Content Warning: Miscarriage
My grandmother’s cherries have little stripes on them – actually, polka dots. They taste sweeter than the earth and are redder than the sun.
Store bought pips spit better, but when hers land, you can see them take root. Thick and thin spines pushing into the ground. The store bought ones don’t take root, they just drop, and you don’t spit them anyway because you know they’ll just end up in landfill.
My grandmother’s cherries don’t come in even sizes and sometimes they form wrong, long teardrops or in little squares.
Most of them have crescent shaped scared on their belly where they’ve gifted themselves to another. I try to eat them without looking but my nose scrunches when I feel the scars against my tongue.
I throw the imperfect ones over my shoulder and make a wish in the morning sun.
When I go inside, my eyes struggle to adjust to the changing light and I think for one horrifying moment that I may have gone blind. When my vision returns, the first thing I see is a teapot and a mug with a book cover design. Bonjour Tristesse.
– You’re bleeding.
My grandmother says, pointing with a pink tipped finger.
– Oh, no. I’ve just been eating the cherries.
I smile my bloody grin, lines between my teeth stained purple.
– You’re bleeding,
she repeats in earnest.
I look down to see a trickle of thick cherry juice slide down my leg. It lands heavily beside my left heel, too viscous to be fruit.
I say, my stomach starting to cramp.
she repeats, reaching for me.
I remember how I’d been the last out of my group of girlfriends to get my period in high school. I’ll have to call them, tell them that it was finally my time, though, actually – I’d had my period for years. I’d probably had close to a hundred of them.
– Let’s get you cleaned up.
My eyes have to adjust again to the bright light of the bathroom. The heat lamp blisters my back and I lean over the sink, my grandmother placing a cold wet hand on the nape of my neck.
My grandfather’s voice is outside the bathroom door,
– they think it’ll be quicker if we drive ourselves.
He says gently.
I watch my pupils dilate and shrink in the mirror. Blink twice if you can hear me. I blink three times in quick succession. Big. Small. Big. Small. Big.
– Stop that.
My grandmother used to scold my cousin and I like that when we would laugh and chatter loudly in the backseat of her car as she attempted to parallel park. Every time, we would collapse into more laughter.
My grandfather drives while my grandmother sits in the back with me, my legs draped over her lap. I wish they’d let me drive; my grandfather never uses the indicators.
– She’ll be okay,
my grandmother pats my shins in a strange out of tune rhythm and I wonder who she means.
– She the cat’s mother.
I laugh. They do not laugh with me.
In the hospital, my eyes have to adjust again. These lights do not burn, they just stick to every surface of you, everything you are on display.
– Please can I have something sweet?
I ask my grandmother.
– We didn’t bring anything with us,
– There’s a Woolies down the road.
One of the nurses offers,
– maybe Grandad could nip away?
I shake my head.
– The pips don’t root.
No one responds before they put me under.
She was conceived the day a bird died in the fireplace. Trapped in the chimney, it beat its wings against the metal sides for days. We, her father and I, knelt together and reached in but could not move the grate between the hearth and the chimney, which had rusted into permanence. I found out later it was called a smoke shelf and was afraid it now held more than it could carry.
The day that she was lost, you could smell the rot. It did nothing to keep the fireplace closed anymore, it had seeped out amongst the cracks and edges.