I'm Right Here With You
fiction by Ivy Marie
I’m Right Here With You
Ellie still couldn’t believe this was happening to her. Even though she was sitting in her car, parked in front of the clinic, the past few days refused to register as real. But they were: the little glowing plus sign, her boyfriend’s shaky well, what do you want to do, and Ellie sitting here, right now, preparing to schedule the abortion—everything was so, so real.
It’s not that Ellie didn’t want kids—she did! She’d always dreamed of a future with a white picket fence, a loving husband, and a couple of children chasing fireflies in the yard. Ellie just couldn’t have kids now. Not when she still had a couple of years left in college and not after one stupid, reckless night with the guy she’d been seeing for only three weeks. Ellie wasn’t ready at this point in her life, and she knew from her research that ending her pregnancy now wouldn’t ruin her imaginings of her future. Those facts, though, didn’t erase the anxiety and guilt she felt. And it certainly didn’t help that when she finally turned off her idling engine and prepared to step out of her car, she looked up into a fearful scene.
There were signs. A sea of them. And people holding them, with faces twisted and red from shouting like old, wrinkly tomatoes. Ellie saw accusations of murderer and baby killer scrawled across posters in big, bloody handwriting. Above the chants of the protestors, Ellie heard a man moaning like he’d just been shot: my baby is dead. My baby is dead.
Ellie took a deep breath and stepped out of her car. She knew there might be protestors and actors here, but she also knew that what was inside her wasn’t alive—she was no killer. Plus, she knew she could not possibly give a baby the love and care and attention they deserved when she could barely take care of herself. It would be cruel to bring a baby into the world that she could not devote herself fully to, as she yearned to do in the future. Ellie squeezed her satchel strap for support and strode directly into the dazzling sunlight.
When they spotted her movement, they instantly rushed her. Insults and pleading were hurled at her like stones, and though her lip quivered, Ellie kept walking forward.
Suddenly, though, Ellie’s arm was grabbed and she was swung around to face a livid, purple face. The protestor was blonde and brown-eyed like Ellie, and Ellie gasped in shock. The woman’s spit flew into Ellie’s face like bombs.
Whore! If you kill that innocent life, you are going to Hell.
Ellie couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t feel her arm where the woman held her in place. I can’t do this, Ellie thought. Panic rose in her throat. Ellie yanked off the woman’s claws and ran away from the crowd, not caring where she went, only knowing she needed to get away.
Because she wasn’t looking, Ellie slammed into someone else in the parking lot. She squeaked out an apology and fumbled for her keys. I’m sorry. I’m leaving. I’m sorry!
Hey, the person said, touching Ellie’s shoulder with her fingertips. Where are you going?
It was a woman. Her voice sounded kind. As Ellie looked up, her eyes glanced over the pink “I stand with Planned Parenthood!” pin on her chest, but the hate of the protestors burned too much for her to stay any longer. I can’t be here. I can’t do this. Ellie shouldered past, and the woman spoke again.
I won’t make you stay, but you came here for a reason. The woman held out her hand. My name is Carrie. If you want, I’ll go in with you. Ellie looked at her hand, then her face. Carrie seemed nice, but Ellie was still unsure. Planned Parenthood did a lot of things. What if Carrie stood with the organization for a different reason? What if she would disapprove of Ellie, too?
As if reading her thoughts, Carrie spoke again. I’ve gotten two abortions at this clinic. I just…never wanted to have kids. Carrie shrugged. I don’t know what you’re here for, but whatever it is, it’s okay. You aren’t hurting anyone. I promise.
Relief fell over Ellie in a deluge. She slowly nodded and accepted Carrie’s hand. Carrie moved behind her and rested both of her hands on Ellie’s shoulders, guiding her gently back to the facility. She murmured assurances into Ellie’s ear, so Ellie focused on her soft, sure voice instead of the screams around her.
You are safe. You are good. I’m right here with you.
Finally, the two women reached the building door. Ellie squared her shoulders and made the choice she knew was best for her—she walked in.
You Are So Loved
fiction by Ivy Marie
You Are So Loved
Pregnancy looked good on her. Sol turned her body to the side, let her fingertips fall down like rain upon her blooming belly. Really good. Sol liked the way pregnancy softened her, flared out her hips like tulips opening, gave her face a moon-fullness. She liked the dewy glow of her skin and her pink cheeks. Most of all, she liked seeing her body prepare for the little girl on the way.
Her mother had not had the same experience with pregnancy. Ay, mija, you were so big! Too big. Always making your poor mama sick. I was so glad when it was time for you to come. Sol’s mother shook her head, but her eyes gleamed with love.
Sol had never seen her mother so happy for so long as she had been since Sol told her she was expecting. It was like the shadow that had always clung to her lifted a bit when Sol let her mother feel her granddaughter’s little feet kick, or whisper te amo mucho, mi cielito against Sol’s belly.
Sol had to admit, she had been worried about how her mother would react at first to her pregnancy. It had been twenty-two years since Mama had lost her second child—Sol’s sister—but she was still in mourning. When Sol was younger, there were days when Mama couldn’t leave her bed. Those days, Sol fed her, brushed her teeth, changed her soiled bedsheets. Other days, Mama was a firecracker. They took her from me. They took my baby. They took all my babies! She wailed, balled up her fists in anger and hit them against anything she could reach. But there was nothing Sol’s mother could do. She could not go back in time, back to the prison where they handcuffed her to the table and forced her to agree to a procedure she didn’t understand while her too-early baby died in the room beside her. I didn’t know it would be permanent, Mama would sigh before resigning herself to cooking dinner for Sol.
When Sol was finally old enough to understand, Sol asked, What would you have named her?
Mama said, Rosa. Mi Rosita bonita.
Sol now faced forward in the mirror. She lay her hands gently on either side of her big belly, cradling the life it held inside, and whispered, Eres muy querida, mi Rosa.
Eres muy querida.
Good Morning, Darling
fiction by Ivy Marie
Good Morning, Darling
Li stared hard at the dregs left in his mug, as if in looking long enough at the constellated coffee grounds he would find the answers he wanted. But the dregs stayed dregs, and Li stayed a man scared to death of being a father.
Li tipped his mug, swirling the remaining drops of coffee. Any day now, he would be holding a tiny baby—his tiny baby—in the crescent of his arm. It was a moment he had been preparing for and looking forward to for over eight months: the spare bedroom he had spent days painting soft green; the solar system mobile he’d painstakingly assembled by hand and strung above the white cradle; the bruises on his knees from crawling around and child-proofing anything that could harm his baby. So why was he still so nervous?
Deciding to have a baby wasn’t the hard part—it was telling his family. Li’s father scoffed in his face and said you are a shame to this family. His mother asked who will be the mother? Everybody needs a mother. Li’s sister, at least, shrieked with joy when she found out she would have a little one to hold and coo to. But she was several years younger than Li, so she couldn’t understand what he was experiencing or give him the support he needed.
That’s what it was—Li felt nervous because he was alone.
Suddenly Li felt a light pressure on the top of his head. Good morning, darling, his husband, Marlon, said. His words felt like stardust on Li’s heart. Li let his shoulders relax and smiled at his husband as Marlon kneeled and kissed Li’s stomach. And good morning to you, little one. Marlon looked up at Li. His eyes were so gentle. They had been together for eight years and Li still felt like he was looking directly into a heavenly body when he looked at Marlon.
How are we doing today? Marlon asked.
The baby’s good. Feels like they’re throwing a party in there. Li made a face and Marlon laughed, then raised his eyebrows.
Li sighed. Just nervous again.
Hey. Marlon lifted Li’s chin to face him. We are going to be great dads. I promise.
Li nodded and kissed his sweet husband, then motioned for Marlon to help him out of the kitchen chair. As they stood, Li felt a pop between his legs and a trickle of liquid fell to the floor. He and Marlon stared wide-eyed at each other. For a moment, even the sun’s rays dancing on the kitchen table seemed to freeze.
Then: a flurry of movement. Marlon, grabbing coats, shoes, and car keys. Marlon, sweeping his arm, strong and sure, around Li’s back and whisking him out of the kitchen. Marlon, shouting oh my god, oh my god! Baby, I love you, let’s go!
And Li, hugging his belly in one hand and holding his husband’s hand with the other as he stepped into the sunlight.
Ivy Marie is an emerging queer writer and photographer from Georgia, where she is studying Creative Writing, English Literature, and Women & Gender Studies at Mercer University. Her written work has appeared in The Dulcimer and Rose Quartz Magazine and is forthcoming in Crab Fat Magazine and the Southeastern Medieval Association. She is an intern at Macon Magazine, a preceptor for English courses at Mercer, and a Macon- and San Antonio-based photographer. When Ivy is not writing or reading poetry, she is drinking iced coffee, hunting for vintage cameras, and getting lost in her own city.