She dreamt of aliens with eggs for heads and when she told him at dinner, he told her that was normal.
“Just a stress dream,” he said over their steaks. She’d asked for medium, but it was still bleeding when she cut into it.
“It looked like their faces were drawn on with a sharpie,” she said and wrinkled her nose like their alien bodies had disgusted her, but really she’d enjoyed the way their heads rolled, bobbing like pelicans in the ocean.
“I think the wine’s hitting me,” he said, tilting his glass until the red almost spilled over.
“What do I have to be stressed about anyway?” she asked, but she knew.
A month ago, she’d hung up on her mother mid-phone conversation, but she’d called her back later, said that her finger had just accidentally hit the end button. She didn’t know if her mother had bought it; she’d just gone on talking about her garden, the gardenias that stubbornly refused to pop up this year.
A week ago, her period hadn’t come, but she’d scheduled an appointment for next Tuesday.
“The wedding?” he said with a gentle smile that had always made her vaguely want to scream.
“That’s it,” she said, although she regularly forgot they were getting married. Some mornings she’d wake wondering why there was a ring on her finger and then she’d spend the rest of the day remembering.
As she ate, she watched the chandelier in the center of the dining room vibrate. It was hanging above an elderly couple who chewed very quietly. They had probably lived long and happy lives together. They probably had children who had children who never called them. They probably wouldn’t mind if the chandelier fell.
“Getting cold feet?” he joked because the silence between them had gone on for too long. His gentle smile was still in place as if it’d been drawn on by a child.
“Not unless you turn into an alien,” she said and realized suddenly that she meant it.
It had been an easy decision to marry him, but Marcie, her best friend from college, used to tell her that she could do better.
“He’s nothing to write home about,” Marcie would say on the phone, before she’d stopped picking up Marcie’s calls.
“He’s something,” she’d say gently in return. She was a born appeaser. On her pre-school report card, her teacher had written “Quiet and accommodating – an excellent student”.
“I’m having an abortion,” she said.
She put her fork and knife down. The decision wasn’t a surprise for her, but she had assumed it would stay bottled in some deep place that women were born to put things. Yet now, with a bloody steak in front of her, it stood up and walked out.
When he said, “What,” she opened her eyes and saw his head recoiled, that smile still stuck to his face like gum on asphalt. She knew then that he would not understand, that in the weeks following, her words would follow him around their new house, specters of her own creation.
But now, she said nothing, just looked down at her hands, her palms opened on her lap. She saw the egg aliens of her dreams sitting in their center. They stared up at her with their tiny, two-dimensional faces. Slowly, she turned her palms over and watched them fall and split open. She thought, this is love.
Notes from Guest Reader Tara Laskowski
It’s wonderful when all the details in a story add up to something much larger than the story being told. So goes in this delightful, yet tense, piece–every detail noted by the character has another meaning or a resonance that carries us through this story. Just check out the chandelier, and you’ll see what I mean.