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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

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Short Story: Women and Children Only by Alexandra Peters

Today's short story is by The Lone Book Club's own Alex Peters. A study in brevity, the story jumps into action, asking a seemingly unanswerable question of our narrator, then slows as the choice torments her.
Women and Children Only

It was physical, the separation. Like a tether that had always been holding us had snapped. Something that was connected to my very being stretched too thin and then broke lashing back violently inside of me, shaking every piece of me.
I immediately began to regret my decision.

The night we watched the news I couldn’t have foreseen that I would be standing here now feeling like there’s some kind of gaping hole in my chest. I think it was one of those moments that people will forever talk about, the kind of conversation that starts with, “Where were you when…”
We were on the couch. “Asteroid.” “Imminent.” “Evacuation.” Those are the words that stand out. But the one sentence that rings clearer than all the rest, “The civilian shuttle will be taking women and children only.”

Women and children only.

I don’t understand that, but it’s always been that way. They are always the first people evacuated. But this is different. This is the entire world. Yes there are a few colonies, yes there are other shuttles you can buy your way on to, but the shuttle for the real world, the real people: women and children only.

My first thought: I have to say goodbye to one of you, forever.

My child. My husband.
My life. My love.

I loved your face before I saw it. I loved your birthmark before anyone knew it would be there. My heart split open to fit you inside. I live for you. But I have lived before you.

He found me, fixed me, made me the person who loves you. He is me, and I am him. I no longer exist without him. Without him I could not be your mother.

If it were a car crash I could handle it. Heart attack, stroke, anything, I think I could do it. I could grieve and counsel. I could overcome, rise above, take pride, carry on, persevere, endure, hold fast, persist, stand firm, and remain.

If I left him, if I knew I let him face his death alone and then continued on without him, I would be nothing, I would be no good to you. Would you want that?

Maybe I could be strong. Maybe I could be brave. But he was there before you, he was supposed to be there after you. You’d grow up and leave; he is who I was supposed to be left with.

I’m more than just a mother. I’m more than just a wife.

I don’t think that you’ll remember me, and maybe that’s a good thing.  

The hole in me grows wider even as his arms wrap around me tighter. He did not agree.

With hours left, my darling boy, I can only think of you, and I know that you will be all right. 

Please one day realize that I did choose you.

As she is one of our contributors, you can see more of Alex's work right here on the blog!

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1 comment:

  1. OK. I cried. Really cried. And then I read it again. Four times. Just make the next great short story a funny one!