For The Last Time

Submitted into Contest #101 in response to: Write a story in which the same line recurs three times.... view prompt

33 comments

Coming of Age Teens & Young Adult Contemporary

“Ow! You little bugger—you’ve nipped me for the last time.” 

Five months in, breastfeeding had lost its luster, especially as the baby began to teethe, searching more for pain relief than for nourishment. Perhaps they were both just thoroughly exhausted, as both mother’s and child’s sleep schedules—blissful for a month or so after a chaotic start—now became wholly disrupted. 

Why is it just when we get used to things, they suddenly change?

Five months in, the mother had persevered through sore nipples and engorgement and leaking through her clothing. She’d even dealt with a bout of mastitis. And now this child was biting her? She tried not to be resentful, but she just wanted a long, hot shower.

Breastfeeding had not always been a chore. 

In the beginning, the mother had loved nursing her tiny pink pillbug, warm and trusting, snuggled so close to her breast, next to her heart. While feeding, her daughter’s eyes locked on to her own, wordlessly communicating vast oceans of sentiment. In the early weeks, mother and child settled languorously into a sweet embrace. Theirs was a private world. 

Though as the months passed, other things stole their attention from one another. The mother itemized endless things on her to-do list. There was laundry to fold. There were bills to pay. There were groceries to buy, meals to prepare, dishes to wash. 

The baby felt a little dissatisfied, too. Distracted by all of the things going around her, she grew a bit bored. Rolling over was easy now. She could get up on her hands and knees and scoot about. She could grasp a toy and bring it to her mouth, giving a brief respite to her aching gums.

Besides, her mother no longer looked at her while she fed; instead, her mother gazed at her iPhone, constantly tapping on the glass. When the baby reached out for its pretty colors and moving pictures, she was firmly told “No.”

How quickly one learns that negative attention is still attention. Hence, the nip. 

The mother worried. 

“Maybe she’s too hungry?” she frantically asked the pediatrician. “Is it too early to wean? What do you recommend for a brand of baby formula? Supplements?” 

“Breast milk is the best food for babies,” came the reply.

 True, but for how long? The mother stopped by the market and purchased a can of formula. The most popular brand. 

To her relief, the baby took to it immediately.

Years later, she wished she had weaned more gradually. Certainly, if she had known it was the last time, she would have cherished it. 

⬨⬨⬨

“Ugh! You little brat—you’ve run away from me for the last time.” 

At five years old, her daughter loved playing outside right after school. When it was time to go home, however, her daughter would invariably run off and hide. Even the joy of getting her ready for school had lost its luster, especially as her daughter did not want to wear a uniform, did not want to eat her lunch (except for the biscuits), and did not always play well with others. Perhaps they were both just thoroughly exhausted, as both mother’s and child’s attempt to navigate primary school proved a challenge at times. Nursey school was so much easier. 

Why is it just when we get used to things, they suddenly change?

Five years in, the mother had persevered through a fussy eating phase, embarrassing public tantrums, and painful ear infections. She’d even dealt with a bout of night terrors. And now this child was running off and hiding from her? She tried not to be resentful, but she just wanted a long, hot shower.

Taking her child to and from school had not always been a chore. 

In the beginning, the mother had loved touring primary schools, engaging with other parents, and having her daughter’s little friends over for playdates. In the early months, mother and child settled happily into a routine: selecting hair ribbons to wear, walking to and from school, having an afternoon snack, coloring animal worksheets, going to the park. Theirs was a private world. 

Though as the months passed, other things stole their attention from one other. The mother itemized endless things on her to-do list. There were parent-teacher conferences. There were bills to pay. There were groceries to buy, meals to prepare, dishes to wash. 

The little girl felt a little dissatisfied, too. Distracted by all of the things going around her, she grew a bit bored at home. She could open the back door by herself and play on the swing set. She could pour herself juice from the refrigerator. She could find the iPad (wherever her mother had hidden it) and play her favorite games.

Besides, her mother no longer talked to her very much after school; instead, her mother gazed at her iPhone, constantly tapping on the glass. When she asked to play on the iPad, she was firmly told “No.”

How quickly one learns that negative attention is still attention. Hence, the running off and hiding. 

The mother worried. 

“Maybe she has autism?” she frantically asked the school’s guidance counselor. “Is it too early to test? Who do you recommend for a mental health counselor? Therapy?” 

“Try spending unlimited and unstructured time together,” came the reply.

 True, but for how long? The mother stopped by the electronics store on the way home and purchased her daughter her very own iPad. The most popular size. 

To her relief, the child took to it immediately.

Years later, she wished she had taken her daughter to the park more often. Certainly, if she had known it was the last time, she would have cherished it.

⬨⬨⬨

“Ay, you little bitch—you’ve taken money from my wallet for the last time.” 

“I needed lipstick!” her daughter whined. 

“You don’t need to wear makeup at your age!”

Fifteen years in, raising a teenager had lost its luster, especially as her daughter stayed out too late, answered her questions with monosyllables, and played her awful music too loud. Perhaps they were both just thoroughly exhausted, as both of their schedules now became overly complicated. Primary school was so much easier.

Why is it just when we get used to things, they suddenly change?

Fifteen years in, the mother had persevered in driving to her daughter's athletic and school activities as well as community and social events. And now this child was stealing from her? She tried not to be resentful, but she just wanted a long, hot shower.

Raising a daughter had not always been a chore. 

When her daughter first entered puberty, she loved listening to her daughter talk about her hopes and fears, how her body was changing, how her feelings seemed raw and jangled. While her daughter was in her early teens, both mother and child discussed everything, forming a united front. Theirs was a private world. 

Though as the years passed, other things stole their attention from one another. The mother itemized endless things on her to-do list. There was laundry to fold. There were bills to pay. There were groceries to buy, meals to prepare, dishes to wash. 

Her daughter, now a young adult, felt a little dissatisfied, too. Distracted by all of the things going around her, she was bored at home. Her friends were a wellspring of gossip and drama. There was a lovely young man who fancied her, texting her late into the night. Her teachers were mostly awful, but she loved her tennis coach and her English teacher. She found all sorts of new people to talk with and to advise her. 

Besides, her mother no longer talked to her very much; instead, her mother gazed at her iPhone, constantly tapping on the glass. Whenever she asked her mother to extend her curfew or for a bit of spending money, she was firmly told “No.”

How quickly one learns that negative attention is still attention. Hence, the steal. 

The mother worried. 

“Maybe she’s a habitual thief?” she frantically asked her priest. “Is it too late to remediate her? What do you recommend to save her soul?” 

“Maybe you can help her find a part time job. Young girls want to buy pretty things,” came the reply.

 True, but for how long? The mother stopped by the cosmetics counter on the way home and purchased a few items for her daughter. In the most popular colors. 

To her relief, her daughter took the tubes of lipstick immediately, running over to her friend’s flat to try them on, to see what shade looked best. 

Years later, she wished she had given her an allowance. She wished she’d taken her daughter to the cosmetics counter, shopping together like they did when she was little. Certainly, if she had known it was the last time, she would have cherished it.


July 06, 2021 16:20

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33 comments

Melody Frost
01:03 Jul 09, 2021

Hi Deidra. I really enjoyed reading this story about how the child grows up as life continues. This is a well-written story. Looking forward to your stories in the future.

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Deidra Lovegren
01:04 Jul 09, 2021

I appreciate your kind comment. It's not my favorite, but always interesting to take the prompts out for a spin :) Best wishes to you!

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Melody Frost
03:25 Jul 09, 2021

Thank you. You too!

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K. Antonio
21:30 Jul 07, 2021

I enjoyed the evolution of the characters. How it starts off comical and goes into "Ya, little bitch..." because in a way it felt real. Sometimes parenting (being responsible for any human being really) can cause someone to lose their poise or control while at the same time stimulate a lot of introspection. I was not expecting the story to end that way. I also liked how this narrator focuses on a specific character but at the same time reveals a lot of herself.

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Deidra Lovegren
23:04 Jul 07, 2021

I wasn't entirely sure where I was going with this thematically... Live in the moment, since nothing is guaranteed? That there is a "last time" for everything? It's hard to deal with finality, but my husband and I are dealing with aged parents and are keenly aware of "last times."

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Ruth Smith
13:17 Jul 07, 2021

Wow! That is soooo true! Being a parent can be so bitter sweet.

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Deidra Lovegren
13:34 Jul 07, 2021

Facts, Ruth. But mainly sweet. Besides — the bitter part livens things up on occasion 🤪

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Riley Boock
05:05 Jul 10, 2021

Woah. This story was exceptional. Children definitely learn by mirroring their parents, which you represented so well in the plot. I loved how it was so clear to the reader why the daughter was "acting up," but the mom was totally oblivious. You're a terrific author, Deidra!!

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Deidra Lovegren
08:47 Jul 12, 2021

YAY 😀 Not sure about being terrific—but definitely sure parents’ actions have a lifelong impact (for better or worse…)

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Phil Manders
11:26 Jul 07, 2021

Ouch! Wanna talk about it?

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Deidra Lovegren
11:52 Jul 07, 2021

Just did ✍️

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Rachel Smith
08:34 Jul 07, 2021

Hi Deidra, I found this very moving, relatable and so, so true. The line "Why is it just when we get used to things, they suddenly change?" is particularly true! I found that it evoked happiness and sadness in a clever way. Nice one. I look forward to reading more of your stories.

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Deidra Lovegren
11:55 Jul 07, 2021

Thanks, Rachel! Life is indeed bittersweet—an amalgamation of happy/sad. No joy is unalloyed, a wise woman once said.

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15:57 Jul 14, 2021

Hello Deidra, loved your story. Liked the evolution of the child. This was relatively more slow paced than some of the other stories of yours that I have read. Still, a very wonderful effort. Also, I was on a forced sabbatical for the past two months. Hence, jo stories from my end. Just came back to active life in July. Have written a story and posted it. It is also the same prompt as this. I don't know if it is visible as I see no comments there. I would greatly appreciate it if you critique my story. Thanks

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Deidra Lovegren
16:17 Jul 14, 2021

Absolutely :)

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Ramie Creates
13:52 Jul 13, 2021

I can never imagine myself being a parent, I truly respect my parents for bearing me(tho, I'm very different, or as I think. Never really liked cosmetics or gossip or boys, instead I was into electronics and building things. Not gonna lie when my father brought me a soldering iron, I was much more happier than any girl of my age would do when she'll even get a big box of cosmetics. ) Anyways. Your writing always satisfies me and I can say. By far as many stories as I've read, you never disappoint!

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Jubilee Lubov
01:39 Jul 13, 2021

I felt a really strong connection to both characters- the push-and-pull between emotional reaction and distraction was extremely well written. Fantastic!!

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Theresa Bhowan
18:48 Jul 12, 2021

I loved this, more so I think because I have a 19 month old baby boy.

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Deidra Lovegren
19:09 Jul 12, 2021

Enjoy each precious moment. Even the exhausting ones :) Actually, especially the exhausting ones . . . haha

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Theresa Bhowan
19:19 Jul 12, 2021

I'll hold him and play with him a little bit longer. Because in ten minutes the laundry will still be there, but his favorite toy might change in those 10 minutes.

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Deidra Lovegren
20:12 Jul 12, 2021

Laundry, bills, errands will always be there. That cute little boy will be a surly teenager in T-10 years...so enjoy :)

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S. Closson
00:49 Jul 12, 2021

You did a wonderful job with this story. It really highlights how easy it is to take tender moments in life for granted, especially after they've lose that initial luster and transition into monotony. Leaving the daughter's fate ambiguous was a great touch, making an impactful story even more so.

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Deidra Lovegren
08:49 Jul 12, 2021

I’m sure the daughter grew up to be much like her mother. But maybe not? Endless quandary on the whole nature vs nurture debate.

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Jamie Harvey
00:38 Jul 12, 2021

Oh my goodness. As a mother of two girls my heart broke reading this. The real raw feelings and the ease of slipping into complacency with our children and the feeling of needing to check out can be so daunting. Your story made me feel inspired to sit with my girls and soak in the current life phase we are all in. Thank you for writing this.

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Deidra Lovegren
08:44 Jul 12, 2021

Then my job is done here 😎 That’s the only advice I’d give to any parent with small children — savor the moments, because there is always a last diaper to change, sippy cup to fill, Elmo song to sing.

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Shoshana A
18:31 Jul 11, 2021

An ordinary concept has been written in an extraordinary way. I really enjoyed reading it.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:51 Jul 11, 2021

High praise 🙏🏻 Much appreciated

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Kaylee Tinsley
15:49 Sep 08, 2021

This was awesome! You always do an amazing job.

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Katie Kanning
01:38 Jul 16, 2021

Hi Deidra! I really like your story. I'm wondering if you'd allow me to read it on my podcast? It's all about giving voice to indie authors' short stories and spreading their reach a bit further. I'll credit you and link your profile and encourage listeners to follow/support you. What do you think? :) Here it is if you wanna check out the format: https://anchor.fm/unpublishednotunknown

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Deidra Lovegren
02:43 Jul 16, 2021

Absolutely—read whatever you like. This particular story isn’t my favorite. If you want, check my bio for the wins and shortlisted and my personal favs. My website is also listed. Let me know how else I can help ❤️

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S. Nicole
20:40 Jul 15, 2021

Very powerful story. It was great to see how they both evolved as well as hear the perspective (and regret) from the mother. Great job!

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Rie Sanders
05:10 Jul 14, 2021

Well done! I liked the way you weaves the story around the repeat-lines.

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00:14 Jul 14, 2021

:D.

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