A Mother's Cry: A Short Fiction Story
A Haunted Mind
He should have expected the anger.
When she saw the ring, when she realized what it meant, he knew he should have expected the anger, the pain, that flared to life in her eyes. The hurt, the betrayle, it was something he had seen before. He knew to expect it even if she didn't yet understand the story behind the band of silver that had been, up until that moment, resting on the bathroom vanity.
Seeing her standing in front of him, skin damp and underclothes clinging to her skin, that ring clenched in her first, was not how he wanted the night to end. He didn't move when she threw the ring at him, didn't try to stop her as she slammed her hands into his chest. He stared down at her, eyed her trembling shoulders and too-bright eyes as she shoved him backward.
"You sick, son-of-a-bi-" He caught her wrist, grip firm as he took a step towards the couch. She was forced to come with him as tears pooled over the edge of her eyes, the green irises bright and her breath catching in a sob. "You're married?"
His gaze leveled with hers. "No."
He sat, pulling her with him. She struggled, her body trembling. "I saw the ring, Gareth! How can you tell me you're not married when you have a wedding ring on your bathroom counter? You lying, sick fu-"
"I'm not married," Gareth slid his hand up her side, marveling at the smooth, albeit damp, skin. He spied the ring over her shoulder, the silver band half-covered in shadow. Innocently staring back at him, taunting him. "I haven't been married in four years, Waverly."
She hit his chest. "The ring..."
"She's dead," Gareth felt her stiffen, her body still and her chest unmoving as she held her breath at his admission. He had an idea what was going through her mind at this point, the way she was still and rigid in his hands. When his gaze found hers, her eyes were wide. Lips parted. She swallowed, a subconscious gesture hinting at the fear she likely was feeling at his moment. "I'm not going to hurt you, Av."
His fingers stopped just underneath her breast, the gentle swell grazing his knuckles when she let out a rough, uneven exhale. He ignored the tremor that had her curling into herself as he murmured, "I wasn't lying when I told you I had past relationships or the fact they all ended on a low note. I was telling you the truth that my work isn't for the faint of heart and that civil society frowns on it."
Killing people for money didn't rest well even if the lowest dregs of society, for the most part. Humanity was inclined to preserve itself, shied away from unnecessary pain and bloodshed. Waverly was still as he pulled her closer, drawing her onto his lap so he could run his hands up her back. His nails scraped along her scalp, watching as her head dropped back and some of the tension left her body.
He debated what to say, then opted for the truth. "She suffered from Postpartum Depression. We were managing it, for a time. When the baby died, she...broke."
He should have seen it coming. Waverly shifted, tilting her head into his hand so she could peer down at him. "What happened to the baby?"
"SIDS?" Gareth watched her, gaze half-lidded. Waverly was a pretty little thing. Her hair was dark, her eyes a golden brown. Sierra had been all pale hair and blue eyes, a classic beauty. Different, the two of them. His heart ached as he whispered, "Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It just...happens. No explaintion, no warning."
Waverly didn't move from his lap, her cheek tucked against his palm.
Gareth kept his gaze on her, attentive to the smallest tremors weaving through her lithe body as she stared down at him. Her eyes, golden and beautiful, were rolling with emotion - pain, distrust, sorrow, confusion... She was quiet as she rested on his lap, one hand on his shoulder as the other laid, immobile, across her abdomen.
Then, finally, she said, "Tell me about her."
Gareth blinked. "My wife?"
"What was her name?"
Sierra came to mind, pale hair whirling around her in a summer breeze. The beach by the sea, the waves crusting the shore in swells of foamy white. Her middle large and heavy with child, her gown loose and flowing around her. It was almost as if she hadn't died, that she was still with him. Whispering in his ear, stroking his side as he laid in bed late at night.
Waverly stared down at him as he murmured, "Sierra. Her name was Sierra."
Then she prompted him to start talking, and he did. He told her about how they met, when he had been home for a week after a particularly hard job. She had lost her scarf to a nasty breeze and it had, quite literally, hit him in the face. The classic, fairy-tale greeting. Their slow romance. Their engagement, the turmoil her family for him because they didn't think they were a good match.
Her brother trying to separate them.
Her pregnancy before their wedding, the wedding itself. "Derek hadn't been happy, being next to me during the ceremony. They had an idea what I did for a living, and none of them were happy about it. We were married in front of a thousand people."
Gareth recalled being more nervous than he had ever been before. All those people watching him, judging him, and their displeasure that he had refused to join their church. Sierra had accepted his lack of faith without issue, happy with what he felt and believed. His willingness to protect her, to give her the world if she asked for it.
Even if she didn't ask for it. Sierra wanted for nothing.
One month after they were married, their son was born. Marlow. Gareth watched as Waverly grabbed them a snack, took the plate she offered without comment. His mind was whirling backward in time, recalling the moment Sierra's scream had pulled him out of the massive backyard and the fence he was installing around the pool to keep their son safe once he started crawling.
He remembered the nursery, dark and cold and devoid of life as she clutched the babe to her chest as she crumbled to the ground. He recounted the event cooly, a bottle of beer, or something stronger, now in hand. Waverly stood in front of him as he finally said, "I had left. Her meds were in. I wasn't supposed to be gone for more than an hour. She wasn't supposed to wake up, not with the sedative she had taken."
He was gone for more than an hour. A head-on collision on the highway stopped the traffic for hours. The medicine rested in his seat, his phone next to it. No one had called. In a bit, he would be home and she would wake up and they would keep going, keep surviving even if it hurt...
Sierra had woken up. She had opened her eyes to an empty house in the middle of the day, a day that was warm and the sun bright. Yet, somehow, she had found the key to the shed. He curled his hands over Waverly's hips, forehead resting on her stomach, as he said, "I found her the moment I went through the door. She was in the foyer...just hanging there."
His job became easier, after that. Life had little meaning once the two most precious things in his life had vanished without reason or logic. It was easy to lose himself in the pleasure of a woman's flesh, to bury his pain in the arms of a lover who could make him forget, if only for a moment, what the world had stolen from him. He closed his eyes, content to breathe in Waverly's scent.
Her hands brushed over his shoulders and then wrapped around him, her own body trembling. There was a hitch to her voice when she tried to speak, but nothing came out. He nuzzled her waist, feeling her shiver, heard her gasp. His hand traveled down her sides, resting on her hips as she whispered, "God, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Gareth. God...I, I don't even know how to tell you..."
He paused, looking up at her as she whispered, "I'm pregnant, Gareth."
Broken Hearts Can Mend
Gareth stilled, his eyes widening as her words sank in. Pregnant. This slip of a girl was pregnant with his child. He ran his hands through his hair, mind whirling as he tried to process everything that was happening. Then she was grabbing his hands, kneeling in front of him, dressed only in her black underthings, with a look of desperation burning in her eyes.
"That's why I wanted to talk to you, tonight," Waverly's eyes were large, tears staining her cheeks. His hands were limp in hers as he stared at her, but she kept talking even if he desperately wished she would shut up. "I found out last month, but you were gone. Your phone disconnected. And now...god, I'm so sorry..."
She stared at him, for a moment. "You...I...I know I'm just a...a...fling. You've never told me anything personal, outside of this. Nothing serious. Now I'm pregpregnant, you're wife and child are lost to you..."
"Why did you want to talk to me," Gareth felt her flinch, his words devoid of emotion and expression hard. She was pregnant. He drew in a steady breath, holding her gaze as her hands slipped for his. She looked away.
She stood, arms wrapped her middle as she whispered, "I wanted to know if you...if you want a babe. If you would want me to keep it or..."
Her voice cracked and she looked away. Gareth stood, catching her wrist as his voice dropped, "Or what?"
The look she threw at him spoke volumes, but Gareth wanted to hear what she was going to say. She whimpered when his grasp tightened, his voice tight when he repeated himself, "Or what, Waverly?
"If ya want me to get rid of it!" She had turned to face him, cheeks flushed. She was shaking, her breath chocked as she fought back a sob as she said, "My pa said I have to get rid of the babe. He's disowned me for it and said the only way I'm allowed home is if I come baby-free. My ma, she didn't say anything against him."
She drew in a breath, calming herself. Then she continued, "I was hoping you might let me...stay? Just until the baby's born and I could find someone to take the little thing after it's born. If you didn't want it..."
Gareth exhaled, slowly. "Of course you can stay, Av."
She was pregnant. With his baby. She was pregnant, by him, and if someone found out he was the father, they'd both be in trouble. He was sure there were laws in place about this sort of thing, though he'd never paid much attention to them. Sex was sex. She had approached him on the subject, and he wasn't one to say no...
God, she was pregnant. He swore. "Do you want the baby, Av?"
She stared at him. He leveled a hard look on her and she nodded. "I do, yes. I don't know if I can do it, but I want to try..."
His gaze dropped to her stomach, his hand stroking the flat surface. Beneath all that skin was a small, still-forming infant. A baby. His baby. Their baby. His gaze went to hers, voice soft as he said, "Then we'll make this work. You and me. We can figure this out."
She cradled his face between her hands, staring into his eyes. Gareth held her stare, dared to breathe as her breath caressed his mouth. When she closed the distance between them, rising up onto her tiptoes, her lips brushing his, his hands ran up her back. Her hand curled over his shoulder as she pressed closer, tears dusting her eyelashes as she kissed him.
Gareth wrapped an arm around her waist, one hand cradling the back of her neck as he nipped at her lips. Her middle, flat for the moment, pressed against him. Her sorrow lingered when she broke the kiss, her eyes soft as she whispered, "We can do this, Gareth. You and me. It'll be hard, but, together, we can mend our broken hearts. Our fears, we can rise over them. We just have to trust each other..."
He wrapped an arm around her. "The hardest things to overcome in this world are the ones that are worth having, Waverly. This baby will be one of them. We can work out the rest as we go."
As he pressed his brow to hers, a small piece of hope broke through the cloud of despair he had held onto for too long. It rested, innocent, in the womb of this slip of a girl, her innocent profound. She pulled him close, accepting him and all he was.
The darkness, the monster, as she cried in a way only a mother could.
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© 2018 Britta Nicole Miller