The whites of Maggie’s knuckles were showing as she clenched a wadded-up tissue. She used the same tissue she had groped around for in her bag on the drive home. Sniffle. Wipe. Repeat. She stared out into the street. Her husband, Brian, followed her gaze. Maddie and Taylor were riding their bikes around their cul-de-sac. The sounds of their laughter echoed into their quiet existence, like an unwanted guest. The Jensen girls ran into the house next door. Their mother, Darla, was expecting a third child.
He let out an exhausted sigh standing for a moment before taking a couple of steps and slumped in the overstuffed chair next to her. He stared up at the ceiling and glanced at the little red clock placed on a side table that divided them.
It was a canary red retro alarm clock. Maggie had picked it out a few years back at a flea market on their way home from a road trip up the Pacific Highway Coast. Beside the clock, there was a frame with a photo of the two of them standing in front of the Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle, Washington. Their forefingers and pinkies pointed into the cloudy sky with their tongues hanging out like the lead singer from Kiss.
He picked up the clock, holding it in both hands and watched as the second hand made its way around the face. He tossed it around wondering what it might feel like to chuck it through the window before setting it down. He placed his hands on either side of his temples and rested his elbows on his thighs.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Brian brushed his lips gently on the top of her forehead. He sat on the edge of the coffee table opposite her and reached for her shaky hand. She quickly pulled away from his grasp and fiddled with the dainty rose colored crucifix that hung just below her collarbone. It was a reminder of sweeter days, a gift he had given her on their wedding day. She tucked her legs tightly beneath her as she sat with her back erect on their leather sofa. She stared blankly out of their bay window of the Livingroom. Her long chestnut hair was an untidy mess held up in a high bun, loose strands framed her delicate features.
There was a soft knock at the front door. Brian reluctantly walked to the door and opened it wide.
“Here.” Darla Jensen presented him with a casserole dish. It appeared to hold homemade macaroni and cheese suspended in a gelatinous mixture of cream of mushroom soup and the distinctive smell of tuna fish. “I wasn’t sure if you wanted the chips over it, so I brought a bag of them just in case. Maddie and Taylor wanted you to have these too.” She tried to hand over the casserole and the freshly baked snickerdoodles, but when he didn’t make a motion to take it, she walked passed him straight into the kitchen.
She made her way to Maggie and sat down. She scooted in close and put her arms around his wife. In a half embrace, Maggie rested her head on Darla’s shoulder. Maggie began to sob. With each wave of tears, her body shuddered.
“Shhh. It’s okay.” Darla cradled Maggie in her arms.
The tears kept flowing, and Darla continued to hold her in silence. A growing pile of tissues had emerged on the coffee table. When the tears had momentarily stopped, Maggie began to speak. There had been a heartbeat the day before, but sometime during the night, it had stopped.
“These things happen. There is no real explanation.” Dr. Young had said. He made some marks on her medical chart and gave the nurses the okay to begin the procedure. Her labor had been induced. After the delivery, a nurse had given them some time to be alone with their baby. Their daughter’s eyes shut, her blue lips pursed in a sort of pout, ten fingers, and ten toes. Gracie Lynn Wheeler was perfect.
There were no words of comfort that Darla could offer. She left a short time after with a promise to come back tomorrow. Maggie nodded and went back into the same position she had been before Darla had arrived. Legs tucked underneath, but instead of tissue, she clutched a throw pillow to her stomach.
“You call me if you need anything.” She squeezed Brian’s shoulder before she let herself out.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Maggie continued to look out the window as the pink, and the orange sky turned into a deep blue then purplish hue before turning completely black. Brian turned on a side lamp. The light on Maggie’s face elongated her features and accentuated the dark circles underneath her eyes.
She began to speak in a low whisper. “I was going to read her Goodnight Moon every night. We were going to take her to the zoo. You were going to show her how to ride a bike…”
Was. Were. Would.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
She threw down the pillow, swung her feet from beneath her. She swiped the clock and flung it onto the travertine floor. The clock became an indistinguishable hodgepodge of plastic and metal parts. The batteries rolled under the couch. She stood there staring at the pieces and brought her hands to her face. He came towards her and wrapped his arms around her slight frame. Her face crushed into his chest and her arms gripped his sides. They began to breathe in unison. He allowed his tears to fall. They trickled onto her head. It had been the two of them for the last eight years, and together they were going to get through this, but for now, they would hold onto each other and grieve over the baby that would never come home.