to keep a pen in my hand, i've given myself a gentle story schedule - both wednesdays and saturdays, i will pick a stranger that i am drawn to during our trips to town & write a story for them. based purely on intuition and feeling, these will not at all represent who the stranger is, or their true story. they are entirely fiction.
trigger warning: child loss.
to the one at the farmer's market; the one with the sadness clinging to your eyes. listen to me reading this story below.
this morning he sat up in bed and lay a hand in the valley above her hip. a stretched womb still hung over the hem of her underwear, softly moving up and down, like the sea might after a storm has passed. he moved quietly, trying not to wake her. but she was already awake, wide eyes fixed like marbles, staring at the bean rows beyond the bedroom window.
he bent over the sink, inhaled, exhaled. he shaved his beard and cut his lip and draped a piece of tissue over the blood.
"today's august twenty-ninth," he heard her say from the bedroom.
he walked out past the sunflowers and the lavender and the pepper patch. there was a sapling marking the spot where her body was planted like a smooth seed. they had tucked her chin and laced her fragile arms, one over the other. he wrapped her in a piece of cream colored silk and cupped her between two palms until the cicadas started humming in the oak tree. his wife nodded and said, "let her be, love."
he knelt beside the baby tree and moved a few stones into a circle with his thumb. "good morning, elouise," he said. he held his face in his palms and stretched the skin downward, trying to push and pull the sadness from the corners of his eyes.
he moved back into the kitchen and watched the sun tuck up underneath the oak tree. the entire wooden skeleton came alive with golden backlight, only for a moment, before fading back to brown again. he closed his eyes. there he stood, one week ago. she was cutting onions into neat rounds, and he complained about the sting in his eyes. the sun rose and the oak caught flame, and the smell of lavender and baking bread spilled over him. she smiled to herself and started humming, her hand gently sweeping from one side of her belly, to the other, feeling for subtle nudging from within.
"how is she today?" he asked, patting his eyes with a damp handkerchief.
"quiet," she said, "I think she'll be here soon. she's saving her energy." she tucked her hair behind her ear and scraped the onions into a pan on the stove. "oh," she said, "I thought of a name, I think. elouise. elouise may."
he mouthed the name, and then said it aloud, "our daughter, elouise may."