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On the Day Meryl Stopped Being Pregnant

The top drawer of the old bureau painted to look new held thirty-six onesies, freshly laundered and folded into tiny squares and arranged just so, like a box of strawberry fudge. The highchair Meryl’s coworkers at the diner had pitched in to buy stood like an empty throne at the end of the kitchen table. And the snow fell slightly, so scarcely, so finely, that it seemed unintentional, unremarkable. An accident. As if the sky had made a mistake.

On the day Meryl turned unpregnant, her body didn’t keep up with the news, and her breasts stayed veined and tender, and her hair stayed glossy and thick, and her feet stayed aching and swollen. Her stomach remained round. Her brain repeated no.

On the day Meryl wasn’t pregnant anymore, she sat in the rocking chair and didn’t cull a creak from the wood or tap the floor to the rhythm of a rock-a-bye baby falling, failing, and a sunshine taken away, please don’t. She didn’t hum and rehearse. She didn’t rock, rock, rock the depleted ocean inside her.

She sat still and stared out the window, wondering how it could be that cars still sped down the street and people still smiled at their phones and the brick building across from hers still shone pinkly in the February light and Mia and Noah in the apartment below hers still made noisy love because it was Tuesday afternoon and on Tuesdays, they both worked from home, while their kids were at school. Tucked into classrooms. Learning, struggling, playing. Growing.

On this day that came too many weeks too soon, Meryl wondered about Mia and Noah’s kids. All three of them, three whole children, among other parents’ children, hundreds, thousands, millions more.

Small humans everywhere. But here.

Melissa Ostrom is the author of The Beloved Wild (Feiwel & Friends, 2018), a Junior Library Guild book and an Amelia Bloomer Award selection, and Unleaving (Feiwel & Friends, 2019). Her short stories have appeared in Wigleaf, Passages North, and Ruminate, among other journals, and been selected for The Best Small Fictions 2019 and The Best Microfiction 2020. She teaches English at Genesee Community College and lives with her husband and children in Holley, New York. Learn more at or find her on Twitter @melostrom.

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