Jelly Babies

by Elspeth Graty Read author interview March 15, 2005

“Mrs Jeffers?”

The doctor squirts gel onto my rounding stomach. It’s cold and blue. She spreads it with the instrument in her hand. It’s a weird feeling, not pleasant, not uncomfortable. I turn my head to look on the screen.

It’s there.

“Look, there’s the head.” Stop, click, measure.

The first time he suggested a baby, I cried. I was too afraid, I said, what if I was a bad mother?

He laughed and held me close. “How could you be a bad mother?” and we made love, needing each other, fusing our bodies. Surely it was right? It would be alright.

He didn’t believe it when I got my period, wanted to go to the doctor straight away, check everything was normal. He surveyed his friends, came home with horror stories and statistics about hormones in the tap water.

We drank only Evian and tried again. He made me sleep with my pillow under my legs. I started feeling rough and resentful.

We saw the doctor after three months. She said we should relax, take our time, not to worry. How often? Every three days should do it.

But he wanted a result. He rammed into me night after night, until I was sore and falling out of love. Then the nightmares came. In a dark cave where the silence hurt my ears. It crawled towards me, pink with protruding veins. Its barely-formed eyes pierced into mine, pleading, then hating. I tried to touch it, to pick it up but it slipped through my fingers, crawled away and disappeared. Then the stink hit me, like chemicals mixed with rot.

I didn’t know you could smell in your dreams. I woke up crying in the dark, but he didn’t hear me. I took gulps of the fresh bedroom air, sweet and sweaty.

And then my period didn’t come and I wondered how long I could keep it from him, now that my body was no longer just mine. Every day I saw the bulbous eyes, every day I cried and then he came home with a test after three days. I hadn’t said anything.

***

He comes into the room. “I’m not too late, am I?” He’s out of breath, he kisses my forehead as he scans the screen. Now, I am not there anymore; there is just him, the doctor and measurements. I close my eyes and the smell comes back, putrid.

“I’m sorry, I have to…” but it’s too late and I’ve puked on the floor. At least I can only smell my sick.

“It’s called pre-natal depression,” the doctor tells me, “you’re afraid of not being perfect – that’s quite normal for the first time. Take it easy. Enjoy your pregnancy!” I don’t want to tell her it isn’t the first time. About the other one, I didn’t want, pickled in a jar.

He tries to cheer me up. The negativity isn’t good for the baby. He rents funny films, massages my swollen legs, sings nursery rhymes, his mouth pressed against my belly.

One day, he brings me back a bag of jelly babies as a treat. I take out all the pink ones and line them up. The other ones I throw away. I examine the pink faces. There are five, all identical except one which must have got squashed at some stage. I keep this one. I make him a bed out of tissues. I put him in the drawer of my bedside table.

Tonight I sleep and when I enter the cave, it glows with a pink light and smells candy-sweet. And this time, it’s my jellybaby baby that meets me and I hold him tightly in my arms, so tightly that he starts to melt but it doesn’t matter.

About the Author:

Elspeth Graty teaches English in France. She has recently had her first short story publication in Aesthetica.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.