He drives with coffee between his thighs and steam ghosts up the windscreen. You tell him to outwit the traffic with blackberry jelly inside your llama print knickers. Once the consultant has studied polar images on screen and spooned about inside you, she shakes her head, informs you to expect clots. Back home his kisses taste of rust and hurry, of pâté before you knew it, tequilas with a twist of salt.

 

The winter your house turns into an aquarium, he leaves. You bale water out of the kitchen, remember to sleep out of the rain. Silverfish rush in the porch whilst you crave junk food and doze out the pukiest days in blankets soft as veal. At the safe mark you paint the nursery the colour field, sort out a roofer, start to desire tea with two sugars. You take her along to clinic –  you’re positive this one is pink –  and when the tightenings come early you think: at least this one is live.

 

The hospital prescribes the beach to walk the hurt out of you but all you do is sea gaze, estimate volume by cubic inch. He shows up off the cuff, teaches you how to skim stones out into the shrieks. When you brave a dip he holds you at the waist as though you need him to move and points out creatures in the shallows, but you don’t see any when you peer into the green. They breathe through their feet, he says, and the salt water gives your thighs hard, irregular slaps. You think of the midwife: take as long as you need, the second-hand frisk of her fob. You think of starfish hands in miniature: limpid, lilac, how you couldn’t warm them.

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Rachael Smart writes essays, poetry and short fiction. Recent work has been published at The Letters Page and Unthology 11. Her story ‘The Inconsequential Codes on Lipsticks’ was shortlisted for The Bristol Short Story Prize 2018. She reviews literature for 4Word and STORGY.