Exercise 6

By Laura Edwards

I found a bunch of old creative writing assignments in a notebook while cleaning last week.

During my sophomore year of college, I started my intermediate fiction writing class with a prompt and 30 minutes to write. I don’t remember the prompt for “Exercise 6,” the first half of which is included below, but I’m not sure that much matters.

Mom and Taylor under the counter

When I was sixteen years old, my mother had a little girl. She and Dad named her Anna Taylor after my great-grandmothers and decided to call her Taylor. Mom and Dad hadn’t planned the pregnancy; it was a “surprise.”

It took a long time getting used to seeing Mom in maternity clothes. Mom has much better taste in clothes than I do, and she sure has the looks to go with it. She was a beauty queen in college, but in the classic pretty sort of way, not in the ditzy “I’m easy” kind of way. She was also like the most well-respected person in all of Charlotte because she headed up every volunteer organization she ever joined. She gave all the inner-city kids hope and kept the symphony from going broke. She even got the meet the President of the United States once. Too many people were counting on her; she was way too busy to have a baby.

Mom told me that she was pregnant one day when I came home from school. I was a fifteen-year-old sophomore, and she was forty. She was sitting cross-legged on the carpeted floor of her walk-in closet rummaging through some old photographs when she must have heard me come in.

“Hi, sweetheart,” she called. “Do you think you could come here for a second?”

I dropped my backpack in the front hall and trotted upstairs.

She asked me how my day had been, as usual. I told her it had been long, as usual. Then she just came out and said it. No buildup or anything.

“I’m pregnant, Laura.”

At first, I thought she was joking. I kept waiting for the punch line, but she just sat there, her eyes searching mine. And then: “I’m due in August.” She was in gray leggings and an old sweatshirt, and a headband held her short blonde hair out of her eyes. My mother was beautiful, even in her housecleaning outfit. I was only five when my little brother was born, but my memory was pretty clear: he was born in the summer and she was hot and miserable and worn out and the ’80s maternity clothes were too ugly for her classy looks.

I still don’t know whether I was hurt, or sad, or mad, or what. It was all just too weird. I ran out of the room and didn’t speak to her for the rest of the afternoon. Better to remain silent than to say the wrong thing and hurt her feelings. It was rainy and cold outside, and I put on my headphones and my Nikes and sprinted the two miles to my best friend’s house to cry to HER in HER closet. It was so cold, the tears froze on my face as I ran. It wasn’t fair.

Often, we don’t know what we have until we’re in danger of losing it.

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