by Abbie Copeland
I told my father I was pregnant and he let the tomatoes continue to bleed onto the counter.
He chopped the last tomato, then moved on to the cilantro. The smell was nauseating. His knife hit the bamboo cutting board like a soft drum beat.
I wanted to rub his back, like consoling a child who was cheated out of a Christmas gifts or the right flavor birthday cake. His lip was protruding like his belly, but his eyebrows were furrowing holes on the top of his nose.
He muttered something. Something about hands, filthy hands all over me. He meant my husband’s hands.
I looked at my father’s hands, gleaming with juices. They were rough and at that moment, probably soaked with lime juices and jalapeno burn. He always put a lot of jalapenos in the salsa. Seeds, ribs and all.
The hands that made this baby with me were much softer and moved slowly over me. Nothing burned or soured about them.
“What?” I asked him.
“I’m not old enough,” he said.
“Old enough for what?”
He still had the knife in his hands and waved it at me, a crude gesture that, at the time, did not seem violent or threatening.
“Who is ever ready for a baby?” I said.
“I’m not,” he replied.
“It’s not your baby,”
“No, but you…” he started to say.
He wanted to say “you are my baby,” but I was never his baby. He never held me as a baby except for a few photos. He never played with me as a baby. He only played guitar for me, as I sat in my high chair, cooing at his strums.
“I am happy. Why can’t you be too?” I said.
He dropped the knife on the cutting board. I imagined the salsa would taste bitter by the time he came back to it.
He was hunched forward, creating a turtle space without a shell. His space was large, 6 foot plus high and as wide as a football player.
I rubbed my belly, a tiny, barely formed thing, because it was one of those moments that seemed right to do so. I had always watched pregnant ladies hold their bellies, rubbing them lovingly as if the baby could actually feel the caress. But I? I just wanted to give my little embryo a barrier.
He left the kitchen. Then, there were keys. Just keys, no wallet. Then a slammed front door, the air being sucked out with him. And me, standing in the kitchen, still holding my belly.
I stared at the kitchen counter. The produce was piled high on the cutting board. I wanted to finish the salsa myself. There was still the onions and garlic. There was still the salt and spice. There was still more burn to add.
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Abbalonia Copeland graduated from Kean University with a B.A. in English. Her work has been published in Vestal Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Foliate Oak, Off the Coast and Bacopa Literary Review. She is also a recipient of the 2015 Write Well Award.