Contest #242 winner 🏆

73 comments

Romance Contemporary

This story contains sensitive content

Jen lived by the unwritten rules of being single but wanting a child. Don’t look at children. Don’t engage with children. Don’t talk about children. Don’t let other people talk about their children. And don’t, for the love of all that is holy, tell anyone you long for a child.

A nearby suitor could be eyeing you up, biting their bottom lip at the sight of your untoned bum, lusting after your wide midriff, admiring your conical legs. They could be subconsciously sliding you through their mental mold of their dream woman, seeing you slot in just right. Only to see your face change from that of a promising conquest to a maniacal ovary, ready to snatch the sperm of the nearest purveyor to fulfill your vapid, barren life.

Looking at, engaging with, talking about, or listening to stories about children will, to even the most gullible testicles-owner, immediately announce your desperate, ugly yearning like a tannoy in a tin.

So it was a treat for Jen to allow herself to sit in front of a beautiful, cherubic baby and gaze in unfettered awe and longing. She had been doing this almost every week lately. The museum, a former church, was on her walk home on Fridays, when she worked only half a day. The exhibition had been on display since January, but it was early Spring when she found herself sputtering around, trying to look interesting to a society obsessed only with the happenings of her womb. Trying to look like she was, indeed, living her best life, flitting from exhibition to dinner date, eating the world around, unburdened by responsibility.

The first day she went to the exhibition, she found Her. A mother, THE mother. A miracle hewn from marble, nursing Her baby beatifically. Stone had given birth, yet she was not. And this statue was a virgin for god’s sake. She loved Her instantly, though on her first few visits, she hastened past Her, fearful that those watching would delight in the poetic tragedy of the sight; a childless woman gazing up at the immaculate mother of mothers.

Jen’s childlessness oozed out of her. It soaked her sheets and rattled her guts. It was a repugnance only she seemed to acknowledge. But she noticed it so solidly for the last two years, she had thought of little else. She tried to hide her childlessness from onlookers, mask it from bystanders, but it was in vain. She knew that all who saw her, saw a woman, not a mother. All who saw her, with their modern views and progressive thoughts, forgave her on sight, of course. But the flash of forgiveness was mortifying. She felt it from everyone she encountered.

Everyone but him. He was wiry and sort of ugly and smelled of the kind of sports deodorant that reminds everyone of sweat. He looked at the statue, looked at Jen, then back at the statue and screwed his face quizzically.

“Is she bumming you out?” he asked with a raspy voice that sounded like an old lady who claims that smoking is what’s keeping her alive. "Excuse me?" Jen replied after checking her empty peripherals. "Why are you looking at her if she’s making you sad?" he asked, with a sense of informality she wasn’t used to. "Do I know you?" she asked. "Do we just keep asking each other questions?" he replied, thinking himself very clever. "I’m sorry, can I help you?" she replied, kicking herself for continuing the game she had no interest in playing. He narrowed his eyes and she saw a vague handsomeness somewhere around his jawline. "I’ll leave you alone. You looked sad but I didn’t think you really were sad so I was making a joke. But…sorry, I’ll leave you to it", he said without a single muscle of his body living up to this promise. "I’m not sad. It’s art. It’s supposed to make you sad", she said, far too defensively.

She felt rumbled. He was a hick. He didn’t have the sophistication to forgive her on sight like the others. It reminded her of the time when she, a serious teenager, was asked by a child why her face was all dots. And how the adults comforted the uninjured child but not her.

“Is it?” he asked with what seemed like genuine curiosity. "It’s art", she repeated knowingly, the upper hand. "I always find the stone ones so creepy. It’s because they don’t have eyelashes. They should use cat hair or something. Or fake eyelashes", he meandered, seemingly unaware that Jen was winning. "You’ve lovely eyelashes" Jen said and brought her purse to her mouth hoping to vomit the words into it instead of the ether. "Oh, sorry. I mean people have lovely eyelashes. Not you. You too. But, you know, everyone". He smiled and she fell in love with him momentarily the way she fell in love with everyone with a vas deferens momentarily these days. "They’re fake," he said, smiling proudly at his stupid joke. "So, why does this make you sad?" 

She thought for a moment. Thought about wanting to be a statue, to be frozen, voiceless, heartless. Childless, but nursing another statue. She hated him. She felt naked, she wanted to run but was gripping to the galloping high horse she hoped he was aware of. She was going to make him run. She had a super power for repelling. "Because I want a baby, and she has one" she said, more quietly and tenderly than she had planned. "Ah", he replied flatly. 

She waited for him to shuffle his feet, to check his watch, to answer his phone. She could sense him planning his apologetic escape. She felt him admonish himself for his uncouth lack of awareness, for missing the sillage of her childlessness. He seemed to be gathering himself. The years of manners beaten into him flooding to the front of mind, seeking ground after this calamitous misstep. How to politely, stoically, apologetically extricate himself from this hideous interaction. 

"Well, if you think that baby’s great, wait until you see the size of the horse some soldier guy has in the next room. Come on, I’ll show you", he replied, his smile softer but warmer. She stood up and they went to look at a marble horse.

March 21, 2024 15:18

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73 comments

Jeremy Burgess
03:10 Mar 30, 2024

Beautiful story, beautifully told. You capture Jen's inner narrative and emotions perfectly. Well deserved win - well done!

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01:34 Mar 30, 2024

I hope they get together. The clumsiness that occurs in conversation with others is all too real. We never say what we want to say. Our feelings that we want to hide, come out in ways we don't want. Congratulations on the win. I loved reading this.

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M. M.
12:20 Apr 03, 2024

Wow - what else is there to say. This was so well written, your knowledge of words worked so well and Jenn's inner character, setting and the whole story, congrats on the well deserved win. if only i could write like that.....

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S. E. Foley
19:59 Mar 29, 2024

I feel clumsy with words after reading this. Huge congratulations on the win. Well deserved.

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Niamh O'Dea
20:07 Mar 29, 2024

Thank you so much :)

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Hammy S
14:00 Mar 30, 2024

Exactly what I’m thinking!

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20:44 Apr 09, 2024

Fantastic story as a whole. I did love this simile, "like an old lady who claims that smoking is what’s keeping her alive." It's so vivid and there are definitely elderly people like this.

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Avian Artyst
16:08 Apr 03, 2024

Loved the way you showed some of the societal reactions to childlessness. I really enjoyed this story, you 100% deserve the win!

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Dena Linn
10:18 Apr 01, 2024

Very nicely woven short Niamh. I like how you give us enough of her and give us enough of him and give us enough of her surroundings to make it an intrigue.... that keeps the reader reading, wondering, pondering. The best writing is where there is satisfaction and unanswered questions, you have nailed both. Congrats on your first place win.

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JW Asbridge
14:59 Mar 31, 2024

Niamh, I found myself analyzing the imagery and characters an hour after reading your story. Congratulations and hope for continued joy in your creative process.

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Wendy M
17:06 Mar 29, 2024

Congratulations, its a lovely story.

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Niamh O'Dea
20:09 Mar 29, 2024

Thank you

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13:19 Apr 11, 2024

Thank you. It was a beautiful story, beautifully written.

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Ajay Sabs
03:39 Apr 09, 2024

Wonderful story. I really appreciate how your story subtly conveys a sense of loneliness (particularly in the beginning), the kind of loneliness that comes with not feeling the way you're "supposed to" feel. Congrats!

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Bradley Ngubane
18:31 Apr 08, 2024

Well, some English words on the article are really English. I think though that, that is the magic of writing. The richness of the language is very appreciable. One will have to learn as they go, on getting used to Really English terms...i.e "He was a hick", "his uncouth lack of awareness"....

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Andi Rappleye
04:13 Apr 07, 2024

This is very well written! Beautiful flow, Congrats!

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Audrey Dimmel
03:45 Apr 06, 2024

Everyone talks about how society demonizes women who don't want babies, but I feel like the flip side doesn't get talked about enough—if a woman, especially a single woman, wants a baby (or even just has baby fever) she's suddenly a pariah. Anyway, I'm glad to see that experience represented here. This is such a sweet, lovely story and it all feels so real. And damn, this is your first submission here and it won! Great job and deserved win!

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Natalie Faver
18:32 Apr 04, 2024

That was an amazing story! You totally deserved to win!

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Molly Tristano
15:13 Apr 04, 2024

Ass

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Laurie Spellman
14:47 Apr 03, 2024

Beautiful story 💜

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Philip Mark
09:12 Apr 02, 2024

Congratulations. It's a beautiful story, i love it

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Writey Pen
15:37 Apr 01, 2024

Congrats on the win. This story is incredible.

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Story Time
05:20 Apr 01, 2024

I thought the language here was exemplary. The awkwardness rang so true. I loved it. Well done.

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