Partum

By Lori M. Myers

Marlene watched from her living room window as lightning flashed in the distance. She rested her arms on her bulging belly and felt a slight kick that made her flinch. Thunder rumbled. Silence. Then thunder again. She tried to remember that grade-school lesson, the one about how long it takes for a storm to reach its next stop. Then she heard hailstones pinging against the roof.

“I don’t like this, Rob.” Her voice sounded as though it had risen an octave.

“Just a storm,” he said, as he flipped through a magazine. “Nothing to worry about. It’ll be over before you know it.”

“But hail. There’s never been hail.”

Several months ago, their cat had looked at her funny until he ran away, returning Marlene to an uneasy calm. Then there was that neighbor kid named Johnny who raced up and down their block on his bike. He cycled with such fury and with such a look of danger in his eyes that it made Marlene’s heart race. Fortunately, Johnny and his family had moved away last month. Rob blamed her hormones for the sudden spike in her personality. “Silly,” he called her.

The morning sickness had finally subsided a month ago, but she still didn’t feel right, still felt the terror. The doctor hadn’t said much this afternoon when she complained, instead speaking in whispers to Rob when he thought she wasn’t looking.

“What did he tell you?” she had demanded later.

Rob had looked at her with exasperation. “Do you really want to know?”

“Yes.”

“He said you’re nervous and a bit paranoid.

“What does he know?”

“He said it’s probably because you’ve been through so much in order to get pregnant, that the slightest thing makes you feel out of control.”

“Is that what you think?”

Rob had ignored her, one hand on the steering wheel, the other grasping a styrofoam cup filled with coffee that he gulped down in angry mouthfuls.

Everything seemed like bad luck lately. Every look from a stranger, every bad word she heard. Marlene sat on the edge of the chair watching the news, wringing her hands, listening to the hail pounding against the windows. The lights flickered, but stayed on. She crossed the room and removed several candles from a cabinet below the television. She put one in each downstairs room and lit them.

“You’re ridiculous,” Rob barked, his nose almost buried within the magazine’s pages. “You’re being a child.”

Marlene dug her nails into her ring finger. She felt a kick as another crack of thunder caused her nerves to shoot to the surface. The lights flickered again and went dark. And then a knock on the door.

Rob got up to answer it. Marlene could barely make out the voices against the torrent of rain that now fell in sheets. Was it laughter maybe? A young voice? Who would be out in this weather?

Rob returned, the candlelight dancing against his shirt, and creating shadows atop the object he was holding in his arms.

“This is so weird,” he said with the grin of a jack-o-lantern. “It was Johnny. That kid that moved away? He said our cat showed up at his house. He recognized it and biked over here in the rain to return her. I had put her in the woods, but somehow she found her way out.”

The cat purred and circled within Rob’s embrace, looking over at Marlene as if anticipating an arrival. Its black fur was drenched and matted. Marlene then felt a warm wetness between her legs. She placed her hands on her belly, feeling pain, as the gutters outside squeezed out the storm’s final remains.

THE END

Lori M. Myers is a Pennsylvania-based award-winning writer in fiction, creative nonfiction, and is also an essayist and playwright. Her fiction has appeared in PHASE and Holy Cuspidor. Lori has a masters degree in creative writing from Wilkes University, and teaches writing workshops, where she inspires writers to take risks. Her West Highland Terrier, Willy, is her biggest fan. For more about Lori, log onto her website at http://www.lorimmyers.com.

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