“It’ll be okay,” I say.
When she lifted the sheet last night, it looked like spilled ink seeping beneath her. The words are on her lips even now, even if I’m only imagining them. She’s quiet and still and I’m filled with everything she’s not.
I start a haiku in my head. The words are written in blood. Too much blood. I don’t say them because I can’t. I hold Gray’s hand, and it leaves me itching to trace words in her palm. I write the haiku with my other hand on the underside of the kitchen table.
My flower baby,
free little gypsy dancer,
please don’t fly away.
“I can’t just sit here, Shaw,” Grayson says.
The sun peeks through the living room window, exposing a sliver of light, trapping Gray in the shadows. She rearranges reminders for doctor’s appointments and our one ultrasound picture on the refrigerator door. She hides them beneath scraps of stories neither of us have used. Other paper bits bear pieces of poems waiting to be penned.
Grayson lets the faucet run over her hands until they are pink. The crusted blood beneath her nails turns the water pink, too. She washes my coffee mug from the night before. You could stop drinking it with me, she’d said at the beginning, but I never knew she was serious. Caffeine was the first to go when she found out she was pregnant. I never stopped drinking it. I should have given up coffee for her. I should be helping her.
I want us to be okay.
I’m already wishing for Gray’s lips to spread and reveal a sunrise kind of smile; teeth cresting over the horizon of her bottom lip. I know that look might be lost in blotches of blood now.
“Just leave them,” she says. The room feels different with her real voice here. Her small voice, her shy voice; the quiet way she always says she loves me.
We replace the bedding with two sleeping bags. Once inside, she curls away from me, but our feet still touch. I try to sleep, but her words and my words and all the words we heard between last night and this morning are in my head. I push an earbud into my right ear and the other into Gray’s and I press play.
I try to find words without paper and pen, but I can’t get them right. Before Gray, I was never a night writer. But now, the words find me while she dreams. Maybe that’s the only way stories can separate themselves between two writers.
“Already a day,” Gray says when she wakes. The early evening leaves traces of moon mist over her eyes. “I miss—”
“I know,” I say.
I don’t show her the pages pressed between the mattress and pillow. I set them on the bedside table instead, and wait for her to say something. She doesn’t.
Gray walks to the kitchen, and moments later I smell fresh coffee, hear a spoon clink against her mug. I know she must be stirring in honey and cinnamon the way she used to before. I wonder if the color will remind her, if she’ll write her way through the memory or if it will rust her insides until they crack.
Grayson sits at the kitchen table, steam surrounding her chin. Her eyes flash to the sheets in the sink. Spots still dot them like stars. All I see are bits of our baby. And I know she must see the same thing. I press the fabric to my chest until it doesn’t feel real and I don’t feel real and this all feels too fucking real with Grayson’s hands wrapped around my green coffee mug.
I leave the sheets on the balcony beside the bonfire pit we’ve yet to use this year. When I return to the kitchen, Gray’s coffee is gone, and part of me hopes she’s dumped it down the drain, that this is all unreal for her, too. Her hand finds mine across the table. I try to squeeze the life back into her, but it’s already gone.
Written by: Kayla King
Photograph by: Daniel Vidal