photo of watermelon

Surrogate Fruit by Olivia Fitzsimons

‘There are three ways to say I love you,’ he said, ‘and three ways to say nothing at all.’ I could only ever find one. I guess that was the thing that drove us apart. Him and me and the space in-between my hips where nothing ever grew. There wasn’t enough love for that.

I’m nauseous when I see them, her belly big with it, our love. They wander, aimlessly content through the weekend village, peering at antique spoons, the cute type given as presents to the new children of this world. Blue or pink ribbons, depending. Old fashioned silver. Heirlooms.

She sees me staring, nudges him and he shields her, knight-like. He fell in love with her when our baby was the size of a fig. Moved in with her the week I gorged on lemons, making myself sick with their burst of brightness but still I ate on and on. Lemon pie, lemon curd, lemons whole. Juice burning my throat and stinging my eyes. My tears mixing with the tang.

I couldn’t see them for a while after that, but gorged my anger on turnips and squash and brassicas and now she is the size of a honeydew melon, our baby. So the book says anyway; it catalogues the stages like a greengrocer’s shop, the fruit and veg of pregnancy. Last week our baby was as long as a head of romaine lettuce. I washed leaf after leaf in my Belfast sink, patted dry with fuzzy towelling covered in absurdist comedy tomatoes, drizzled fine olive oil over my hands, then massaged the godly scented liquid into its skin. At night I dreamt about my lettuce baby, all green and crinkly, living inside her.

She lifts the melon from my shaking hands and struggles, but gives it to my husband. I haven’t decided what to do when our baby comes out of her womb.

‘The three of us can work it out’, he says. ‘We don’t need lawyers’, he says.

I want to tell them it is the wrong melon. He holds a watermelon that seems to swell oddly in his sweaty hands while he burbles on. Splitting pink ruptures against green grotesquely shiny skin. It protrudes against his flesh. They both stand with bellies now. I touch my flat cold stomach where our honeydew baby should be and she takes my hand and pushes it against her hard warm tummy. My fingers spread like weeds across her frame, unbound by want.

We three stand in silence, while our baby hides from my palm, unmoving under its mother’s pulse. My baby isn’t familiar with my heartbeat, its her rhythm it spins too. I’d never considered that before. She is fragrant, a sweet-scented climbing rose who stole my husband. I cut him away so easily, perhaps I was always ready to let him go.

Melon flesh stains his shirt. Three is too many for this thing that we call love. The baby kicks. Maybe four will work.

Olivia Fitzsimons lives in Greystones, County Wicklow, Ireland. Her flash fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the Honest Ulsterman, Crannog, Boyne Berries, Cabinet of Heed, Solidalgo, FlashBack Fiction, and Deracine. In 2017 she was short-listed for the Sunday Business Post/Penguin Short Story Prize and long-listed for the Fish Short Story Prize 2018. Her flash piece, ‘We Don’t Understand The Machines We Have Created,’ was short-listed for the Retreat West Flash Fiction Prize in 2017 and will be published in their anthology, Impermanent Facts (Retreat West Books), in September 2018. She was selected as a mentee for WORDS Ireland/Wicklow County Council National Mentoring Programme 2018. Follow her on Twitter: @livdurnin

Lead image“20160715-AMS-LSC-0294” (via Flickr user U.S. Department of Agriculture)