General Fiction posted January 13, 2024

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Picking Up Where We Left Off

by Rachelle Allen

That Moment of Birth Contest Winner 

     It’s finally about to happen: the culmination of nine months in a cauldron of every feeling there could ever have been. Nine months of teetering between coping with his loss –dead from a hit-and-run before he’d even arrived home to hear my pregnancy news—and hoping for solace by imagining his re-appearance in the form of his child.

     It was the personification of “bittersweet.”

     Another contraction begins its vice-like grip, tightening, squeezing harder, corseting its thorny elastic tentacles tighter and tighter around all my organs until all that’s left to do is scream. I wail from my tortured diaphragm, as I was trained to do in music school.

     “Am I going to have to pay you for this front-row seat to your talents?” the doctor asks, valiantly trying to distract me with some appreciated, albeit lame-ass, humor.

     “I’m...the…lyricist,” I pant back, trying to rise to the distraction.

     But that reminds me of the other half of my duo —the one who was the voice of my lyrics— and torrents of tears pulse from my eyes with the same rhythm as his baby’s contractions. I drown in the miasma of the simultaneous physical and emotional agony of it all.

     As the pain recedes to fortify itself for the next onslaught, I recall our debut collaboration: his dreamy, gravel-laced voice bringing life to the words I formed from the ravaged memories of someone else's soul. The audience ate him up. He quickly corrected me about that during our drive home later that night. “Ate US up,” he said, “because all I did was sing what you’d understood about people and written down.” That was the essence of him. He always insisted that we share every success. “You have a genius ability to get inside others’ hearts,” he said, “and make sense of what they’re feeling.”

     It was that facet of me, though, that died when the policemen showed up at my door with the news that he’d been killed. I barricaded up my own words and simultaneously stopped translating those of other people’s. I wanted to be as far removed from any feelings –mine or anyone else’s—as I possibly could.

     Another vicious siege begins in my womb, this time with double the ferocity and half the prep time.

     “It’s time to push,” my doctor says in a tone that is half-incentivizing and half-demanding. I ratchet my vocals to the highest of high C’s, half expecting to see my doctor’s eyeglasses crack.

     “I mean it! Give it everything!” he insists, loud enough to drown me out.

     I don’t mean to call him an asshole, but I'm also not really sorry afterward, either. He and the nurse exchange side-eyes and smirks.

     The gut-talons release their grip once again, and I dissolve into the bedsheets with the intention of sleeping for at least a month. “Don’t relax,” my doctor says. “The next one will be right here, and it will be your victory lap. One more big, good push, and you’re done.”

     “Well, with Phase One,” the nurse chimes in. “Phase Two lasts the rest of your life: being his or her parent.”

     The final push is so intense and severe that it breaks blood vessels aross my face and makes me look like a map of the worldwide AT & T network. But, as the medical personnel have promised, it is both the end and the beginning of my journey.

     I can see my baby clearly for only a moment, and then she becomes like an Impressionist painting as the flood of my tears makes the image of her melt and blur. The one part I am able to see with complete clarity, though, is that she has her father’s beautiful crown of red ringlets.

     And, just like that, all is right with my world.

     As they take her away to remove the Crisco-like substance that enabled her to slide out more easily, I ask the nurse if I may please have a pen and paper. I go inside the mind of my daughter, a/k/a “my new lease on life,” and, to my astonishment, a song of whimsy all but writes itself. I know that eventually I will be able to imagine her father’s voice singing it to us both. But for now, I’m content to finally be able, after nine long months, to feel entwined with him again.


First Moments


My head full of curls,

My eyes, greenish-blue;

At 10:17,

I’ll make my debut.


My mom’s a musician,

She’s just twenty-five;

She’ll burst into song

Whene’er I arrive.


 It’s 10:16 now,

I am being pushed out.

Contractions are brutal,

I hear my mom shout.


I’m making my way

Toward the light! Here I go!

Hey, look, Mom! It’s me!

Your new babe, don’tcha know.


“It’s a girl!” shouts our doctor,

“And look at that HAIR!

Thick, curly and red.

I know that is quite rare.”


He spanks me, I scream;

This is no way to start!

But I stop when he sets me

On top of Mom’s heart.


Although it’s inside her,

While I’ve gotten out,

I know that sweet soundtrack;

Those backbeats I count.


“You’re gorgeous!” Mom tells me.

“I love you so much!”

She makes me feel snuggly.

I melt with her touch.


We lie here together,

My sweet mom and I;

And then she starts singing

My first lullaby.

That Moment of Birth
Contest Winner


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