“Didn’t You Hear Me?” by Suvi Mahonen

We’d like to present a new Feature Story here at Metro Fiction. Please check the Welcome page for more information about us. This week, we meet Arlene and Ray who are struggling to cope with some bad news about their unborn baby.

Note:  This story includes strong language 

We present our Feature Story: “Didn’t You Hear Me?” by Suvi Mahonen:


He finds me in amongst the rhododendrons.

While I’m sitting here, trying to ignore the rising dampness from the ground, dry leaves rustle, twigs snap, and I’m suddenly aware of his presence. He’s standing beside me, not talking, like he’s waiting for me to acknowledge him.

I stay as I am, my back against a rock, hugging my legs, staring through the canopy of spindly branches and wilting petals. Below, a slope of patchy crabgrass, bordered by trees, leads down to a swampy pond. An old rotunda, with flaking red paint and a gapped tiled roof like missing teeth, sits beside it.

“Is there room for me?”

I shrug.

He settles down next to me and rests back on his wrists. “Didn’t you hear me calling?”

I look down at a line of black ants near my foot. A two-laned, slow-moving, insect highway in the dirt.

“I thought you just needed to pull over to chuck,” he says. “But as soon as we stopped. Whoooosh!” He makes the rocket sign with his hands.

I nudge a heelful of moss onto the ant highway, watch the ensuing jiggery chaos.

“What are we going to do?” I say.

“About what?”

“The pregnancy.”

I feel him studying me. I keep studying the ants.

“I thought we’d already decided.”

I dig my heel into the ground again. Another divet forms with a moist rip.

I wish I could recapture that warm happy glow, that feeling like standing in front of an outdoor fire on a cold winter’s day that I’d briefly felt this morning when I first saw my baby on the ultrasound screen. Those few precious minutes before the sonographer’s voice changed.

But I can’t.

It’s gone.

Ray rubs my arm while I cry. A little later he hands me his bunched up tie.

“Sorry, I don’t have a hanky on me.”

I smile weakly and make do with the back of my wrist.

“Why does all this shit keep happening?” I say.

“Hey.” He squeezes my shoulder. “Don’t talk like that. It was only a soft marker. Everything else was okay.”

The air’s changed. I can feel a strand of my fringe drifting back and forth over my forehead, smell a faint miasma rising from the pond.

“There’s something I’ve never told you,” I say.

There’s silence beside me. I take it as a “what?”

“I was trying to get pregnant.”

He snorts. “And I thought all that sex we were having was just because you couldn’t get enough of my cock.”

I look down at the ants again. They’ve formed a detour around the moss. “I don’t mean now,” I say. “I mean back then. The other time I got pregnant.”

He makes a funny kind of noise at the back of his throat.

“What do you mean?”

“I hadn’t been taking the pill for months.”

This time the silence is so long I turn to look at him.

His face has turned into fractions. Skin a little pale, pupils a little dilated, lips a little drawn in. “But …” his voice is weak. “… you said you had gastro.”

The confusion in his eyes is too much. I look away.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he says.

“You wouldn’t have let me.”

“You could have insisted.”

“It was easier just to flush them down the loo.”

He sighs.

I watch a pair of brown ducks waddling through the long grass near the pond’s edge. One bends down, then bobs back up, bill mincing.

“I should have had the amniocentesis,” I say.

His voice is cautious. “You mean now or back then?”

“Both.”

“It wasn’t really an option back then.”

“Well it is now,” I say.

The ducks have slid into the water, and are weaving their way between the lily pads. They’re almost out of sight by the time he speaks.

“No,” he says. “You were right. We’ll just hope for the best and accept whatever happens.”

“I don’t know.” My chin droops. A yellow seam stitch on the inner leg of my jeans is fraying. “Maybe I should have it after all. There’s still time to end all this before it’s too late.”

The world jiggles as he shakes me.

“Stop that. You don’t mean that. Didn’t you hear me. I said you were right.”

I’m scratching my forearm before I realize it. Nails bubbly over scar lines. Keratinized skin over keratinized skin. “I also heard you say you couldn’t do a child with Down syndrome,” I say.

The world dissolves. I’m crying again.

This time he strokes my hair.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I can.”


Suvi Mahonen holds a Master’s degree in Writing and Literature from Deakin University in Australia. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary magazines around the globe including in Australia (Island, LiNQ, Verandah), the UK (East of the Web), the United States (Drunk Monkeys) and Chile (GringoLandiaSantiago). She has also worked as a journalist in Australia and Canada and has published many feature articles, reviews and travel stories. One of her short stories, ‘Bobby’, was included in The Best Australian Stories 2010. More of her work can be found at RedBubble.


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One Comment

  1. One of my favorites ever. Congrats on your publication, Suvi!

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