The Last Push

Submitted into Contest #74 in response to: Write a story that takes place across ten seconds.... view prompt


Fiction Drama Sad

“It’s showtime!” The doctor addresses my room. He adjusts the cuffs of his long gloves, kicks up a heel and glides over to me. The stool stops squarely between my stirrups. To my left, a monitor has been tracing peaks, plateaus, and valleys for hours. They print out in real time, the paper opening up like a bellows on it’s slow descent to the floor. On impact, it neatly manages to put itself back together again in a little stack. My body is thankfully numb to the reams of pain, but not the pressure of this new life. My mind is too, I think. But I can’t blame the drugs on that.

I can see the next wave begin to swell on the monitor, feel it’s tightness; pressure radiating forward from my back.  “One last time,” the doctor say, looking at the monitor.  “I’ll count to ten.”

“One more push,” whispers Jake into my right ear.  He gives my shoulder a squeeze.

It’s funny, because “one more push” is actually one of the first things I ever remember Jake saying to me.   His order at the coffee shop never changes, and he’s been coming in for so long, I can’t even remember him actually uttering it.  He’s the regular who never uses the drive thru.  Always watches his coffee brew, always a medium, black with three pumps of hazelnut syrup. I prep his fresh pot before the shop’s bell can even announce him; able to recognize the familiar cadence of his silhouette across the storefront window. He’s tall, has to dip his head a little in the store’s old threshold. As I reach for a lid to cap his coffee, he stops me. “It needs one more push,” he says, gesturing to the wall of syrups. “That was only two.”  

I had counted three.  “Are you sure?” I ask. “I put three in already.”

“I always count,” Jake assures me.  And he’s polite at least, not belligerent. If he had been rude, I know I would have been defensive. I shrug, depress the pump again and quickly cap what I am convinced is an overwhelming aroma of hazelnut.  

I watch his face expectantly, to confirm this, but he just says “now it’s perfect.”  His hand brushes mine as he takes the cup and sips.  He still tips me, and lingers a moment until another customer is behind him.

“Everyone’s allowed a bad day,” he offers.  I return his warm smile.  Without realizing, I graciously accept with it his power of suggestion.

The doctor counts  on with a slight nod of approval, a glance in my direction; recognition of the progress I’m quickly making now.  On his face shield,  I make out the convex reflection of everything I’m trying to numb, and look away.

“Two, three, four.” 

Two dates in, Jake tells me he loves me.  I’m surprised,  flattered, and guilt ridden. In that order.  It’s too early to discern the endurance of love from the excitement of infatuation, of lust.  But not for him.  I don’t know how to put this into words.  Silence is it’s own terrible answer.  “I love you too,”  I  barely whisper, because I’m certain I don’t not love him.  So that must be the answer, I think.

Three weeks later I meet his parents, and within four months we are engaged.  I have always been a cautious lover, but there was something about Jake I had to seize before it was gone.  I feared the regret of our path not taken.  If I was happy, then he was too, he said.  We never really argued, but Jake promised we would forgive and forget daily.  If he could have put me on a literal pedestal, jewels crown and all, he would have.

On five, a nurse excitedly chirps “She’s crowning!” She flits over to the warmer, adjusts a blue bulb to her satisfaction.  The machine hums expectantly. 

“Crowns are overrated.” I pant out before a shriek escapes me.

“What is that?!” I’m frightened now, not prepared for white hot pain that cannot be numbed. The crown is searing, expanding my insides, threatening to tear me in two.  

“That’s the ring of fire dear,” the nurse says, knowing and apologetic. “But it only lasts a second.”

Jake reaches for my hands but I stuff them both down at my sides, finding more comfort in clenched fistfuls of bed sheets. I shut my eyes as hard as they will close, until the white specks flash and pop in my vision. A feral moan passes my lips. “I can’t do this,” I beg.

“Six, seven, eight.”

Jake has hit me six times so far, hurt me seven, and I’ve taken him back eight.  The first time he hurts me, scares me really, he hasn’t left so much as a mark.  The bruises follow eventually, but if I’m being perfectly honest, the damage had already been done with the cloth.

“‘Jake, we don’t even have the money for a motorcycle.” 

I am already pregnant.

“Sure we do Kate, I paid cash.” Jake says matter of factly.

“And you’ve wiped out our savings!”

“Your mom called today by the way, said she wants to  get you the crib and the car seat on the registry.  I like the white crib you went with.  It’s a bit higher end than the one I thought you chose.”  

He’s trying to cheer me up, and change the subject like he always does.  

I make mountains out of molehills, see the bad in everything, he’ll say.   It’s sad really, that I always have to do that.  He’s always reminding me that we need to extend forgiveness to each other every day.

And it sounds beautiful to me.  I know he’s right.  It is sad, that I’m so jaded I guess.  Because all I feel is anger that somehow, the burden of both forgiving and forgetting, is on me.

I try to be more gracious of his attempts to keep the peace, but instead, I’m flustered.   Probably the hormones.

“Jake, I’m trying to talk about our finances.  The savings account has two hundred dollars in it.  What about -“

Jake smooths a hand over my belly, then gives a little poke to my side.  He tickles me playfully, already trying to lean in for a make up kiss.  

“Hey, it’s fine,” he says softly.

Forgive and forget.  

But he doesn’t hear me, I think.  I pull away and take a step back.

“Jake, I’m serious.  And I’m hurt you didn’t decide on this with me.” 

Silence.  I can’t stand his smug silence.  He’s flipping through the mail on our counter now, pretending he can’t hear me.

“Please answer me.” I plead.  Heat is rising in my face.

He  takes his time answering, and doesn’t look up from the mail.  “It’s marital property Kate, do I have to ask to spend my own money?  Besides, almost half of it was my bonus from work.”  His tone is calm and cool.

“So the savings account is marital property but the bonus is yours?” My tone is anxious.  Am I the only one that sees this is ludicrous? Compared to him, I am unraveling.

Circles.  The disagreement goes around and around.  Sometimes, he doesn’t remember the hurtful detail that I can recall, can’t remember the names he’s called me.  If he does remember, it was only in jest.  It’s me who was too sensitive, or took something the wrong way.

“I’m sorry if you can’t take a joke, Kate.”  And he laughs at the preposterousness of it all, having to apologize for humor.  He playfully reaches for my hand now.  It’s annoying, and maddening, but not quite as painful as the silence.

Eventually, I hear a car honk twice from our driveway.  I see his mother’s SUV picking us up for dinner.  

 I don’t stop pleading my case at the sound of it.  There’s no resolution, no compromising.  No empathy, I think. Maybe there never really was.

“Just drop it Kate.”  Jakes eyes darken.  His jaw is set in anger at my persistence.

But I don’t want to argue in front of his mother either.

“Fine.” I say emphatically, but there is no venom in my voice.  “But we’re not done with this conversation.”

I don’t even see it coming, don’t know what’s going on until it’s almost over.  He grabs me with one hand; where my throat meets the corners of my jaw.  He’s going to choke me, I think. I feel my eyes grow wide in fear and shock, an involuntary trembling starts in my shoulders.  He looks at me, eyes black with rage.  He’s compressing my jaw now, squeezing with his thumb and fingers so I cannot speak.  Cannot even open my mouth.  He pulls the wet dishcloth off the counter behind me, cups it over my nose and mouth with his other hand. 

He’s so close to me now I can feel his breath, each word as it hits my face. “I said to drop it, Kate” he snarls.  He drops the cloth but not his hold under my jaw.  He glares at me with such hatred, I don’t even recognize him. You’re scaring me. He shakes me then, tosses my neck side to side several times and releases me in disgust.

I retreat to the bathroom, rattled.  I trace his grasp on my jaw but it’s almost immediately invisible  in the mirror.  I wash my face.  She calls me from the car now, didn’t I hear her honking?  We go to dinner as if nothing happened.

 At home, I think he might apologize, but days of silent treatment follow.   He’s acting so wounded, I question the whole thing.  Thoughts of what I said, or could have done creep into my own periphery.  Three days pass and I can’t bare the silence any longer.  I’m feeling sick when I find him in his office.


He doesn’t answer, doesn’t look my way.

“Jake.” My voice shakes and I take a deep breath.  “Jake, why?” I squeak.  The accusation almost crumbles in my throat,  too painful to utter. “You almost choked me.”

I don’t know what I want him to say.  He gives a small incredulous laugh though.  

“Choke you?  Kate I gave you fish lips because you wouldn’t shut up.”

My heart is pounding  frantically in my ears. What? I want to scream, to pull out the referee’s replay; triumphant.

“Jake, that’s not what happened.” I am pleading with him now for my very sanity.  “Jake, you know that’s not how it happened.”

He shrugs.  “That’s how it happened to me,” he says matter of factly.

I put an arm out to steady myself, the air suddenly sucked from my lungs.

“Jake,” my voice barely a whisper. “I can’t do this,” I beg.


Something cool touches my face.  I acknowledge it as the blinding pain begins to abate.  

Jake dips a wash cloth into the hospital basin again and wrings it out.   He pushes it down with his palm into my forehead, making a compress.  

I feel restrained.  He starts to wipe my face with it.  Gently, the tears on my cheeks.  Then, the sweat above my lips.  He gives me a smile of encouragement, but when the cloth passes down the bridge of my nose, obscuring my breath  momentarily; I wretch and heave without warning. 

“All perfectly normal at the end.” The nurse is perched at my knee now.  She places a bag at my cheek.


I give everything I have on ten, picture myself breaking through a doorway, into sunlight,  but it’s not enough. 

“Kate, I need you to stop pushing, now.” The doctor‘s words are calm, but they are definitely an order. The bird nurse hands him the bulb.

The pressure is crushing me though.  Succumbing to it’s demands offers sweet, temporary relief, every time.  It’s too frightening, to abandon the only thing I know to do. 

“I can’t”. 

“She needs you to Kate” and his voice is firmer now.  I see him depressing the blue bulb, and I realize, my daughter’s head is out.

But she’s stuck.  Half trapped, the only home she knows, now her prison.  Every instinct in her body and mine, telling her it’s time to leave.  But she can’t even take a breath. 

My body pushes, and it takes everything I have not to push back. But I manage for her,  what I didn’t think I could survive for myself.

“That’s it,” the doctor says.  He’s talking to my daughter now.  He unlocks her from inside of me, and she escapes into the world.  I catch my breath, waiting for hers.  

When it finally comes, strong and healthy, the nurse lays her on my chest.   “The first breath of a new life is always the hardest,” she smiles.

“I’ve heard that.” I say.

“She’ll be alright now.”  She tuck  a stray hair behind my ear.   “And you will be too, mama.”

January 02, 2021 04:58

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Rayhan Hidayat
21:18 Jan 02, 2021

Really, really good. Every line is punchy and leaves its mark on the reader. Great use of 10 seconds. The ending suggests the protagonist will be fine, but it’s a little hard to believe considering the man she lives with. Kudos, anyway 😙


Isla Wren
23:14 Jan 02, 2021

Hey thanks! My first comment ! 😀 The ending was definitely on the hasty side and I think I would like to revisit it too, it feels a little rushed to me at the end. I was a little late to the game for this submission; and discovering Reedsy (call it a New Year’s Resolution?) so at 11:40 I decided I better find a free word counter and submit! Submitting was really straight forward and easier than I expected! Looking forward to feedback and joining a writing community. Happy New Year!


Rayhan Hidayat
21:08 Jan 03, 2021

Welcome to Reedsy! Yep, here’s to a smooth transition into 2021!


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Shallan Davar
22:01 Mar 04, 2021

This is amazing!:D


Isla Wren
04:39 Jun 21, 2021

This is an old comment I just noticed- Thank you so much for checking out my story!


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04:32 Jan 11, 2021

This was really good! Very gripping story!!!


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