Writer in Motion: Week 2, Second Draft
Reminder: I am participating in the Writer in Motion project this month. Writers are presented with a prompt and compose a unique flash fiction over the course of a month. You can see my progress here (Week 0 - The Prompt) and here (Week 1 - the Rough Draft).
I wasn't sure I'd be able to get to my edits this week. School started for my kiddo, and virtual learning is a LOT more hands-on this time around. Add to that, my 2 year old who thinks she should be a part of everything her brother does and is a lot less easy to distract as she gets older. Then we had a death in the family, so I've been trying to figure out how to attend the max-10-person funeral next week, wrangling a babysitter, questioning whether I should even attempt it, etc. Whew!
Still, during an extra-long nap time today, I got around to my piece. The story is stronger. I took out a lot of the dialogue, condensed it heavily, and tried to sprinkle in the world-building/exposition throughout. I'm still not sure the tone is as strong as I want it, but it's getting there. I also struggled to keep it under 1000 words, since my first draft was around 1100. Some brutal cuts may have cost me some of the atmosphere I want, so it'll be interesting to see if I can wrangle it back through the next few edits.
Here it is!
TO REMEMBER HER BY
Maren wiped the sweat from her brow, leaving a smear of wet earth in its place. The soil had been soft beneath the spread of ferns and wildflowers, making it easy to dig a hole big enough for Giana. The work was easy, methodical, almost meditative. The hard part had been replacing the plants, arranging them over the telltale grave, wrestling the large root systems of the ferns back in place over Giana's body. Now they were both covered in mud and dirt.
Exactly as Giana wanted it.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Returned to the earth from whence we came.
"There is a natural order to these things," she had said, "even if the world refuses to see it."
A glow settled in beyond the mountains, though the sun had set some time ago. As high up as she was, Maren imagined she could over the edge of the world, follow the sunset just a few minutes more than if she were on solid ground. Cling to the last vestiges of day before night settled in.
She took a deep breath. She had time for that, at last.
Work still lay ahead, but this was still a time for rest. Giana had scheduled it that way. Giana always had a plan. From the moment the law passed, she knew what had to happen.
"Over my dead body!" Giana declared over the remains of breakfast that morning.
Maren chuckled as she picked up the syrup-sticky plates. "Sweetie, that's the whole point."
"I won't participate. My body won't be used as some undead baby-maker, even if I am done with it. I don't care how desperate some rich lady is to have her designer baby. I don't want to be a part of it."
"Technically, it won?t be your body," Maren said, pouring a fresh cup of Brazillian into her wife's favorite coffee mug. "Emily at the clinic says they'll just clone you, and use that. Your body will be cremated or buried or whatever you want."
"Buried," Giana insisted accepting the mug. "I want my body to go back to the earth where it belongs." She sipped at her coffee, still steaming. "Why can't they just use artificial wombs or some such? Why zombie moms?"
Maren rolled her eyes. "They're not zombie moms. The bodies never become conscious. And even if we manage to create working artificial wombs, Dr. Levinson says they're still years off, and they don't solve the egg problem. We need viable eggs from fertile women." She smiled and sat up, pushing her own coffee away. "Speaking of, our test results should come back today. You ready to become a mom, Gi? A living one?"
Giana reached past the syrup bottle and butter dish and squeezed Maren's hand. "With you? Absolutely." She smiled. "But, that's my choice. I don't care how bad things get, no one can make that sort of decision for me. Or for my body." She stood up and took away the empty coffee mugs. "I want to be a mom, not an incubator."
They didn't give us a choice.
There were never enough viable women to volunteer for the program, to donate their bodies or their DNA to the Emergency Fertility Project. So it became mandatory. The many lawsuits that followed all failed on the grounds of standing, because the women weren't yet dead and couldn't claim future injury.
In the end, the dead have no rights.
Giana swore to fight it, but her body had other plans.
The lingering light of the sunset finally faded as Maren pushed open the heavy wooden door of their isolated mountain cabin. The light flicked on, and the heavy orange glow warmed her.
She had work to do.
She started with the beds. There was hers: soft mattress, downy blanket, firm pillows. Then there was Giana's.
Maren didn't bother washing the loam and dirt away. Seized with a need to move forward, to move on, she ripped the oxygen tubes away from the wall, the tray of sterile needles, the plastic-lined bed pads from the shelves. Sponges for her chapped lips. Straws that bent to feed her soup in bed. Gauze for the incision along her right breast that didn't take enough of the cancer.
The wound that never healed because there wasn't time.
All onto the mechanized bed. Sheets, flung over the top. Then with a huff, Maren got around behind the bed, unplugged it, and began pushing it out the door.
She wanted to push it all the way to the edge of the mountain. Send it flying over the edge. As if that would erase what she and Giana had done here.
It was enough to get it out of the house.
Maren slammed the door behind her, and leaned against it, winded and wanting nothing more than to curl up and take a nap on her own bed. But she still had more to do.
She packed her bag. The morphine, left over and unused. The hormones. Clothes. She'd leave in the morning.
Maren gasped as she felt a kick. All the activity must have woken her up. She reached down and rubbed her tummy.
"It's okay, Gigi. I won't let them take you."
Five months, now, since she'd begged Emily and Dr. Levinson for one favor. Seven months since Giana had received her final prognosis after her mastectomy failed. That?s when they made their plan.
"I still want to be a mom."
"I thought it only counted if you were there to see it."
"No. It only counts if it's my choice."
All the previous rounds of IVF had failed. This one, though? Maren had had doubts, but Giana had always known it would work. Simply because it had to.
Now, Giana was part of the fertility program after all. This, though, was on her terms. And Maren would see it through to the end. They would still end the fertility program together.
As mother and daughter.