“Make me happy.”
Dot’s arms sink over the edge of the railing and sift through the salt-speckled air. The sun slithers onto the rough angles of the waves and appears like snakes of light dancing in the corner of her eye. Adelaide is also there, in her peripheral vision, her stomach swollen and stretching the front of her floral blouse until the threads peel and screech.
“You will, won’t you?” Her voice is camouflaged by the whispering thrum of the boat.
Adelaide’s hands are unconsciously orbiting around her tummy and Dot recalls when she first found out about the baby. To be honest, she was a little late in knowing, showing up to their monthly lunch date trailing shoe laces with plastic wings everywhere she went. She was even out of breath, her heart playing with a toy drum once she heard the news.
“I thought you’d gained weight,” Dot joked that midday. “Emotionally overeating because you couldn’t stop thinking about me.”
Adelaide bumps her shoulder like she did back then. The sun’s robes wash over the sky and it begins to settle onto its afternoon knees.
Dot gazes at the island. It looks small from a distance but every broken window is a black eye staring at her. The trees grow in uncomfortable directions, their long arms of wood squirming limply between the leaves.
Adelaide had told her over the phone it’d be a fun experience and a chance to catch up. Dot with her leather purse knew she was pregnant but apparently forgot. Because now, as her best friend retires onto a lifejacket chest, one knee jetting forward and the other stabilizing, she thinks of something else. Adelaide begs her with her fingers intertwined and the leftovers of a seagull dropping tangling in her hair.
It’s unfortunately the same position Dot was hoping Adelaide would be in someday, holding a ring and swallowing messy rivers of words and ocean water.
But there was already a ring compassing her finger. One that was painted gold by the cheap paint you can get at Michael’s and that has a shimmering, fake diamond glued carelessly onto the tip. It was either made by Ted, her husband, himself or a factory in China. Either one.
Dot sighs. “I need some time to think about it.”
“I understand,” Adelaide nods, caging her stomach in her hands. “I just need to know by my baby shower, which is on Tuesday. Is three days enough?”
Clinging to the rails of the boat with what sanity she has left, Dot smiles. The island grows ever nearer. She gulps, glancing at all the strangers around her, bundled up in scarves and hats with pom-poms. She wonders if they’re thinking about the island and the haunted, abandoned hospitals on it. Their eyes reflect the gray waters and some turn when Adelaide complains that the baby is having a synchronized swimming lesson inside her belly.
“Babies always complicate things,” Dot mutters. Adelaide hears her and pinches her earrings but says nothing. “Just to be clear, though, I won’t have to wear pink fabric wings and pretend to make a molding pumpkin and some rats into a horse-drawn carriage?”
Adelaide laughs lightly because she knows if she’s too loud it’ll hurt. But the wind whisks the tinkling sound away, back to the mainland where they sell ice cream with rainbow sprinkles in the dead of winter.
“None of that, no,” she faces away so her hair flutters into her face in soft waves.
Dot taps her nails against her palm where she’s written conversation topics. Her handwriting is sloppy but she can still manage to decipher it. “So what’s the gender?”
The chatter of the strangers in the background dulls to the melody of a gentle him. Adelaide opens her lips like she’s going to laugh again but no sound escapes. “Like I’d tell you. Everyone’s going to find out at the shower. I don’t even know.”
Dot frowns, “How do I bring a helpful gift if I don’t know the gender?”
Adelaide laughs, and for a second it seems like all she can do. Just laugh until the waves crash and lick her cheeks and carry her away. “We both know you’re not bringing a gift.”
She always tells the truth, behind maroon veils of velvet. It’s part of the reason Dot has to hold back from cradling her and kissing her soft lips when tears blossom and glimmer under her eyes. Adelaide has blue eyes, she always has. And now her baby will too.
‘I love you,’ does somersaults in the back of Dot’s throat. But she could never say it aloud so that’s where it stays. It hisses through her teeth and relaxes onto the clouds.
The baby does somersaults in Adelaide’s stomach. She grits her teeth. The boat has just arrived at the island and Dot already wants to turn around.
* * *
Adelaide was right, she brought no gift. Dot waltzed into the baby shower, her hands caught in the pockets of her sweatpants, and her hair tied up with a pencil. And she felt fine.
“Aphrodite, you came.” Adelaide’s mother greets her with a salty smile like grains of sand are stuck between her teeth. Dot doesn’t notice this but she notices the balloons. They’re swelling into the ceilings of the house and they’re different varieties of a beautiful periwinkle. A girl.
Dot knows the responsibilities of a godmother. She’ll have a female godchild who will be treated like a princess when around her. With sparkly ears of Minnie Mouse headbands and polka dot dresses that sweep the floors. And crusted makeup that washes off like a temporary marker. They’ll tell expired dad jokes, laugh, and listen to old songs on the radio in her tree house.
But somehow, it scares her. The girl will be tumbling into her dried palms if something were to happen to Adelaide. And Dot didn’t think she’d be able to handle it, seeing the woman she loves in the child’s robin egg eyes every day.
“You made it,” Adelaide sings, her voice lilting like in an elementary chorus and her chest rising and falling steadily like the tide.
Dot sucks a breath in. “I’ll be the godmother.”
Her face cracks and the weary, timeworn, two-in-the-morning-mugs-full-of-coffee mask crumbles away to reveal a heartbreaking smile. “Thank you so much.” Adelaide rushes forwards and tries to lock her arms around Dot’s neck but her inflated stomach is blocking the way. “I love you, my goddess of love,” she murmurs into the depths of her ear.
Dot smiles. She thinks it’ll be okay in the end, her and the princess and their somersaults through grassy hills until the end of time.
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Title ideas? Polka Dot Princess instead? Thanks for reading.
I love all the little details in this, the lifejacket and the sprinkles on ice cream and the moldy pumpkin image. It adds so much and makes it really prove how much time you spent and how you care. You're getting better and better. Another challenge? What's this one? I don't have any critiques, though maybe it would be a good idea to reveal they're on/headed to a boat earlier. Great, great job, Scout.
Thank you, I'm blushing. They're on a boat, headed for an island, in the beginning. I'll make it clearer. Yes, I came up with the challenge this time. It was start your title with the letter 'P'. You can join in if you want!
Ooh, I might try next week, if someone does one.
Haha, it’s okay. We rarely do challenges anymore but I can tell you if you want.
What is it?
I meant for ones in the future.
Oh, I'd love to! I already have a title picked out for my next one (posting tomorrow hopefully) but the one after that I'll try it for sure.
Beautiful story about friendship and unsaid confessions. I agree with Zilla; you just keep getting better and better as a true storyteller! :)
the little details of the polka dots and the headbands; it is so cute! it is very clear that dot is too afraid of the responsibility of being a godmother, but she knows that if adelaide is the mother, everything will be fine! that's how i interpret it, their relationship. agreeing with zilla, you are becoming such a better storyteller. perfect, even. "The sun’s robes wash over the sky and it begins to settle onto its afternoon knees." how amazing is that line? this prompt itself can make a wonderful amount of characters with different per...
Thank you! I’ll stop by if find time! Sorry.
This is not normally a genre I would dip into but I guess I'm so reeled in by the way you write. I could read anything you write to be perfectly honest. :) I hope you don't mind me asking but do you plan your stories out first or do you discover them on the way?
Thank you. Well my first step is stare at the prompts and imagine an idea for all of them. Then I pick my most interesting idea out of the five (or pick two ideas and combine them, which is what I did here), and finally just start writing. My ideas are usually for the beginnings of stories so yes, I make up the plot on the way. It's a dangerous way of writing but it always works for me. :)
Thank you for sharing. That's a wonderful way to write. :)
Sweet, and captivating. It's written realistically enough that one could picture the entire scene taking place vividly and, like R. K. said, mesmerizing enough for it to feel like a fairy tale. The ending is well crafted too; I expected something about Dot understanding that it's too late for her to vocalise her thoughts, but having them spoken by Adelaide, albeit in a different context, really managed to force a bittersweet smile on me. Great story, Scout!
Thank you so much, Neha!
Aphrodite! *winks* I got a retro princess feeling from this story, like listening to old Swift songs on the radio and wishing for untouchable things. With polka dot dresses and Minnie Mouse headbands and balloons and carriages. It was so mellow yet so striking. I’m sure Dot will be a great (maybe slightly awkward, but adorable) godmother. Great work Scoutie. And mmm, challenge complete.
Haha, thank you. Definitely those vibes.
I'm coming back to read but you did the challenge. That's nice
Scouuuutttt love this, as always. A great story to follow your iconic win. Loved the descriptions, especially this one: "It looks small from a distance but every broken window is a black eye staring at her. The trees grow in uncomfortable directions, their long arms of wood squirming limply between the leaves." You're an incredible writer, and I cannot wait to see you improve even more! xoxo Vieve
Thank you so much, Vieve! Hopefully you'll post soon. ;)
This fits the prompt so well. It's heartbreaking, really, all the things that Dot never says. You really have a knack for writing. You paint a picture with words that helps the reader see the setting and the characters so clearly. They say "a picture is worth a thousand words". Well, your stories are worth a thousand pictures. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense, but hey, you get the idea ;) Off to read your most recent right now. Sorry I've been late the past few times. Happy writing :D
Thank you so much!
It's too good. I think the hope embedded in this piece is beautiful. I don't know how you do it everytime but you remain a great writer. Just keep doing this. Dot is a pretty name. Your imagination is quite charming.
Dot is a nickname for Aphrodite. :) Thank you.