“I’m getting rid of it,” Anne said.
“You can’t make that decision without discussing it with me
first,” Kevin warned. Anne laughed, throwing her head back and letting her long
auburn hair shake out over the couch. They were in their living room, Anne a
glass of red wine in hand.
“You shouldn’t even be drinking. What are you thinking?”
Anne looked up at him, her smile fading, a drop of warm wine
slowly trickling down her throat. Something knotted in her stomach. It was too
soon to be the baby. It wasn’t even legally a baby yet. Just a cluster of
cells. Like a parasite or a disease. As she watched her husband pace the room,
she allowed herself to wonder, just for a moment, what kind of father he’d be.
He’d always done a good job of taking care of her. Kevin turned to her, his
eyes squinting as though trying to read her mind. There was something happening
to him, something Anne had never seen before. Hope? Longing? No. He needed
something from her. He needed this from her. For the first time since
they’d met, he was powerless, which left her with all the control. She placed
the glass of wine on the table, and swallowed her last gulp, the warm liquid
burning its way down her throat.
Something’s not right,” she told him for the fifth time that
day. She was in her second trimester. There was a girl growing inside of her, although
Anne never called her a “she”. Anne often said, “It’s moving,” or, “It’s
hurting me.” Everything the child was doing was on purpose, of this she was
“I told you, it’s fine. Everything is fine,” Kevin said,
kneeling down so that his face was right next to her protruding belly. “Aren’t
you, sweetie? You’re just fine, my little girl.” It took Anne a while to
realize that this new form of baby talk wasn’t actually meant for her. She
hadn’t expected that Kevin would love this new thing, this growth, more than he
loved her. She was sure that he did already.
“I’m telling you, something really doesn’t feel right. My
stomach burns. Like it’s burning me from the inside out.” She wanted to tell
him that she was certain the black hole was stretching, sucking the child into
it, that whatever came out in the end was sure to be evil, dark, and it would
be her fault. Kevin would never forgive her for that. “It burns,” she
whispered, leaning against the kitchen counter, her eyes closed. Kevin stood,
keeping his hands on her belly.
“What are you so worried about?”
“Everything.” She grabbed for his hand and pressed it up tightly
against her belly. “Don’t you feel it too?”
“I love you,” he said, leaning in and kissing her on the lips.
“I’m off to work. See you tonight.” The baby kicked Anne’s ribcage hard, and
Anne wanted to hit it back, but she refrained and instead breathed deeply, as
Kevin had taught her.
“Come on, you can’t really say, that as a woman, you don’t want
to have children,” Kevin had said to her, his green eyes squinting as though
trying to see through her, piece together this alien-like woman he’d fallen in
love with. They’d only been dating for a few months, but Anne could already
tell he was falling in love with her. He wouldn’t be the first. In fact, he’d
be the eighth guy in the past six years to fall in love with her. With the
others she’d simply woken up one day and left, decided it was over and never
looked back. But with Kevin she felt she could be different. He looked at her
with hope, as though he were planning out their entire future together. She
wanted that – wanted to be what he wanted, but it was a constant struggle to
“What’s that supposed to mean? That as a woman I should
biologically want kids?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. It’s biological,” he stressed
the word “biological” as though there must be something inherently wrong with
her. Anne shrugged her shoulders and instinctively placed her hand on her
belly. How could she tell him that she felt as though there was a black hole
inside of her? Or worse, that it sometimes felt that in her deepest core, there
was a dark, hard ball, growing, sucking in everything it touched. What would
happen to that ball if it had to make room for a fetus? She was certain the
darkness would come out and infect the fetus. There was no doubt about that.
Anne smiled and removed her hand from her stomach, reminding
herself of all the reasons she had never wanted kids in the first place. Her
life was good as it was; she hated other people’s children; kids were messy, whiny, and she preferred her own company. Kevin
reached for her hand, kissing her palm, as she used her free hand to reach up,
pushing the shaggy brown hair from his eyes. But if Kevin wanted one... In one
scoop he lifted her from the couch, holding her small frame against his large
chest. He was taller than most of the guys she had dated. Normally she liked to
be the same height as her boyfriends, at least when she wore heels, but Kevin
was almost six foot four and she was just over 5'7. When he pulled her in for a
hug, her cheek rested perfectly against his chest. Often she fell asleep lying
this way, listening to the beating of his heart. She often wondered if she
liked him, or simply the size of his arms wrapping around her tightly, shutting
out the rest of the world – just the two of them.
“Girls like us, we’re just not destined to have children,”
Anne’s mother had told her for as long as Anne could remember. Anne’s mother
had been young, only nineteen when she’d had Anne. And there was no father, not
even a mention; Anne knew better than to ask. As a young child she believed
that if this strange man really loved her, that he’d find his way back to her,
but as a teenager, she began to think that he probably didn’t even know of her
“We’re more like sisters, right? You could tell your friends
that I’m your sister,” her mother had begged when Anne first started high
school. Anne had agreed, even though she knew no one would believe her. It
wasn’t worth it to fight with her mom – she was all Anne had.
They’d met accidentally, as most couples do. Kevin had been out
on a terrible date with, as the story would be told for years later, a woman
who belched in public. He’d politely left the date early, claiming there was a
work emergency, and as he strolled along the Rideau Canal, observing the sun
bathers on the grass, and the kayakers in the water, he caught sight of a woman
running towards him in three inch heels. She waved her hands frantically, her
hair, long and dark, flew into her mouth, and eyes were as though she were
running directly into a fan blade. He stopped abruptly, smiling at this
beautifully disorganized looking creature, but to his surprise she ran right
past him and into the arms of the man standing only a few feet behind him.
Kevin shrugged his shoulders, but something caused him to look back, just once,
and as he did, she turned her head slightly from her embrace, and winked,
shooting him a smile, her the other man’s lips still pressed gently against her
Anne had warned Kevin that the child wouldn’t be normal. She
remembered her words, frothing in her mouth: “There is something wrong with
this child.” She had intended to whisper the words, allow them to gurgle from
her throat and dangle from her tongue just long enough for her to rethink them
and suck them back in. But that’s not how it happened. Instead, she felt the
words scratch their way out of her chest, launching themselves at Kevin as he
stood, pressed up against the newly remodeled kitchen counter.
“There is something wrong with this child!” She had her arms
wrapped around her belly as though trying to protect it from him, but he didn’t
move. Kevin stared at her blankly, the corners of his mouth drooping slightly,
his jaw clenching, protruding his perfectly shaped chin, his eyebrows
descending, his entire face seeming to fall beneath the weight of her words.
His mouth parted; he inhaled as though preparing to fight her, and then exhaled
deeply, his fresh morning coffee breath warm on her skin, threatening to push
her now heavy body over.
Struggling, she lifted herself from the cool, pastel green tiled
floor, took two steps back and sat on the high wooden stool that was pushed up
against the island. The entire kitchen remodel had been her idea, before the
baby. Kevin had seemed distracted, and she had thought the two of them trapped
in a kitchen together, every weekend, for months on end, would somehow bring
them closer together. When that didn’t work, she came up with a different plan.
Her shoulders were slumped, her belly protruding out in front,
separating the couple. Without knowing where else to place her hands she let
them rest softly on the top of her belly, and then hated herself for it. There
is nothing more maternal than resting your hands on your baby, and in this
moment, she needed Kevin to see her as his wife, not as a mother.
“What do you want me to do?” Kevin asked. “Just tell me what you
want me to do.”
“Take it out of me,” she whispered. The room was too quiet, the
plea echoing through the small kitchen. The dishwasher began gushing water as
though in silent protest of her demand. “Please.” She dropped her hands from
her belly, her head thrown forward as the sobs wrenched
themselves from the deepest part of her gut. “This isn’t what I want. I
don’t want this!” She slid herself from the stool, falling to the floor, the
tiles cold on her bare legs.
“Isn’t it though? Wasn’t this your idea?”
“You don’t understand!” she begged.
“The nine months is almost up. You’re almost done.”
“I don’t think this is working,” Anne said, pizza cheese
dripping down her chin.
“The food?” Kevin asked.
“No, us. This. All of it.” She spoke without making eye contact,
her small hands reaching for another slice.
“Maybe we should leave the pizza and go for a walk.” They were
sitting in the park outside of Anne’s apartment. The sun had set, the children
had all raced home. This was Anne’s favourite time of day, when the park was
“No, not a walk. I don’t want to miss this. The silence.”
“Anne, there’s something I want to ask you.”
“Like I said, Kevin, I don’t want to miss the silence.”
“I want you to marry me.” She knew the words were coming long
before she actually heard them. In later years, she’d wonder if he’d actually
asked her at all, or if he’d simply placed the ring on her finger and waited,
“I always forget why I love this place. It’s only when the kids
leave, and the sun sets that I remember why I chose this place.”
“Anne?” Kevin held the ring in front of him. He didn’t get down
on one knee. Anne wouldn’t have expected him to. She nodded her head, more as a
way of acknowledging that she saw him than an acceptance of his proposal. He
pulled the ring from the box and slid it onto her finger. It was too small and
caught around her knuckle.
“Take if off!” she screamed suddenly.
She remembered the first time she’d seen him, by the canal, her
lips pressed against Matt’s, or Marc, she’d only just started dating that guy.
Something about Kevin caught her attention – maybe his large sunglasses, or his
perfectly tanned skin and chiselled jaw line. He’d been a conquest, so didn’t
this mean she’d won? Wasn’t it time for her to move on?
He pushed her to the ground and climbed on top of her, his green
eyes glowing in the dark. Yanking up her skirt he smiled to discover she hadn’t
been wearing underwear. It was a joke between them, just a foreplay game, but
now he took it as an invitation. He quickly undid his jeans and immediately
shoved himself inside of her. She winced at first, then wrapped her legs around
his waist, pulling him closer. She didn’t care if anyone saw them – fucking in
the park. What a cliché. And yet, she suddenly felt that he really loved her.
With each thrust she was more convinced that he needed her. None of the other guys
made her feel this way, although all of them had sworn it, over and over with
each climax, their eyes shut tightly, avoiding her stare.
“Anne?” Kevin whispered, pulling her back to him. Her eyelids
fluttered closed. “Open your eyes,” he challenged, one hand holding her face so
she couldn’t look away.
Kevin held the child in his arms, a thick layer of Anne’s
innards pasted across the freshly pink skin. Anne wanted desperately to close
her eyes, a sharp pinprick stabbing inside her head.
“How long will the numbness last?” Anne asked, as the nurse
washed the child, wrapping her tightly in a fresh white blanket.
“Not long. Nothing to worry about. You’ll be back to normal
before you know it,” the doctor reassured her, patting her on the knee. She saw
the doctor’s hand, but felt nothing. At first this seemed odd, to be nothing
but an upper body, but then she wondered when she had ever felt anything, other
than the child jabbing her insides.
“You have to breastfeed,” Kevin urged.
I’m too tired. Can’t we just give it a bottle? There’s nothing
wrong with a bottle. It’s not going to die from having a damn bottle.”
Anne’s hands started to shake. She shifted her head on the
“Breastfeeding is better for Samantha.”
His mother’s name. Sa-man-tha.
Anne pulled herself upright and held out her trembling hands.
Her breasts ached. “Give it to me, then,” and she took the child into the loose
hinges of her elbows. Her breasts ached, but she could tell the milk was drying
up. Only a few days ago they were hard nectarines, and now, she noticed they
were more like overripe melons. She held the baby in her arms and in a brief
moment she debated letting go – her arms, one by one, opening like a trap door,
and the small bundle, hanging for a brief second in the air, then dropping. The
only sign of discomfort, her small face scrunching in protest to the soft
breeze against her cheeks. Instead, Anne held her tighter, her head resting
perfectly in the crook of her arm; the baby’s eyes closed, and her mouth moving
rhythmically begging Anne for milk. Anne’s stomach tightened, as something in
her buried itself deeper from reach, and she swallowed hard, trying to reach
her tongue down to search for that lost bit, but it escaped – somewhere between
the fabric of everything.
She pulled the child closer, trying to feel her against her
chest, wanting their hearts to beat as one, but Samantha’s blue filmy eyes
flung open and stared at Anne for less than a moment before the child shrieked,
her voice piercing through the walls.
“Take her away,” Anne said, passing the child back to Kevin.
“Are you breastfeeding?” the doctor leaned in closely to Anne,
reaching the stethoscope up her shirt and placing it on her chest.
“Just breathe normally.” Anne
nodded, but she was no longer sure what that meant – normal. “You’re not
“She doesn’t like it.”
“It’s really what’s best for the baby. You know that, right?”
Anne didn’t move. She sat on the examination table, a flab of belly fat rolled
over the top of her jeans. “Anne?” The doctor sat in his chair and began
scribbling things down in her chart. “Is it because there’s no milk?”
“I haven’t really checked.” There were some light murmurs
rumbling through the room, which almost immediately turned into screeching. A shiver raced through Anne’s body, and she shut
her eyes tightly, wishing it away.
“Anne, Samantha’s hungry. She is very underweight.” The doctor
reached into the carrier and gently pulled the baby girl from her seat. Her
large blue eyes locked with Anne’s, searching for something. Anne was certain
this child could not be hers. This whiny, hungry, underweight child was not
“I think we need to consider medication.”
“For her?” Anne responded, pointing toward the child as the
doctor tried hand her off to Anne.
“No, Anne. Not for Samantha.” Anne reluctantly took the child
from the doctor’s hands and then quickly placed her back in the carrier.
“If she’s so underweight, then there must be something wrong
with her. I mean, I told Kevin. I told him she wouldn’t come out right.” Her
entire body began to shake as though a large window had suddenly opened; drafts
of air swept through the room. She wrapped her arms around her body, trying to
hold herself still.
“Postpartum depression, Anne. It’s much more common than you
would think.” The doctor placed a hand on her shoulder, trying to be
reassuring, but this only increased the severity of Anne’s shakes. Soon the
entire examination table was vibrating beneath her body. The doctor stared at
her, waiting for some type of response, but the diagnosis seemed wrong. She
knew it wasn’t postpartum, it was something else – the hole. Kevin was wrong to
make her have this baby. She nodded, pleased with her self-diagnosis, but the
doctor misunderstood this as an acknowledgement and quickly wrote her a
“I had big plans before you came along, Annie.”
Anne’s mother lay on the couch, the television blaring, the
curtains drawn tightly shut, keeping out all slivers of light.
“Don’t you ever leave me. I could never survive alone. Just us
This is how Anne found her mother on most afternoons after
school. Anne would race off the bus, throw open the front door, and step into a
dank and hollow room. The only furniture in the apartment was the couch, which
was there when they’d moved in. The light blue fabric was faded from the
sunlight and stained dark red. Anne would drop her
backpack on the floor, a loud thump echoing through the room. She’d sit
for hours on the floor next to her mother. Whenever Anne went to her room
alone, it felt as though the walls were moving, about to crush her. A tightness
balled inside her chest, and the dark room threatened to eat her whole.
“I love you, mom,” Anne would respond, throwing the line out
and waiting for her mother to bite. Most times her mother would smile, “I’ve
told you, call me Lizzy,” and then close her eyes, letting the room around her
fade away, leaving Anne alone in the dark.
“Maybe you need a break,” Kevin had suggested, a few days after
Samantha’s first birthday. The doctors had promised her that she would begin to
feel better. At her last session she tried to explain to them what was
happening to her. The hole inside was growing bigger. She couldn’t eat because
there wasn’t much room left for food. She could feel the darkness stretching
and at times, reaching up her throat.
“You’re just trying to get rid of me,” Anne sobbed, lying in
bed, the covers pulled over her head.
“Not at all. I love you.” But she didn’t believe him anymore.
She dozed off to the sound of Kevin packing her bags. She wanted to protest, beg him to stop, but she had given up fighting him long ago. Now she wasn’t even sure if she ever had.
“Wake up, Anne. It’s time to go. I’m going to drive you to my
mother’s.” Anne sat up in bed, her heart racing. “We’re all really worried
about you. Mom will take great care of you.” His words were meant to sound
comforting, reassuring, but they left Anne feeling like she was being banished.
“It’s just for a week. It’ll be good for you. I promise.” She ran her hands
over her face, pulling at the skin, and looked up again at Kevin. He was
pleading with her. There was nothing left for her to do.
“I’ll drive myself,” she whispered, crawling out of bed. Kevin
opened his mouth to protest. “It’s the only way I’ll go,” she threatened,
pulling off her pyjama pants and grabbing the nearest black yoga slacks.
As she walked out the door, Kevin stood in the entrance holding
Samantha in his arms. The child lifted one hand in the air, as though to wave
at Anne, but Anne looked away clutching her stomach, the large black hole
wrapping around her intestines and squeezing tighter.
Part way across the bridge, on the way to her mother-in-law’s, traffic came to a halt and Anne sat, anxiously tapping her fingers on the
steering wheel, trying not to look at the car seat, trying not to think about
Kevin or Samantha. She had told Kevin not to bother putting a car seat in both
vehicles, and she was right. Samantha had never ridden in Anne’s car. She looked
in the rear-view mirror again and caught sight of the stuffed cat that Kevin
had strapped into the seat. He’d wanted to show her how the buckles worked, but
she could never remember. It all seemed so complicated.
“Just us two, forever,” she whispered to herself, eyes on the
A large black tarp on the side of the bridge caught Anne’s
attention. The tarp was strapped to the bridge where the guard rail would
normally be. There was caution tape, keeping pedestrians from wandering too
close. The wind lifted the tarp, held it in the air for a moment, revealing the
water below, then let it drop once more, covering the water from sight. With
each gust Anne felt more and more deflated. And she knew what she needed to do.
She put the car into park, jumped from the vehicle, unstrapped
the car seat from the back and carried it towards the side of the bridge. She
leaned over for a moment, the dark waves below crashed violently into the
bridge’s post, and she wondered how it was nothing moved – the bridge stood
still. With one large inhale she lifted the carrier over the edge and dropped
it off the side of the bridge, watching as it seemed to float, catching some
drifts of wind, and moving slightly, then crashing into the cold water. The
child’s stuffed cat broke free from the seat and lingered in the air, its blue eyes
staring up at Anne. For a moment she felt as though she would burst into tears,
the hole inside of her growing, but the numbness came back, spreading through
her body like a cracked windshield. She exhaled deeply and smiled.
* *** *