Contest #196 shortlist ⭐️



This story contains sensitive content

Trigger warning: miscarriage, grief

I am folding clothes in the baby department for my dumb retail job. The music is god-awful garbage, mind numbing, and offensively inoffensive. I detest that I have been stationed here in this tiny little corner surrounded by such tiny little things. How do you fold miniature pants that are only even inches long? Somehow, I doubt the babies will be impressed by the neat creases and color-coded shelves. I know their mothers don’t care since they’re the ones who mess it all up for me again as they search thoroughly for that perfect statement piece for some creature who can’t even dress itself. 

I hate it here. The bright lights from overhead, shining on me always like a spotlight. I don’t like feeling as if I’m on stage, performing for customers or for supervisor approval. I try to hide between displays. I try to distract myself with thoughts of anything other than what I am doing in the present moment. I can’t help but judge the pieces I am folding. These are much too stylish for an infant. These mothers really go out of their way, don’t they? 

Oh well. Here is a cute onesie. Yeah, it’s cliché and says, “Mommy’s Little Princess” and I hate it, but it’s got some charm, you know? 

When I think about it, I can picture my Juniper in something like this. Yeah, she’s stubborn and proud just like her father but, for now, she is blissfully unaware of the embarrassing text. 

When I found out I was pregnant, I was scared. I was twenty-five, a perfectly fine age to start a family, but I had no money or much of anything. I made minimum wage and shared an apartment with a roommate. We had a TV on the floor and not even a dinner table to eat at. He had his own place and a roommate of his own. Still, I loved him, and we were very happy. 

“It is up to you. It is your choice,” he said. 

I hesitated. 

“If you want to make this work, we can,” he said. 

Still, I paused. 

“Love, whatever it is you decide, we will figure this out together.” 

I could tell he wanted to smile. That was the answer. 

I don’t have the best job. I’m not fully educated or skilled really. But I work hard, and Juniper is a healthy baby. Somehow, despite the obstacles, we have managed. 

Her father works hard too and spoils us however he can. There is always a vase of flowers waiting for me in our condo. Sometimes two. And sometimes two plus a rotten bouquet from weeks ago that I don’t have the heart to throw away. 

And my Juniper has a fair collection of plushies and ribbons for her wispy curls. I swear she has an exact replica of my eyes. Her father adores this. But she is like him in every other way. I adore this. She loves apple sauce. She laughs easily. It is so easy to love her. 

We are a family of stargazers. In the evenings, we might go for a stroll. I wear my polka dot dress because it makes him unreasonably happy, and we take turns pushing the stroller. Juniper never cries when we are all together. Her eyes, always so dazzled, stay fixed and mesmerized by the starry night sky. There is no need to worry. Money will come our way. For now, we have this family and nest we have created. It is enough. 

Of course, I am still folding baby clothes in the baby department. Of course, I am looking back at this dumb onesie. Picking it up. Putting it down again. There is nothing special about this one at all. It is completely typical. There are several here like it. It’s girly and frilly and bubblegum pink. Nauseating, really. Not to mention, it is completely overpriced, and any baby would grow out of it in a few months' time. But this is my Juniper’s somehow. When my shift is over, maybe I will take it home for her. I’ll put it in my bag, and nobody will notice. It is so small. It won’t take up any room at all. 

When I found out I was pregnant, I was scared. I called him in the early morning, demanding his presence. I could not do this alone. He came to me. Swiftly. Like a knight. It was impressive. I sat on my bed. He sat on the floor. He was supportive and more than willing to be a father, but everything was up to me in the end. My choice to decide. Really, he was no help at all. 

I knew immediately. I felt it so clearly there. Something unexplainable blossoming in tune with me. One moment I was empty and then, click, let there be light. I knew I should be sad, but I was happy. It felt right for this to be the result of two people in love. We’d only been dating for a year, but we had fallen hard. We were a very annoying couple. The kind that has nothing going for them but prefers to believe love conquers all. 

His faith was always stronger than mine. For him, it was always a romance. 

“Meet me at the river” or “Dance with me” or “Let’s go look at the stars.” 

He was the kind to say, “Forget our problems. Come run away with me right now.” 

It was beautiful but it couldn’t be true. 

It was gone from me in an instant. I say an instant though really it was an agonizing ordeal. But that instant is what mattered in the end. Suffering is nothing in comparison to the moment you realize a thing is gone from you completely and forever. To feel it extinguish within you. Really, it cannot be spoken. And neither he nor I could speak. 

I’m not going to steal anything. It’s just a passing thought. A silly one. They come and go like all things. Tomorrow I will forget about it altogether. 

May 02, 2023 05:03

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Mary Bendickson
19:38 May 12, 2023

This week I started to read the first few sentences and didn't finish because I was sure it would maker 😢 cry. I was right. Congrats on shortlist and welcome to Reedsy. Must be the week for exceptional newcomers😉


Shauni Cardenas
23:30 May 12, 2023

Thank you for reading. :)


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Amanda Lieser
14:35 May 26, 2023

Hi Shauni, I love that you started the story off with a complaint! I think that everyone who has ever worked retail feels that complaint deep into their soul. However, I think that you did an amazing job of using that complaint to catapult us into a much bigger story. Your sliding doors moment was woven beautifully and I thought you did an excellent job of making our hearts break with this character. Nice work!!


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John Siddham
12:43 May 13, 2023

Wow, Shauni! This is so profound, and sad, yet resilient in the way your character acknowledges what has happened and moves on. This says it all "I say an instant though really it was an agonizing ordeal. But that instant is what mattered in the end. Suffering is nothing in comparison to the moment you realize a thing is gone from you completely and forever." Congrats and well done!


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