REMEMBER? • by Erin M. Kinch

Getting out of bed was the thing to do, she knew it, but her body refused to move. The quilt wrapped her in safety and warmth like a mother’s love, shrouding her from the high-contrast world lurking outside.

“Morning, love.” The mattress dipped as Tom clambered in next to her. His body molded around hers, back to stomach, knees to knees. The crisp scent of the morning air clung to his skin. “It’s gorgeous outside. Let’s go for a bike ride.”

Rose shut her eyes, as if that would muffle his voice. “I need to rest.” She felt his hope deflate, one more thing to feel guilty about.

“Remember when we went to Hawaii on our honeymoon?”

That startled her into opening her eyes. “But we didn’t…”

Tom touched her lips with an index finger still chilled from the autumn air. “We swam in the ocean and made love on the beach. You looked like a goddess in the moonlight.”

“But then that typhoon struck. It trashed the beaches and made the water too rough for swimming.” Her words banished pearly beaches and turquoise water into the depths of imagination.

“But a cruise ship picked us up so we wouldn’t be stranded.” Words trailed behind them in the ocean liner’s frothy wake. “There was a buffet every hour, and the one at midnight had a chocolate fountain. You dipped strawberries and cherries.”

“And blackberries?” she whispered, her taste buds tingling.

“Yes! Then we had margaritas and watched the world slide by from our deck chairs.”

“Until the boat’s engine caught fire, and we had to board the life boats.”

“That’s when the helicopter picked us up. They lowered a rope ladder, and you climbed up first. I was right behind you, making sure you didn’t fall. They flew us back to the mainland, and everyone was waiting to throw us a surprise welcome home party — your parents, your grandmother, my sister.”

Tears burned in Rose’s eyes. “It wasn’t…” Her voice cracked. “Not a welcome home party. A baby shower.” Her fingers flexed over her too-flat belly. “Mama made a quilt with ‘Hannah’ spelled out in pink gingham. And when Hannah came, you stayed in the room with me the whole time. They all were waiting outside. Her first cry, her first step, her high school graduation. Hannah was going to be a doctor, remember?”

Behind her, Tom trembled, and the tears that dampened Rose’s tangled hair weren’t all her own. “You won’t fall, I promise.”

His arms became iron bands squeezing the air from her lungs. Rose pushed him away and rolled over so he couldn’t hold on. “Go for a ride. I need to rest.”

More of Erin M. Kinch‘s flash fiction can be read in Sporty Spec: Games of the Fantastic and is forthcoming in A Thousand Faces.

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Joseph Kaufman