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Contemporary Fiction Speculative

This story contains sensitive content

**This story holds themes regarding miscarriage, please read at your own discretion**


“I heard that she was going to name it after her dead mother–”

“I heard that she was never pregnant to begin with–”

“I heard that her husband didn’t want it–”

“I heard that his family wouldn’t let her marry him, so she planned the pregnancy–”

"I heard that this isn't even the first time–"

“I heard that he’s already left–”

“I heard that she–”

“I heard–”

“I–”

Lindsey wasn’t sure she heard anything at all. Just the mumblings of women with sagging bellies and breasts, who had already nursed their children into adulthood; already donned make-up that was seven layers too thick with rouge a bit too bright. 

Auntie Marla’s house was filled with all of her late mother’s belongings: hand-crocheted doilies, an old wooden china cabinet chock-full of every piece that Lindsey’s other Aunts hadn’t wanted. Old butter trays that sat on the table, empty. Christmas decorations, Easter decorations, Halloween, and Fourth of July were scattered on different shelves because they were “festive”. They were meant to “lighten the mood” her aunt always said, but all Lindsey could think about was cleaning out the house after her aunt finally kicked it.

“I heard she didn’t even marry him,” said Carol, a woman with bleach blonde hair cut into a pixie. It was so stiff with hairspray that Lindsey was nearly convinced anti-gravity devices were real. Lindsey turned the gold band on her finger, wondering if these women made their hair too puffy because it was one of the few parts of their bodies they could still control.

Auntie Marla’s best friend Sherry excused herself from the conversation with Carol and Pattie –a woman in her seventies who always managed to find an uglier shirt than the last. Sherry walked over, elegantly for how old she was, though Lindsey still hadn't quite pin-pointed her age. She looked to be in her late sixties, but that was the funny thing about older women, there was always something else going on when age was mentioned. Suddenly a dish just had to be cleaned, there was a friend across the room that they hadn’t seen in ages, the powder room called for immediate use. Birthdays were strictly prohibited, unless it was Lindsey’s of course. Because Lindsey was young, she had nothing to be ashamed of, she had youth! Even when she was little and lacking a mother to tell her not to ask “rude” questions, Lindsey had kept them to herself. That didn't stop her from needling, but some answers weren't meant to be sewn.

She didn’t want to know why Auntie Marla's face always shifted back to those same pitying smiles. Sherry and Carol, Felicity, Lisa, Pattie, and Jane, they always smiled the same way, as if her existence were an entertaining, but heart-wrenching tragedy. She wondered if her mother would have smiled that way after her father left. It was thoughts like this that she was sure made Sherry smile when she approached. Except this time, Lindsey knew Sherry saw a girl who couldn't become a mother, just as her own mother had abandoned her too early.

“Darling, we were all so sorry to hear the news,” she said, kissing Lindsey’s cheeks, “How far along were you?”

“Thirteen weeks.”

“Oh, it must be so devastating for you and Henry, where is he by the way?” Sherry glanced over Lindsey’s shoulder as if her husband would somehow materialize. 

“He had a late meeting with Rick. You know how it is.”

“Yes, I’m sure I do,” Sherry’s eyes narrowed, and Lindsey wondered how long it would take before someone invited her to a divorce party in her honor. Not for her of course, because that would be rude, because they would never suggest such a thing, she and Henry were made for each other, and he was such a nice boy, and he looked so handsome in his crisp button-up, and his family had to be so happy that Lindsey was their blushing bride.

“Sherry, you are positively glowing,” Lindsey said, “not a day over, let me think, forty?”

Sherry tittered, “guess again, sweetie.”

“Thirty-seven, then,” Sherry playfully slapped her arm and walked away, muttering about bringing “the poor dear” a cup of tea.

“I heard there was another woman–” Some of the women in a distant circle gasped and glanced Lindsey’s way. She walked over to where Kittie sat, her wheelchair pushed up to the table.

“How are you, my dear?” The oldest by far, Kittie had white hair and wrinkles that she didn’t try to hide. Maybe she gave up a long time ago, but something told Lindsey that she’d never cared to begin with. She wore a green sweater that brought out her eyes, and earrings that made her lobes sag. Lindsey could see the holes stretching, and wondered what it would feel like for her skin to stretch too, for a baby to finally grow big and strong inside of her, making her skin weak because she finally had something worth changing for. Something that could graft her into a new person, a new existence of motherhood that she'd never had.

“I wish they would talk about something else,” Lindsey fussed with the fabric of her shirt, just below her navel.

“That bad?” Kittie asked.

“I think by now they’re planning a funeral for an evil twin who supposedly stole Henry from me,” Lindsey laughed a dry sort of laugh.

“Is everything okay with Henry?”

“He’s been having a hard time at work is all.”

Kittie looked out at the room full of women, circles forming circles forming circles. Conversation groups that circled, bodies that circled with fat, chatter that circled around blatant rudeness, and a single young womb that wouldn’t circle the way it was supposed to. 

“I heard that she’s dying, but she didn’t want anyone to know, so she planned a fake pregnancy–”

“I heard that her mother miscarried three times before having her–”

“I heard that her mother never wanted children–”

“I heard that her mother-in-law poisoned her–”

“I heard that her sister-in-law is an addict–”

“I heard that mothers are dying more often these days–”

“I heard that Marla never wanted custody of her–”

“I heard that Lindsey never wanted a child–”

“I heard that she was going to name it after her dead mother–”


May 27, 2023 02:19

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15 comments

Ellen Neuborne
02:19 Jun 06, 2023

The vicious banality of gossip is very well done here. We have all heard that kind of casual cruelty. Well done.

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Evelyn Griffith
02:58 Jun 06, 2023

Thank you so much for taking the time to read it, and for your kind comment! Have an amazing day!

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Zack Powell
17:06 Jun 03, 2023

I loved this, Evelyn. Beautifully written and perfectly subtle. You really used the word count effectively here for such a short story. Every word mattered. I love how we learn so much about the characters by the little details you toss out here and there (see: the knickknacks in Auntie Marla's house, the line about Lindsey fussing with the shirt fabric under her navel, every single sentence that references a woman's body). And it was a smart choice to end on the same line that began the story. Everything came full-circle, and that dialogue ...

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Evelyn Griffith
19:35 Jun 03, 2023

Thank you so much for this comment! It’s great to know that the circling theme was received well! I will always appreciate any constructive criticism you have to offer and I really appreciate the wish for Kittie to be more present. I think she’s definitely a character I would like to develop further! The line you picked is also one of my favorites! Thank you so much for your time and kindness, and good luck to you in the contest as well. P.s. I loved your story that won the recent contest with the history test. I’ve been trying to improve ...

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David Sweet
16:13 Jun 03, 2023

Wow. Heart-rending! I thought the developments of the callous aunts were well-developed in such a short space of time. I wish that perhaps we could have met Kitty earlier and that we could have seen her interactions with the others, but it is only a minor suggestion. The way you have written it doesn't take away from it at all. I was immediately pulled into the scene and could see it developing as clearly as if I were watching it unfold in a movie or TV series. Thank you for sharing.

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Evelyn Griffith
16:24 Jun 03, 2023

Thank you so much for your compliments and for the advice! I’m always glad to receive feedback and I’m glad that the style drew you in! Thank you for taking the time! Have a wonderful day!

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Michelle Oliver
22:47 Jun 06, 2023

This is a powerful story, there is so much rumbling under the surface. Although Lyndsey is aware of the gossip , and gives the appearance of not letting it get to her we can see that it does cause damage by the little hints and gestures that you include. Fussing with fabric, the italicising of happy, the turning of the gold band on her finger. All this shows, without telling, the toll that the rumour and gossip is having. I am impressed that Lindsey is still standing through it all. I love he cyclical nature of this piece, there is no beginn...

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Evelyn Griffith
00:11 Jun 07, 2023

Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment! It was definitely the hope that the story would have a circular nature, I wanted it to be representative of the way rumors circle back to people. I thought that it would be an interesting way to play with the form as well as the content! Thank you so much for noticing and I hope you have a lovely day!

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Helen A Smith
11:00 Jun 04, 2023

I think that the MC needs to get away from most of these awful women fast, if she stands any chance of future happiness. A fittingly catty little circle here. The images of circles and revelation of loss at the end work well, along with the sharp dialogue. I possibly would have liked to heard more about Kittie (appropriately named?) to counterbalance the other spiteful aunts, but either way, the story works well.

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Evelyn Griffith
15:06 Jun 04, 2023

Thank you so much for the advice about Kittie! It seems that others were interested in knowing more about her as well! And yes the aunts are all pretty horribly depicted in this. However, it’s the life that Lindsey knows and maybe she’s more comfortable staying with what’s familiar even if it’s not the best life she could have. Thank you so much for commenting! Have a wonderful day!

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Helen A Smith
15:37 Jun 04, 2023

I think you may have highlighted something interesting there by saying that Lindsey may feel more comfortable staying with something she’s familiar with.

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Mary Bendickson
01:30 Jun 09, 2023

How terribly rude and thoughtless of these loving aunties to be gossiping so blatantly right in front of Lindsey the whole time as if she couldn't hear or wouldn't feel anything. And as one of their assumed age you know their whispering had to be a touch loud. You do your craft so well.

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Evelyn Griffith
02:26 Jun 09, 2023

Thank you so much, and yes they are quite tactless. Thanks so much for reading and for the comment!

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Wally Schmidt
02:07 Jun 07, 2023

I think your story really hones in on something about the gossip- that it is both a form of entertainment and a sport for these ladies. They can participate or they can be a spectator, either way they have long since forgotten the power of their words and that it is well to be discrete. The structure you used to tell the story really worked and your words really jumped off the page in a magical way.

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Evelyn Griffith
15:11 Jun 07, 2023

Thank you so much for your comment! I agree that these ladies have definitely lost feeling for the impact of their words, and I think that's one of the reasons Lindsey feels so out of place. Thank you so much for taking the time to read, and I hope you have a wonderful day!

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