Kerry agreed to be my birth partner eventually. She’d been in greater denial than me about my expanding waist and ballooning ankles. It was the cravings that convinced her, the night I was wearing out her living room carpet, crossing back and forth in front of EastEnders till she had to give up on it and deal with me.
“Suzanne, will you sit down?”
“I need to read.”
“All you’ve got is this.” I waved Take a Break at her. “I need something…”
I shrugged and Kerry sighed but she stood up and grabbed her car keys.
We drove into town, streetlights washing down her face as I told her how the cravings had crept up on me. Years of solid sci-fi and fantasy, then one morning I’d yearned for the chewy centre of a best-selling thriller. I read one, then another, but they weren’t hitting the spot. In the library I breathed in the dry paper smell and suddenly I wanted everything. The sickly sweetness of Christmas-themed American romance, the bitter tang of political memoir, salty tear-soaked survivor testimony and meaty historical epics. Even by my standards I was rattling through the contents of the bookshelves.
“You’re sure about this?” Kerry asked in the Waterstones that kept late hours. I didn’t know if she meant the collected letters of Oscar Wilde or being pregnant, but I nodded.
She kept glancing across as we stood at the till. I knew she was wondering how this had happened to me because I’d wondered the same myself. Whenever Kerry and the rest were out proving they were independent women by being ensnared by dodgy blokes in dodgier clubs, I was usually having an early night with a book. One of those exceptions must have caught me out, but I couldn’t think when.
“I’m not saying it’ll be easy,” I said as we got back into Kerry’s car. “But with the right support I think I can do this.”
The weeks ticked off and the scans were hazy and unhelpful. I watched myself turn into a stranger, veins darkening until I looked tattooed, calves twined with vines from the borders of an illuminated manuscript. I winked at myself in the bathroom mirror and my eyelid was covered with a tracery of calligraphy I couldn’t understand. I didn’t know how resilient bodies were over thirty-five, but there was no going back.
On the day that lasted thirty hours, Kerry held my hand. We breathed, and I screamed. A last push but there was no cry except from Kerry as the midwife handed me a bundle. Loose leaves covered in handwriting and type, blood-streaked slime and a blanket. I gazed at my progeny determined to love it, nurture it, and watch it grow. I turned to offer Kerry an exhausted smile but she wasn’t looking at my face. Incomprehension veiled her eyes as she stared at the soggy paper in my lap.
JY Saville writes stories of various lengths and genres in northern England, and made it onto the first stage of the Penguin Random House WriteNow scheme for writers from under-represented backgrounds in 2017. Her short fiction has been published in more than forty places including Untitled:Voices, Ellipsis Zine, and Confingo. She blogs at http://thousandmonkeys.wordpress.com/ and tweets @JYSaville