Just a Drink

by Sarah Stock

When Kate broke the news, she cracked open a can of Miller. Piper? Lily? Christian? Not yet. Maybe it won’t happen. Dear God, don’t let it happen. Tim pried it from her hand and gave her a plastic cup filled halfway with apple juice. She watched him drink the rest of the beer.

The next day, Tim bought kale. It had folic acid or some shit — the doctor on TV said so. He told her to blend it with apple juice, make smoothies. She never liked kale.

Tim was gone a lot — he worked late, he worked weekends. He worked so she didn’t have to. He was never home to see the bottles Kate brought home. Just a few to keep her hands from shaking. Wake up, shop, drink, bury the bottles in the recycling bin, make a smoothie and pour it down the drain, leave the dirty blender for Tim.

Do you feel it growing yet? The sickness like a kick in the gut? Yeah, she felt it.

The doctor — her doctor — said everything looked good. She was doing everything right. All Kate saw was static. She nodded. She held her breath when the doctor came near.

Tim kept buying kale.

One day Tim came home early — caught her with two-thirds of a six-pack sitting empty on the counter. Have you done this every day? Every day for seven months? He threw the last two cans across the kitchen. It’s time to cut the crap.

Kate didn’t go to her doctor appointments. She told the doctor’s office that she found somewhere better. She told Tim the doctor liked her progress. She told herself if she kept pretending maybe it would never happen. After a while, Tim stopped asking if she was staying sober.

Tim was walking through the front door with cans of yellow nursery paint when Kate called. Four hours later a faint heartbeat lit up the hospital screen for precisely two minutes and thirty five seconds before it folded back into static. Enough time for two people to hold their breaths twice, but not enough to hold a baby before it turned cold.

When Kate was sent home, Tim dropped her off at the house and left for a hotel. He needed time to think, to make arrangements. To get away from her. Kate walked to the kitchen with shaking hands, found the blender and the kale and the apple juice. She sat on the floor next to the cans of yellow paint and drank her smoothie, feeling the emptiness grow inside her. They should have been pink.

Sarah Stock is a student at Carroll University in Wisconsin.