#124 The Secret She Carried

by Cecelia MacAfee

Jeff and Carrie, Yale law students, forget the condom one March evening. Three months later, when she can’t button her jeans, Carrie finally goes to the doctor. After the abortion, Jeff makes her chicken soup. He holds her tight. She won’t look into his eyes. “I’m sorry,” is all he can say. After she physically recovers, they never speak about that day again. Ever.

A few years later they marry, grow two fine little boys and carve a comfortable, happy life in a New Hampshire farmhouse. Then Carrie learns she cannot have the third child they both wanted. Secondary infertility. She feels the universe shaking its cosmic finger. The phantom fetus haunts her dreams. She is back on the table, trembling, legs spread wide. She hears the doctor’s reasurring words, “It won’t hurt. Just a tugging sensation behind your belly button. You’ll be fine.” He didn’t warn her that the wound may never heal, that the birth of her first child would bring a painful awareness, that every December she’d sink into a black hole, that she’d always believe it was a girl. Her phantom daughter would be ten years old today. Carrie imagines her playing soccer, jumping rope, reading The Secret Garden. Who would she look like, though? Regret singes Carrie’s insides, mixed with guilt for never telling Jeff what had happened over spring break. If only...she could have been certain the baby was his.

1 comment:

Lisa Pellegrini said...

Cecelia, this is such a heart-breaking story, and I like how you convey her sense of regret over having the abortion -- how she wanted the child to be a girl, activities she imagined her daughter engaging in, etc. The only thing I really have a problem with is the title. It gives too much away, and it hints to the reader that there will be a twist at the end of the story. Also, the title sounds so much like the title of a Lifetime TV movie. If you have ever seen one of those, then you will know what I mean. I am not quite sure what other title would have been appropriate for this. Maybe something like "Phantom Daughter"? Or maybe an emotion that conveys how much she has blamed herself over the years. Otherwise, you did a good job on this one. So very sad.