African American Creative Nonfiction Black

Trigger Warning: stillbirth

The voice on the outside spoke to Mama like we weren’t even real.

“The twins have no room to thrive. If you don’t go into labor over the weekend, we’ll look into taking them out in ten days.”

“No room to thri-?” The voice interrupted Mama, dismissing the fear we could feel pulsating around the tiny space my twin brother and I shared. I didn’t like how it felt, much worse than the daily kicks I received from Teddy, who slept above me. He grew quite larger than I and I overheard the people on the outside refer to me as “the small one.” I wasn’t sure what “no room to thrive” meant for us, but a feeling of dread blanketed the two of us.

“See you Tuesday!”

“Eat shit.” I don’t think the voice heard Mama because no one responded.

A soothing rhythmic swirl brought calm to my twin and I, causing Teddy to stretch himself entirely, his foot grazing my ear as it often does. My hand spent most of the day covering it in protection. I didn’t mind and found the sensation comforting. We drifted to sleep, me covering my ear, Teddy’s foot lying so close, I could feel his toes wiggling in time to Mama’s hand that swirled over us.

Mama’s bouncy steps seemed much more labored this week as we moved throughout the day. In fact, it seemed that she only moved if I kicked a spot below me, causing her to whisper to herself, “back to the fucking bathroom,” whatever that means. I just know if I kick the spot, we get to stretch out.

“I hate it in here,” Teddy’s complaints were frequent now, being the biggest with the least amount of space to move. “I’m ready to leave. When do we leave, Tyler?”

“I don’t even know how we got in here. I didn’t know until today that we even could leave.”

I didn’t like the distress in his voice and knew I needed to make him feel safe, especially if I wanted to keep both of my ears. I drew a line with my finger in a space both of us could reach.

“Here, every time we wake up, let’s make a line. Then when it’s time to go, we will know that it’s time to go!”

“You always have the best ideas, brüder.”

“I love you.” We heard Mama say that to us and the familiar voices around her. Most of them said it back to her. A voice below us on the outside called Blakey said it to Mama all the time. The realization that I could be outside with all of the voices made me more nervous than excited. I couldn’t imagine anything outside of our space. Teddy on the other hand, seemed interested in the voices from the beginning. He thinks that I’m the smarter one but he figured out what we were called, along with some of the other voices outside. There is something called a Beary Bear that we haven’t heard yet. But he is the goodest boy and the most handsomest boy. Whatever that means.

Teddy woke from his nap and smashed his foot on my hand. I think he’s doing this on purpose.

He made his mark on the wall and went back to sleep. I did the same.

After a time we were awakened to Mama, yelling so loud our space shook.


Teddy’s foot went into my ear again and it hurt.

“Teddy! Stop! I don’t like when you do that! I feel terrible now!”

“We need to leave.” I waited for him to say something else, but he didn’t. He made his mark on the wall and went back to sleep. I did the same.

Mama never made the sound again, and out of mutual fear we never spoke of it.

“We need to leave.” His voice seemed weak.

“I know, Teddy.”

“Now.” His voice scared me.

“I know, Teddy.”

We made our marks and fell asleep.

The voices were around us on the outside. Teddy’s kicks weren’t as painful as before. It surprised me to find that I wasn’t as happy as I thought I’d be when his kicks slowed.

“I’m afraid Baby B has lost his heartbeat.”

Who is Baby B?


“Yes, brother?”

“We need to get out of here. Now. You don’t sound so good.”

“I know, Tyler.”

"I love you, Teddy."

"I love you, Tyler."

We made our marks and fell asleep.

Mother’s crying woke us both, she spoke between sobs.

“Teddy is gone, we lost Teddy!”

I tugged his foot, he responded with a weak kick.

No, Teddy is not gone. We have not lost Teddy.

Mama thinks that Teddy is lost, but he is here. Right here.

“No, Mama! He’s here! We need to come out, HE needs to come out!”

They never hear us out there, if she could, she would have known that we were alive, but we needed to come out, now.

We made our marks and fell asleep.

They were the last marks we made. Mama wailed and her entire body shook. Teddy stopped responding to me, I became blinded as I realized I was being lifted from the space where we kept our marks, they were nowhere to be seen. Teddy came after me, his body completely frozen, eyes closed. Two voices washed our bodies and talked as if they were alone.

Like Mama, I could only cry. My twin was gone. We promised to do everything together, and now I was alone. My hand flew to my ear, I didn’t feel comforted.

“Why did it take us so long to deliver? Baby B could have survived. We probably could have delivered them both and had four live babies instead of three”

“Dr. McLeod’s orders. A set of 23-week female twins addicted to opiates came in and he bumped them. He said with the space one shouldn’t have made it through the weekend. We were betting on the smaller one.”


“Listen, this is South Carolina, not Compton. Would you rather have a set of Olsen Twins or them Wayans' Brothers?”

The voices laughed, but I didn’t know what was so funny.

December 28, 2020 15:18

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Madisson James
17:20 Jan 07, 2021

Nice! Very touching and an angle I have never read before. Thank you!


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Beth Connor
18:06 Dec 28, 2020

This was a beautifully written story and my heart is breaking.


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