a literary journal of the fictional persuasion


Máire O’Reilly

Above the ugly howls, I heard a woman saying, “Six pounds? Two months early and he weighs six pounds?” The tinkle of steel on steel and then, “The other one’s not ready to come out yet?”

“Leave it in there, then.” That must have been the doctor. “And give that damned woman something to shut her up.” A minute later, Mother went quiet.

I stretched my legs in the space Brother had vacated. I would have another two months to myself; that was all I needed to recover, and quite long enough to develop a plan. Relief swept through me. For the first time in my existence, I slept without fear of being crushed.

Soon, proper nourishment had strengthened me to the point where I could calmly consider the situation. I had no wish to meet the woman who was my mother, but I must be born in order to deal with Brother. His refusal to share had almost cost me my life. It would have done, had I not contrived to cut his food by pinching his cord during Mother’s hospital visit.

“The baby’s in distress. We’ll have to induce.”

“The baby,” they said. They meant Brother. I don’t blame them, really; Mother knew there were two of us, but she only ever talked of one. Brother had blossomed in the exclusivity of her love; while I, rammed in beside him, almost starved on rejection.

That rejection was now complete; she had what she wanted. “Give me my baby! My boy!” With those few coherent words among all the shrieks of Brother’s birth, Mother joined herself to Brother in his fate. I plan to deal with her, too.

My turn comes and Mother refuses to endure the pain again; she is drugged when they pull me from her. I stare at her prostrate, already middle-aged bulk through the bars of my hospital cradle. Fitting that she didn’t feel my arrival, I think; she can keep the illusion that I don’t hurt.

The door opens and Father comes in carrying a bundle. Mother is instantly alert. “Have you brought my son?” She holds out her arms and gurgles at Brother. It seems that Father, too, has been rejected. He moves around her bed to look at me.

“Who’d have thought she could survive like that? Feisty little mite, isn’t she?”

Mother sniffs. “If you like her so much, then you can bottle-feed her. I don’t have enough in me for two.”

Instead of answering, he coos at me. I grasp his finger and see him smile happily. “Aw, look, at that; she’s got wind,” he says when I smile back. Oh, yes! This man will be a very useful ally.

© Máire O'Reilly

Máire O'Reilly (oreilly_maire@yahoo.co.uk) used to publish non-fiction and write analytical reports for international organisations. Now, she lives with two budgies and writes fiction. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such places as Bewildering Stories, Quantum Muse, Rock Salt Plum and Gator Springs Gazette.

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