizable dent where his thick skull made impact. So much for the whole tough marine facade.

Mom and I agreed that in hindsight, we both wished he’d hit the floor just a wee bit harder, maybe get amnesia and forget that he was a self-consumed jackass, marry me like he said he wanted to, and never leave my side to go to a party where he would meet and screw the woman of his dreams, then promptly dump me.

Mom’s imitation of Todd’s face before he passed out was hysterical. Not that she actually saw it happen, but sometimes that’s better. Her version was considerably funnier. She had me tell the head-cracking-on-floor story over and over, until we were both cackling so loud that the couple next to us were rolling their eyes, and sighing loud enough for us to hear. I suppose we ruined their lunch date with all of that pee on a stick talk. But the laughing didn’t last much after the bill was paid.

Before we left the restaurant, I went to the bathroom to pee. I was spotting, but I read online that light spotting happens sometimes. I didn’t worry much until I got home. It was the cramping that quickly sobered me at once from radiant pregnant glow to tearful curled up mess on bed.

The pain started in the afternoon, and became infinitely worse as the day went on. I called my OB. She said that if it was heavy like my period, then there was nothing she could do. That I could come in for a DNC, but because I was just barely pregnant, that staying home and letting my body purge itself was less evasive. I wish that she had been a little warmer on the phone. I didn’t want to purge. I absolutely wanted to be a mother.

The increasing pain persisted through the evening and by 8 p.m., it was over.

Staring at the remains of what would be my child, in a bloodied wad of toilet paper, I felt a far deeper loss than I ever had before. Greater than Todd’s spineless retreat and more hopeless than watching my dad close his eyes for the last time. An unexplainable, unyielding ache at my center. As if my happily ever after was less than two inches long, but formed enough for me to see just what I would be missing.

I cradled the remains in my palm and gently blotted it with a damp sponge. My hands shaking, I moved the fragile pale pink tissue into an emptied restaurant matchbox that I saved from a dinner out with Dad.

I curled my fingers around my lost treasure box and carried it out back to the garden to lay the tiny cardboard casket to rest in a copper planter overflowing with dormant provincial lavender.

I bowed my head, closed my eyes, and tried to keep the corners of my mouth from quivering long enough to focus and send up a decent prayer. First I asked for forgiveness for being ungrateful for the gift in the matchbox. Then in a quiet whimper, nearly inaudible, I forced out a mournful request that I might someday have another (better) chance at love and motherhood.

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