‘Playing Mommy’ is a short story about the darker side of childbirth. Trigger warning: Abortion. Please read mindfully.
Shaina Seth’s baby is eighteen months old today. Shaina’s a successful executive with a leading business house. Shaina wears diamonds. In her ears, on her fingers and in her eyes. Sharp, cutting and forever bright.
Of Ray, there is nothing more than a memory. His last words to Shaina are engraved in Kara’s mind – unheard and hearsay but hauntingly clear.
You killed my baby.
And Kara thinks…a child could lead the way to oneness. But from a union blessed by angels, was conceived a child that led to separation. A demon child, an infestation, a violation, a catastrophe that left everyone changed in its wake.
Blessed by an angel
The phone cranked maniacally. That alone should have been a sign. Telephones do not crank. Machines don’t turn into maniacs. People do. And the person at the end of the line was turning into knots of flesh.
I can’t believe it…bless my soul..I think I’m…I’m pregnant!
That revelation really shouldn’t have been met by a pregnant pause. A crime of thoughts and words. And this was no time for humour. Except that Kara really couldn’t help it.
What do you mean how? Don’t you know how people get pregnant?
Shaina’s voice took on a steely tone, overcoming the bluster.
Kara winced at the sharpness in her voice. Shaina had a razor tongue but it had never been used on her.
Sorry, I meant who?
Shaina’s voice held mixed wonder and reproach as she replied,
But he isn’t here.
said Kara, her voice returning to normal as her mind found its way back to logic.
From her memories came the image of Ray, Shaina’s boyfriend. She had met him the day he left for college. Then she was shown photographs. One on Shaina’s dresser, with a baby picture of each of them framed in twin hearts and engraved with,
The day that you and I first met,
The angels whispered, “PERFECT!”.
No one would have called Shaina, an angel. Except for those who saw this photo frame. Kara had. And she was the only one.
She didn’t know much else but as Shaina poured her story down the telephone line, Kara found herself picturing the man she had met just once. Ray had visited on New Year. A secret lovers’ gift. And he’d left something behind.
What was to be done now? Kara had never had a boyfriend, much less had to think of unwed motherhood. Yet, how easily the thought floated and her mind grasped at it!
Shaina opened her door. There wasn’t a book in sight. The computer wasn’t on and the television was silent too. She had probably been pacing up and down the floor, Kara thought.
Here, have this. I brought you lunch.
Odd, the times one thinks of playing mommy.
Have you told Anya?
asked Kara, referring to Shaina’s vivacious best friend. Wondering at the same time why she was here and Anya wasn’t.
Shaina paused in her chomping, her eyes curiously soft.
No, I couldn’t bear to lose her.
Kara wondered…and what about me? As if in reply, Shaina added,
You’re the only one I could think of who wouldn’t judge me.
A blood test then. Let’s get it out of the way.
Kara snapped, springing into action.
The girls spent the next hour walking about the block, talking about nothing in particular. When Kara’s watch showed 4 pm, they walked back into the pathology lab. Just before they turned the doorknob, Shaina squeezed Kara’s hand and said…nothing at all.
Congratulations, you are pregnant.
Cursed by an angel
Shaina boarded the flight the next day. One quick nod to Kara and she was gone, walking swiftly on the tarmac. She returned a week later, with an empty womb. And unnaturally bright eyes that Kara never quite got used to.
The twin photo frame was missing the next time Kara visited. The daily life of a student took over.
Once, while walking down a line of shops, Shaina looked at a window display in a children’s store and murmured,
My baby would have been one today.
..and continued walking on without missing a step.
Three months later the girls went off to college, different campuses.
A trail of diamonds
Two years after graduation, she married a classmate. The family received an invitation of course. But Kara couldn’t bear to accept an invitation that was preceded by,
I had to marry someone. He’ll do.
Kara sometimes thinks of the child that never was. The child that broke Shaina and Ray. The one that was created inside Shaina. The life that sucked the real Shaina, into itself and took with it Kara’s angel, when it was washed out. Leaving behind a trail of diamonds. They never discuss it.
Kara sighs and collects the gift-wrapped teddy bear (and her thoughts) before going to meet her godson. Rayan is the spitting image of his mother. Minus the diamond-bright eyes. But only Kara knows what put the hard shine into Shaina’s eyes. And she wonders what she misses more – the Shaina she knew or the angel that took her away.