Rosie wilted against the cool bathroom tiles, her head spinning and stomach aching. She had just finished heaving its contents into the toilet. With deep, slow breaths, she hoisted herself from the floor and washed her face in the sink, splashing the cool water on the back of her neck. Today was the day, and her stomach threatened to heave again just thinking about it.

Allie was moving out.

After living for eighteen years under her mother’s roof, Allie had declared a month ago that she had found a share house near her university, and she would be moving out of home. Rosie was happy. She told herself that this was good, a healthy step for her daughter to take. She was proud, really she was. There was no reason for her to feel this way. This soul gripping anxiety born of fear and loss. A very strange combination of emotions that did not sit well with her stomach. She looked into the mirror at her pale face and stifled another round of nausea with long, slow breaths.

“It will be fine, it will be ok. This is a normal, natural reaction to a new stress,” Rosie told her reflection ruthlessly. She never pulled any punches when she spoke to herself, the kind of brutal honesty that one can only give to oneself. Her therapist had told her that she needed to be kinder, and that she should speak to herself the way she would speak to a good friend, with compassion and gentleness. But Rosie didn’t have time for that. She needed to give herself a good strong talking to, get her silly emotional response under control, and be happy and excited for her daughter. This was a big step, a big exciting new journey for Allie, and she didn’t need her mother to crumble under the weight of a panic attack.

The breakfast dishes kept Rosie focused on one task, and she methodically made her way through washing and drying, eschewing the dishwasher in favour of completing the task by hand. It kept her busy while Allie and her boyfriend Zac marched packing boxes through the house and into the waiting boot of Allie’s little hatch.

“You Ok?” She glanced up from polishing the large pot as her husband, David, detoured through the kitchen on his way back from loading the car.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Rosie reassured him, her lips trembling into a wobbly, unconvincing smile as she turned back to the sink so he wouldn’t see the lie in her eyes.

David caught her about her waist in a gentle hug. He knew. After nearly twenty years together, he understood her better than she would like. “She’ll be fine. It’s not like she’s moving interstate, she’s only a few suburbs away. Twenty minutes away, tops.”

“I know… it’s just…”

“She’s eighteen. Remember what you were doing at the same age?”

Rosie chuckled wryly, despite herself. “That’s what worries me!”

“Come on, she will be fine. She has a good head on her shoulders.”

“I just don’t want her to make the same mistakes I did.”

“So, I was a mistake?”

“You know that’s not what I mean! It’s just if she were to get pregnant now, it would ruin all her plans.”

David carefully turned her in his arms to look into her eyes. “She’s a good kid. Trust her.”

“I know, and I do…”

“And Zac’s a good kid. They’re good together and they have plans. Don’t worry so much. You’ll make yourself sick again.”

She hadn’t realised that David knew about her illness this morning, but she should have known. Not much slipped past him.

“Just think of all the time we’ll have together, just you and me…” He hugged her tighter, and rested his head on top of hers as he rocked them in a little dance shuffle around the kitchen. A whoop of surprise escaped from her mouth as he spun her quickly and executed a romantic dip, culminating in a peck on the lips. She laughed, even as her stomach protested the sudden motion.

“Get going, you fool,” she told him with mock sternness as she pushed him away, all the while stifling both bubbling laughter and rising nausea.

There were tears in her eyes as she watched Allie and Zac take off in their little car, with David following in the SUV. There was no room for her to go along with them. Allie’s bed had been disassembled and it just fit in the car from the passenger seat to the boot. And all the passenger space in both cars was crowded with boxes and belongings.

Secretly, Rosie was pleased.

It meant she didn’t have to pretend to be happy, to dredge up that fake smile that was curdling her stomach. She could indulge in a bit of selfish therapy and curl up in her bed to cry. David wouldn’t be back for hours, as he was needed to assist with the reassembling of the bed. It would be safe to let the tears fall. No one would see them, no one would know. She ignored all the housework, the piles of laundry, the vacuum cleaner and headed straight for her bedroom, where she slipped between the sheets on her bed, covered her head with the blankets and gave in to the sobs that shook her whole body.

Eventually, the tears stopped, but she didn’t move from her warm cocoon. In the darkness beneath the covers, she closed her eyes as memories flitted through her brain.

They hadn’t meant to get pregnant. She’d only been eighteen and David not quite twenty. Too young, too stupid to know better. Not that she regretted it, no! Just maybe she should have gotten her life together first.

Her parents were a godsend. Although her mum had insisted that they get married to provide a family for the baby, they had allowed them all to live with them rent free for the first year.

Rosie deferred her second semester of university, to focus on the new baby, while David finished his degree so he could secure a good job. Once he was working, they were able to move their tiny family into a small flat. That was when Rosie managed to go back to university part time, and her four-year degree pushed out to ten. She graduated when Allie was eight and spent a few years working as a new graduate. By the time her career was established, she realised that their family was complete. They were a family of three. Perhaps if she had managed to give Allie some siblings, it wouldn’t be so painful today to watch her daughter waltz out of her life.

She must have gone back to sleep at some point, because she awoke to warm hands snaking around her from behind. David pulled her into his embrace, her back tight against his chest.

“It’s ok, love. She’s going to be fine.” David whispered into her hair.

“I know.” And she did. Allie was a good kid, she’d made sure of that. She was well educated and bright enough not to be caught out the same way her mother had been.

“So, what are we going to do with all our spare time?” David nuzzled her neck.

She playfully shrugged away. “Keep your thoughts clean, Mister!”

“What? I was thinking of monopoly and dance classes!”

“Sure you were!” She rolled over to face him. He was still as handsome as when she first met him when she was a girl. She traced the extra lines on his face that time had given him. “I love you.”

“We never really had time to ourselves, did we?”


“Well, let’s look at it this way. We’re empty nesters. It’s time for a new start. All the things we could never do, all those times we missed out on doing things our footloose and fancy free friends were doing, because we had responsibilities, well, we can do them now. And our friends will be jealous, as we cruise the Bahamas, or fly to the Swiss Alps…”

“Do you really think I’d go so far from Allie?”

“Well, maybe snorkeling in Ningaloo and cruising the Whitsunday Islands. But the point is, our friends are all tied down with family and soccer training and ballet recitals. We’re not. The whole world is there for our taking, and we’re old enough to understand it and young enough to still enjoy it.”

“You sound like an ad.”

“Come on, there must be a thousand dreams that you put on hold because of our circumstances. What’s one?”

Rosie thought of all her friends, their ‘soccer mum’ SUV’s filled with booster seats and prams, or sporting equipment, or instruments. They were tied to their children still.

David was right, now that Allie had moved out, they were free. She did want to be free, didn’t she?

“Come on.” David whipped the blankets from her and pulled her to the edge of the bed. “Let’s make plans.”

David was a planner, she was the worrier. She’d like to think she spelled it with an ‘a’ and an ‘o’—warrior, but no, she worried, always had. David brought out pen and paper and set to writing a list. Exciting prospects were filling up numbers that marched down the side of the page. Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Daintree. They were places she had always dreamed of seeing, places they put off because dragging a child around wasn’t fun, and the price of travel in school holidays was prohibitive.

Rosie allowed a glimmer of excitement to well within her. It would be worth it, this newfound independence. She could make plans for a future without the need to put anyone else’s needs before her own. No need to plan for a child, to ensure there were enough activities to engage an inquiring mind, but not too many that overwhelmed, enough food to feed a growing child, enough clothes that fit for the season, enough sanitary products for a teenaged emergency. Hang on… when was the last time she had bought them?

Suddenly the blood dropped from her face, mid-thought, and the world spun. She took some deep, steadying breaths. David was now on his phone, googling attractions in Coober Pedy. What the hell? Who wants to go to Coober Pedy?

“Um, David?” She interrupted him mid-sentence. He looked up with a sheepish grin.

“Yeah, well, maybe not Coober Pedy, but there is some interesting history and opal mining there.”

“I think I need to go to a Chemist.”


Rosie and David sat across from one another on the bed, later that afternoon, their eyes glued to the white plastic as it did its thing.

Two lines.


Neither said anything for a long, few moments, no sound except the pounding of blood within her ears and the slow exhalation from David as he lifted his gaze to hers.

“I think we’re back to square one,” he said.

Rosie looked from his ashen face to the plastic test and back again. Visions of booster seats and prams and sleepless nights and… well, it didn’t frighten her, not this time.

April 16, 2023 13:28

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Michał Przywara
20:43 Apr 20, 2023

Ha! What a great twist :) I assumed the being sick and the emotions all over the place were due solely to Allie's leaving - because that makes sense. It was sold very believably. But of course, there was another reason :) "Hang on… when was the last time she had bought them?" Quite a sudden realization :) Great take on the prompt. And what's that saying about god laughing when David makes plans? :)


Michelle Oliver
22:44 Apr 20, 2023

Oh yes, poor David. The best laid plans of mice and men… An ‘oops’ pregnancy is probably the one thing that can disrupt even the best laid plans and set you right back a at square one. Thanks for reading and I’m happy the twist was believable.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.