Fiction by Christine Sneed
Michele’s daughter returned home in June, just after the solstice, from a year spent studying classical music in Madrid. Along with her guitar, she brought back a suitcase filled with dirty clothes, some of the shirts missing buttons, the jeans all with frayed cuffs. She also brought back a child five months from being born. Lindsay, Michele’s daughter, was twenty-three and unhappy in a way that made her wonder if unhappiness were her vocation, the way other people took up cooking or politics. The baby’s father was not someone she wanted to marry, though he had not asked her to marry him. He was a year younger than she was, had other girlfriends and smoked too much and spoke little English, though he did speak French and Italian along with his native Spanish. He was certain that he had a remarkable future ahead of him and children were not a part of it, at least not for a long time, something that Lindsay told her mother, who rolled her eyes and thought of her husband, Lindsay’s father, who had died ten years earlier and left her with debts she paid by selling their house with its rose trellises and vegetable garden and weeping willow. Lindsay’s father had invested the money he had inherited at twenty-seven from his parents in his friends’ businesses. He had been generous and foolish and infuriating, and Michele had adored him, even after she realized, a few years into their marriage, that she would be better off without him. Her daughter, however, did not adore her baby’s father. Her daughter had returned from Spain no longer a romantic, which bothered Michele more than the pregnancy.
“You don’t have to keep it,” she told Lindsay. “You could give it up for adoption. That’s probably the best thing to do.”
“I might,” was all Lindsay would say. “I don’t know yet.”
Other women her age had children all the time. If she had it, the baby would be given a name and learn to walk and eat solid food and sometimes he would cry in the middle of the night and Lindsay would not know how to console him. He would grow up and meet someone who became important to him very quickly and he would believe his life had changed and that everything would be different from that point on. She could see this was how many people lived: as if everything were already decided and they needed only to wait until they were delivered into the arms of the person who would love them to the exclusion of everyone else. This was, after all, what the songs she liked most were about, the movies and poems and novels, even the comic books. You lived as if someone could hardly wait to meet you. Possibly, this was the only way to live.
NER Digital is a creative writing series for the web. Christine Sneed has published four stories in NER, one of which was selected for Best American Short Stories 2008. Her collection, Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry, won AWP’s 2009 Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction and was published in November 2010 by the University of Massachusetts Press.