Text Box: Fourth Quarter 2014  Third Place


Pretty Maids All In A Row by Vanessa Savage
































Hes watching me through the window again, but I ignore him. The rain-streaked glass warps and stretches his face, Munch-like, his silent scream one of worry and fear. At first he thought it was a good idea, me gardening. The frown had cleared, replaced with a smile, and hed driven me to the garden centre, bought tools and seeds and gloves. But as I dug, and planted and watered and watched, day after day, in rain, sun, frost and fog, he started to worry again, told me I was obsessed, shouted it, words gushing out, sprinkling the earth with anger so I had to dig again, get rid of the bitter words corrupting the sleeping bulbs, neutralize the ground with salty tears. What he doesnt get is that out here, hands plunged in cool, damp earth, I can breathe again and stop my own silent, endless scream. The panic recedes and my shoulders relax.

Ive planted just one row of flowers, beautiful daffodils that flower in the spring and give hope that summer is coming. Five bulbs planted, five green shoots have pushed their way out of the earth, flowered, grown tall, cherished and nurtured by me. Ive given them names. The names of the babies who never made it. Five of them, lost and mourned, with no graves to mark their lives, because they never had lives, never pushed their way from my defective body, never had a chance to be cherished and nurtured. He worries Ive gone mad, but really, I just want to let the babies know I hadnt forgotten them, that I wont let them fade into ghosts the way he wants. I talk to them every day and look how tall and strong theyve grown fed by love.

When I found out I was pregnant again, I dug another patch of earth, made a space for another bulb. But I never got to plant it. I sprinkle some fresh compost on the damp garden, so dark and moist, so good for the flowers. With my other hand, I hold my belly, full with baby. Kicking this time, laying down roots, growing like the daffodils, spreading out, ready to flower in a few weeks. She kicks in response to my touch, a strong, hard, vital kick.

He thinks Ive invented some new, pre-natal depression and I can feel his worry oozing through the window glass. He shouldnt be worried, not any more. I know I have to give this baby the same care and attention Ive given my flowers, my pretty maids. So Im just planting more seeds in the space I thought Id be putting another daffodil bulb. I have to give the flowers company for the days ahead when Im not here as often.

He worries Im losing it again, I whisper to the nodding flowers, to the bulb that went un-planted, to the baby in my belly. But I just want to introduce you to your sister.

First Place: Blood Bond

Second Place: The Language of Fish