Maternal

by | Jun 13, 2023 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Three

I never felt the urge. Mel said it would hit like a wave. She knew, with three under five, but when it came for me it was quiet. A low thrum, like a weight curled up on my chest.

I knew you’d come round. The café was a dingy place. I sat opposite Mel, sipped coffee that clagged. She gave me a half-smile, like she’d tucked a boiled sweet in one corner of her mouth.

The next day, I found the first tufts of fur between the sofa cushions. The hairs multiplied, scattered across cabinets, padded through the hallway. Tufts clung to jumpers like a metallic taste on my tongue.

I think it’s happening. Arm linked with Mel’s. There was a fullness to my belly, the skin stretched and thickened.

At night, I craved fish. Insatiably. Dreamt of sun-speckled rivers, scooping minnows from the shallows with a cupped hand. The crack of bones between my teeth.

I bought new blankets, fresh sheets, and in the mornings I found them covered in sleek, soft fuzz. Mel gave me her youngest’s hand-me-downs, bundles of string and cloth. You’re close now. Not long at all.

I thumbed through the Dictionary of Names. I tested each one aloud, rolled against my leathering tongue. Mi–lo. George. Tim–o–thy. I like how my mouth curled around Po–ppy, lips rounded like a swollen stomach. Dai–sy ended with a hiss.

When he arrived, there were no screams. A gentle presence, like a breeze swept through an open window. You won’t know a love like it. I knew he was mine. 

He made himself known, a space carved open. The living room hummed as he kneaded the sofa, hunter-green eyes sharp. He settled, nestled in the crook of my arm, like a child.

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