She curled herself into a knuckle on the closet floor. Biting her lip, she tried on an amateur pain, wanting it to push everything away.
She punched the belly she had once caressed. Harder. Three days after, and its slackness slaughtered her.
We made it to sixteen weeks. Not. Fucking. Fair.
She touched a finger to her lip, and shuddered at the blood.
Twenty-two cycles of misses. Three in-vitros. One near divorce, as the obsession rode her. Thousands of tears cried, including dozens on the day the test came back positive, hundreds on the morning they first saw the fluttering heartbeat on the ultrasound. But now she couldn’t cry. Like everything else, her ducts were empty.
I did everything right. Didn’t I do everything goddamn right?
This nursery. Painted blue and yellow, with Martin’s cock-eyed giraffes, the week before . . .
The paint fumes, maybe?
The new carpet smelled funny, too. She sank her nose into the fibers, inhaling its chemicals until she felt queasy.
For her ghost baby.
Matthew Jeffrey . . .
Matthew was their compromise. Jeffrey was to honor her father, who had died when she was ten. They had joked about calling him MJ, since Martin had grown up in Chicago, watching the Bulls’ #23 dominate the NBA, and his small world. Martin thought it was a sign that he was due on the twenty-third of February.
“I’m just sayin’, Lila. He’s destined for great things.”
“And I’m just saying that I’ll be happy if he has ten fingers and toes. We can work on his jump shot later. Or never. Maybe he’ll be the artistic type . . . like his dad,” she had teased, as he wrapped his paint-splattered arms around the slight bulge they had taken to calling Homer.
She got on her knees and, with her teeth, tore tags off the onesies and tiny pants and sweaters hanging from the closet rack, spitting them out on the immaculate carpet.
“Honey?” Martin’s voice searched from the hallway.
She blanched at its invasion.
For she had lost him, too. The only number she understood now was alone.
With her toes, she gently slid the door closed, so that even the light could not find her. So that she could lick her dark, wet wound.