All Saints’ Eve

It was Halloween 1979, the day after Alicia’s surgery for her ectopic pregnancy, so we kept the lights off in the house, with the hope that everyone would leave us the hell alone. Silence was all we wanted. Birmingham was sweltering outside and we were both on our bedroom floor because Alicia said it was cooler on the carpet and it felt good on her back. She had showered for the third time that day and hadn’t bothered to dry off or put on her robe, which I had never seen her do. Her head was in my lap and I ran my fingers through her wet hair, coaxing her to sleep.

I wished she’d taken the damn drugs prescribed to her by the base doctor, but she refused. My legs ached and I could hear the distant sounds of children running and laughing up and down our street. My jaw was clenched so tight I thought I would break my teeth. Alicia must have heard what I heard, but she didn’t move, didn’t say a word. I told myself I would slit their throats, each and every Superman, Bear Bryant, and Snow White, but Alicia’s body relaxed and her breathing settled into a peaceful rhythm of sleep.

It was dark and the only sign that she was alive was her inhale-exhale sound. I hadn’t slept much in the preceding days, but I wasn’t tired, even though I begged my mind to shut down. And there it came again, the screams and yelps of kids whining and begging. Alicia’s head twitched and settled. I stopped stroking her.

In that same small room two months earlier she had told me she was pregnant. After a year of convincing me we should have kids, and another year of trying, she had walked into the bedroom as I undressed. I was sitting on the edge of the bed taking off my socks when she asked for my hands. I gave them to her, and she held them to her stomach.

“If it’s a girl, Josie,” she said. “A boy, Jaime.” She always had something for the J names.

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