Rebirth by E. A. Ryles

July 16, 2012 Comments Off on Rebirth by E. A. Ryles

A woman carried her baby inside a red sling. Gabrielle tried not to stare at the mother, whose hair, sling, and dress hung long and at ease against her body. The baby’s eyes were blue. Pausing in front of a mountain of oranges, the mother picked one up, weighed it in her hand, and held it to the baby’s nose for inspection. The baby raised her head and pursed her lips, deliberate as a robin scrutinizing mud.

Gabrielle abandoned her basket in the aisle and left the store.

***

Gabrielle always thought she was fat. Other than the first and last time, whenever Richard tried to lift up her shirt, she’d yank the hem down out of embarrassment and refusal while Richard told her, again, that if she’d just have sex with him he wouldn’t need other women.

Before a name, after the gender, and before she told Richard, Gabrielle ate to gain weight. Enough for her belly to swell. If she ate enough, maybe the baby would come back to life. Her disordered eating became as natural as the dent in her front door, obvious and overlooked. She flattened her hands around the all-wrong roundness and cried.

***

A family moved in above her, and Gabrielle dreamed. She lifted her baby, whole, to her chest. Some nights the blanket is a sweet pink, others a deep blue, the color of a scarf Richard’s mostly-ex knit for him one winter.

They float in a prismatic space, the very air shifting and bending. She was here the whole time, Gabrielle thinks. She’s been waiting for me.

Gabrielle bathes her in tear-free soap, humming. As the bubbles rise and slide against the tub, the baby marvels at the strength in her own limbs.

Gabrielle can’t stop kissing her. She smells of goodnight soap and mint. Dim the light, turn in the doorway, see her through the bars of the crib. Whisper to God, the universe, anyone who will listen: may the world love her as I do.

When Gabrielle wakes, she still hears crying overhead, at once nowhere and everywhere, a ghost. When she touches her face, it’s wet.

***

Gabrielle always hurried to escape her own nakedness. But today, she filled the bathtub with hot water. Richard had sent a bath basket bargain-apology. Gabrielle pierced the plastic wrap and stuffed it, oil and all, into the trash.

Gabrielle lowered herself into the tub, feeling the filmy water swallow her. When she was a child, she loved baths because she could be a fish, a whale, a mermaid. Now she understood the real magic of water. As soon as Gabrielle’s limbs slipped beneath the surface, she
became a flickering mass. She tentatively slid her hands from her upper belly to her lower one, and breathed.

Soon the water would chill, and she’d have to climb out, but not yet. Under the shifting water, she could almost … almost believe.

© 2012 E. A. Ryles

E. A. Ryles is a publishing assistant by day and a graduate student by night (and by day too). She lives in Massachusetts with her cat, Nike, and blogs at This Might Be True http://www.earyles.com/blog

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