It was a bright morning, when they came. Blue-skied and yellow, and so beautiful it left you feeling vulnerable, and wondering how it was a sky could fill you like that, with so much joy. A blue so bright, it hurt your heart.
Eva stood by the window and watched the day. Outside, it was quiet. Nothing moved, save for the chirp of a bird, or did she imagine that? When she tried to recall the sound, there was only silence.
Looking back, she thinks perhaps the kick was a warning. The instinct of the unborn, stronger, more alert, than those alive.
‘Run,’ it said. ‘Hide,’ it said. She felt the tumble and roil of it, and tried to calm it.
‘Shh, fetus,’ she said, ‘shhh.’
Never a name. Not yet. Those were the rule. Hers and his. ‘Names become attachments. It will leave you more fearful,’ Stephen had told her. And the first time, she had disagreed. The second too. But now, she understood what he meant, remembered the ripping, the orders, the press of an elbow against her back, and she kept the name to herself.
Kick. And she heard them then. Voices from beyond the forest, the other side of the hill. Like sirens drawing near. The forbidden entitlement of the child inside, swelling her heart and throat with the need to say it. A beat, beat, beat like the sound of their boots on the cobblestones.
A beat, beat, beat, like the name of her there in her heart. ‘Naomi, Naomi, Naomi.’
Then the door ajar, letting the light in. And a blue so bright. So bright.
Jennifer Harvey is a Scottish writer now living in Amsterdam. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in various magazines in the USA and the UK, including: Folio, Carve, Fjords Review, Cheap Pop, Bare Fiction and The Lonely Crowd. She has been shortlisted for the Bristol Prize and the Bridport Prize, and in 2013 she was the Editor’s Choice winner in the Raymond Carver short story competition. She is a resident Reader for Carve magazine and loves discovering new stories. When not reading or writing, she can be found wandering the Amsterdam Canals dreaming up new stories.