If you were younger, maybe you would end it. As a teenager who was blessedly unaware of things you sometimes used coat hangers to masturbate, the thick plastic ones, before you realized the historical significance of a coat hanger in a vagina.

You walk down the street counting the flowers you see and tallying up the numbers: twenty-six daffodils, thirty carnations, sixteen roses, twelve lilacs, eight lilies, twenty-nine tulips. Carnation it is, then.  The state flower of Ohio, you remember learning in school, because President McKinley wore a lucky red carnation in his lapel and when he took it out he got assassinated. A fleeting image crosses your mind of a little baby tucked into the breast pocket of your T-shirt, no bigger than a flower. It will be a girl.

Of course, the anxiety is premature; you’ve been late before. This anxiety, this planning, is almost as routine as menstruation, starting when you were twelve and hadn’t even had sex, and intensifying after you lost your virginity at age twenty-two: the panic, the deep contemplation of abortion, the talking yourself up—you’ve got a good job, and it’s one you don’t mind leaving. You’ve got multiple degrees. A modest hoard in your savings account, not to mention the vintage Oneida serving spoon you keep meaning to take to Antiques Roadshow. You are the pearl and the oyster. You have what so many women in your predicament don’t have: you have Options.

“Talk to me when you’re feeling this way,” he says. “You know I’ll always take care of you.” But the next night he’s touching you while you sleep, or talking to his exes behind your back, or looking at porn again. You accuse him and he punches a wall, wanders absently to the corner and picks up his baseball bat, sets it down again. “I’ll always be here.”








No—you have Options. Carnation has Options. The pearl, the oyster.
You and Carnation will abscond. Wonderful word, abscond. Hop a train, take your dragon’s hoard of savings and get an apartment in a new city, work from home—maybe your sister will move in with you again, like old times—and you can start selling your art again, even if it’s just prints of old stuff, for a while. You haven’t made anything new in a long time, not since he told you to get a real job. You can become an online French tutor. Cobble a living together. Carnation will grow up in a world of art and literature. She’ll learn French from you, so you’d better brush up. You’ll be each other’s everything. She’ll have curly hair that you’ll help her tame, and a wildness of independence that you won’t. You’ll love her wholly, purely, and she’ll love you. It might be nice, you think, to love someone so fearlessly, and to be loved. You didn’t feel it at twenty-two, but now that you’re twenty-five, whenever you see a pair of tiny boots in the shoe section, or witness a small child grab ahold of her mother’s fingers, you feel an ache from somewhere near your stomach, but deeper than your stomach—your soul, maybe, or your Biological Clock, whatever that means. When you were twenty-two, the ache came from witnessing a kiss, subtle hand-holding, and old couple at a diner.

The days after a missed period, when you believe you could be pregnant, are the days you feel whole, even though you believe your body has been interrupted—rather than being complete in itself, you think, your body is wrapped around something, pig-in-a-blanket. You feel simultaneously a protector and protected. Oyster, pearl. Your boyfriend lies in wait beside you at night and while his eyelids flutter you rub your stomach and plan your escape.

But the next morning you wake up to a warmth, a stickiness. Your boyfriend still sleeps, so you can’t remove the sheets yet. You stand over the bed, staring at the red stain. You tell yourself not to mourn. You tell yourself you’re lucky.


by Dev Murphy |  Featured Image by Alexandra Pelletier   | Artwork by Annie Spratt

Devan Murphy

Dev is a writer and artist currently based in Athens, Ohio. She received her BA in English from The University of Akron in 2015, and her MA in English Literature from Ohio University in 2017. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in AshBelt Magazine, and her art has appeared in The Esthetic Apostle, The Underground, Silver Needle Press, and New Ohio Review.