T.L. Sherwood ~ Birth Control

The radio was tuned to the local NPR sta­tion so they didn’t have to talk. Tara was glad because each time she thought of some­thing to say, it began with, “Had I known,” and Pete already explained that if he’d told her he was tak­ing her to his sister’s for his nephew’s birth­day, she wouldn’t have come and if he’d told his fam­i­ly he was bring­ing her, they would have been on their best behav­ior, and what he want­ed was for every­one to be them­selves.

Pete pulled up to her house. Peepers ser­e­nad­ed them through the hon­ey­suck­le laced mug­gy air. When he kissed her, Tara bare­ly react­ed.

You’re mad,” he said.

Too much sun.”

Shall we go in?”

She sighed. “I’m not up for a house guest tonight.”

Pete traced the out­line of her cheek with his fin­ger. “I don’t have to spend the night.”

I’m not real­ly in the mood.”

Honey, I—”

It isn’t you. My doc­tor put me on a new pre­scrip­tion. One of the side effects is a sup­pressed libido.”

Pete put his hand on her knee. “Are you all right?”

Oh yeah.” Tara said. “No. It’s just the pill.” She could see his teeth.

You don’t need that.”

It’s to get my peri­od back to nor­mal.”

He leaned over and kissed her again. Tara forced her­self to relax, kiss him, accept he was new and did things dif­fer­ent­ly. Differently in intox­i­cat­ing­ly good ways. She pulled away. “I’ll call you, okay?” She fum­bled for the han­dle.

Before she could open it, Pete said, “I real­ly like you, Tara.”

She swal­lowed hard and got out of the truck. Tara hur­ried to the porch, unlocked the heavy pecan col­ored front door and refused to look back at him.

Somewhere along the route of see­ing Pete for the first time two months ago and now — hav­ing met his fam­i­ly before they’d even slept togeth­er — she’d lost a chunk of her ratio­nal mind.

Sebastian mewled hel­lo from the kitchen. Tara went to see if he need­ed food or water or both. Flipping on the over­head light, she found him in the sink, lick­ing the faucet. Tara glanced down at his half-full water bowl.

You’re being melo­dra­mat­ic,” she said, pulling the cat out of the basin and set­ting him on the floor. She picked up his bowl, dumped it, and replaced it with fresh water. Sebastian sniffed it then wan­dered down the hall.

Tara turned off the lights. In bed, she curled up, crushed by the thought of talk­ing to Pete again. He want­ed kids and she lived in fear that she’d become preg­nant. She hugged her­self and cried. What was she going to say? She could bare­ly deal with the truth. Her birth canal wasn’t right. It had killed before.

Her first hus­band held their baby’s body before she did. Once the obste­tri­cian explained what hap­pened, once the tiny body had been washed off, once Tara demand­ed to hold her daugh­ter, she was as cold and frag­ile as a piece of chi­na. Tara had grown to live with that hole in her life. She couldn’t imag­ine explain­ing this to Pete. If they broke up now, she wouldn’t have to.

Sebastian jumped up and plod­ded to the mid­dle of the bed. Tara cov­ered her face and sobbed. When he was tight against her back, Sebastian extend­ed his paw, placed it gen­tly on top of Tara’s shoul­der, and purred.

~

T.L. Sherwood lives by Eighteen Mile Creek in west­ern New York, not far from Buffalo. She is the Assistant Editor at r.kv.r.y. Quarterly Literary Journal and both a read­er and inter­viewer at Literary Orphans. She is the 2015 Gover Prize win­ner and her blog, Creekside Reflections, can be found here.