“Lux”: A Bad Survivalist Flash Fiction by April Bradley

CLAREY SITS ON THE TOILET in the shine of the morning and studies the crotch of her panties. The liner she wore overnight shows a faint bit of color, a familiar blush that indicates the tail end of another pregnancy. Clarey hasn’t told her husband that she’s known about this one for fifty-nine days. He has not asked about her absent period, her swelling breasts, the hollows and shadows that shade her face, or why, when he touches her deep inside, she’s a tidal river rushing, her sorrow an undertow pulling them both down and away.
Clarey pretends her husband shares her wishes because he has not spoken the words, stop this or no more or I’m worried or I don’t know you. The last time Clarey said, I’m pregnant, she felt his dread flow into her bones. This time will be different hangs between them, unspoken, animated and glittering. And it is different, every miscarriage is different.
Clarey hides her pregnancies, even from her physician.
Clarey’s hair hangs around her face in tangled strings, clumped together by sweat. She doesn’t know it, but there are a few gray strands that show up as white. She thinks they are blonde. By the time Clarey is forty-five, a several-inches’ wide swath of her hair will have turned silver. It will fall out and grow back like that after chemo for lymphoma. Clarey anticipates treatment will diminish her fertility, so she will bank her eggs. And her fertility will have been destroyed, although she will not know this for certain until she attempts IVF one last time with her frozen eggs. Before then, before cancer, she will learn about her husband’s infidelity again and again until she shuffles off the marriage and staggers away, nearly crawling. She will suffer her mother’s sudden death by aneurysm and her father’s decline into Alzheimer’s. She will struggle with addiction and aimlessness and ruin friendships. There will be professional triumphs and mortifications. She will end up in a career she had not planned on and doesn’t fulfill her like she expected. Occasionally, and only on occasion, she will join a companion for sex—lover is too much of a word for what she will regard as a transaction. Lover will mean passion and fucking and intimacy and ruin. She will mindfully recover and heal, and then a few years later, despite herself, surprisingly, shockingly will fall in love again, drenched in its sweetness. Today, though, her hair color is just this side of ditchwater with some highlights leftover from summer. Her roots show, and right now, she’s twirling, then sucking on the ragged end of the bit near her ear. Cravings for chocolate, grilled cheese sandwiches, BBQ chips, her mother’s coconut cake, olives, and a cigarette rush over her with a sigh. She’s lounging on the toilet seat, her knees together, her long feet turned in, anklebones sticking out because she is worn out, clean through, and sick of the word miscarriage. The word overwhelms her. It resounds through Clarey’s skull in time with the exhaust fan’s wave-like pulse of white noise. What she doesn’t hear, can’t hear is the woosh, woosh, woosh of her children’s heartbeats from within her wife’s womb just before their birth twelve years from now.
Clarey changes her panties and liner, then stands on the soothing, cold tile. She reaches for her toothbrush and avoids looking directly at herself in the mirror. She attempts to concentrate on the day ahead and not how her breasts tingle and ache. She hears her husband making coffee downstairs in the kitchen. She spits into the sink, watches toothpaste foam and swirl down the drain, mesmerized by the water and the winking light that stripes her body, her various scars, her sorrow.

April Bradley is a Durham, North Carolina-based writer of short-form fiction and creative nonfiction. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, The Best of Small Fictions, The Best Microfiction, and the Best of the Net Anthology. Her writing appears in Blink Ink, CHEAP POP, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Narratively, NANO Fiction, Smokelong Quarterly, and Thrice Fiction, among others. She serves as an associate editor for Pidgeonholes and as a submissions editor for SmokeLong Quarterly.

Image: voxmarkets.co.uk

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