by S.L Green
(Vancouver Island, BC, Canada)

Would there be a thud when she hit the tile, or would Sheila hear the skull crack?

She shudders and clutches Emma more tightly. Thirteen beige Berber steps lead down to the basement. Such dingy linoleum tiles on the floor at the bottom. Sheila had wanted to tear them up and put in hardwood, but like everything else, that idea went on hold when she got pregnant.

If, God forbid, Sheila were to stumble and cartwheel down, losing her grasp on Emma so Emma did her own cartwheels, and the two of them landed in crumpled heaps....

She takes a step back. Lowers her head to kiss the downy hair of her daughter. Breathes in the intoxicating scent of innocence.

A car pulls into the driveway: Erik. It's almost seven.

She glances again at the staircase. If she went down too, it would appear to be an accident, a horrible tragedy, no one's fault, poor Sheila. A broken leg, perhaps, but when it heals, new life. Or the tub: the phone might ring, she might leave Emma for just a minute - only a minute - and then, dear God, help us. That would be a mistake, though, not an accident. Erik may not forgive a mistake.

But what is she thinking? A smile. Put on a smile, now, and give the lovely child to her father. Here, you take her. Shoes on, coat zipped, out the door. Just to walk alone. Already feeling better.

She needs to tell somebody - anybody - but the strangers on the street will think her a madwoman if she spills her mind's horrors to them. The stranger at home - when did he become a stranger? - will surely reject her. His eyes will widen with alarm, and he'll take her sweet Emma and leave. Or maybe stay, and have Sheila sent away instead. Sent away. Locked away. Forever banished from Emma's life. Maybe she should go before it comes to that.

But she needs to stay. She's a good mother. Good mothers stay. She was a good student, a good employee, a good wife. Of course she's a good mother. She will stay. Bury the nightmares. Defeat them. Be strong. Be good.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. She knew about the blues. Knew they would pass. But this, this was so much more than the blues. This was dark shadows tumbling heels over head through her soul, contorting her mind and confusing her emotions. Sometimes she thought she saw a pinprick of light, but in the next breath it would be snuffed out.

That night, Emma doesn't sleep after her three a.m. feeding. Fusses and cries. Gas, maybe. Sheila walks with her, jiggles, sings, pats, pleads. She is so tired.

Finally Emma quiets. When Sheila stops pacing, she's standing again at the top of the stairs. She rocks slowly side to side, putting herself into an empty trance even as she lulls Emma to sleep. Back and forth, back and forth.

Back and forth.

Back and forth.

She doesn't hear the sound. She is swaying, still, looking down the thirteen Berber-covered stairs at Emma. She wants to feel something. She wants to react, to gather her infant in her arms, to wail, to scream, but there is nothing.

Her gaze slips from the still infant to the dingy tile. She sinks onto the top step and imagines how the scene might look with hardwood.

Comments for Cartwheels

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May 30, 2014
Wonderful, Yet Horrifyinng
by: Anonymous

As with the comments below, a great piece of work. A very powerful read. I hope you keeping writing!!

Nov 30, 2012
by: Anonymous

Painful topic, but so well-written ... Pulls the reader in quickly ...

Mar 06, 2012
Great Pacing
by: BC Williams

Like the others, I'm intrigued by the subject, but it's the pacing of your little story that really kept me reading. I have a friend, Rick Jankowski, that writes like this - as if we are watching a movie - frame by frame. Nice work, and congratulations on a story well received.

Jan 26, 2012
by: T Jarvis

To be honest I was a little confused with this story.I think a good mother would seek the proper care for her child, regaurdless of the consequense shes your child and a mothers love you do whats best for their child.

Nov 18, 2011
shocking but realistic
by: maria elena

I really liked this story and I would like to translate it into Italian(my mother tongue) and to use it as part of my English exam at the end of the school year. Could you please give me some information about the author, S.L. Green? what do S. and L. stand for?

Nov 10, 2010
Powerful, yet Frightening
by: Anonymous

As I began reading, I wasn't sure I wanted to finish; afraid of the ending,but desparate for it at the same time. The story definately pulls you in...very good writing, and clever. Leaves you wondering...did the new mother let the infant slip out of her arms, or is she still imagining it? Great Job!!!

Aug 17, 2010
Agonizing in its realism
by: Mark Patrick

I concur with the comments below. A story that needs to be told by and to all mothers. Agonizing to read about her feelings, but left with a glimmer of hope. Thanks

Aug 06, 2010
by: Anonymous

A lot of jumbled thoughts and feelings gone rampant. Hard to read but once hooked, very emotional, good job.

Feb 08, 2010
The Awful Truth
by: Maxine S.

This story hit home. In the midst of postpartum depression, I wished I could give my child away. I did not share these feelings with my husband or anyone else at the time, but many years later, I'm convinced that they are not uncommon. Thank you for broaching this taboo subject! Beautiful writing.

Feb 05, 2010
Painfully Poignant
by: Anonymous

Painfully poignant and closer to the truth than most new mothers would care to admit.

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