December Contest Winner: Taylor Skaalrud’s Holiday Ode

I can still remember as the embers –
like the stars wrapping ‘round the globe –
faded last December.

We were made together, in November,
and I’m reminded of you by the wind;
its seasonal scent carrying you back to me
with hints of nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon;
its chill bites me like you did
after I first held close your shivering sleeve;
when it slows, and writhes and wraps ‘round my face –
like you, as our lips met when I tongued at your sweetness.

I’m mulling over my soul – steeping it in solitude –
when they say you’re back in town.
You – with your raw dark spirit and body like cream –
let me breathe you in;
let me drown in you;
let your arousing aromas
turn my lonely haze – If only just for the holidays –
into a dream of love in fog.

You’re intoxicating,
mystifying,
… and eggnog.

Contest Winner: Erin Vance’s “Twelve Weeks and the Virgin Mary Cries for Me”

I have a champagne flute in my hand. The bubbles have gone flat. The liquid is warm. I scan the modest crowd for my date. He is handsome but I don’t love him. I wear a gold dress like the Goddess Brigid.

Sláinte! A man smacks his pint of Beamish into my champagne flute as he grins at me and then rushes past. Most of the drink spills onto my dress.

Cliona! Finish your drink and come dance with me! Clare rushes over and kisses my cheek. I pour what is left of the champagne into my mouth and grin, my cheeks puffed out. Clare laughs and tugs me towards the dance floor. It’s so great to see you out, Clio! It’s been what, two, three months? I thought you’d followed Beck to Canada!

Twelve weeks and seven days. Tomorrow it will be thirteen weeks. I haven’t seen Clare for around ten. Beck left eight weeks ago.

I’ve been really busy with classes is all! Clare laughs, stumbling backwards into a man with long hair gathered into a bun. He turns around and smiles, grabbing her around the waist. She keeps facing me while they dance together.

And it looks like someone’s in the honeymoon phase with a new man!

What’s his name? Darren?

Brendan, actually.

He’s cute.

We’ve only been on one date, it’s nothing serious.

Whoever helps you get over Beck is A+ in my books, Clio! She winks, and swivels to grab the man by the cheeks and kiss him hard on the mouth. He looks surprised when she pulls away and she throws her head so far back that she can wink at me. Clare dissolves into giggles.

I’ve got to go to the toilet. See you later, Clare. Stay safe, okay?

The toilet is quiet. It smells of vomit but at least its quiet. I check my phone. The only message is from my mum. Happy New Years, sweetheart! Play safe! I open Instagram. A little red circle tells me @BecktheWreck has posted a new story. I debate whether to click on it, knowing he’ll be able to see that I’ve viewed it. He unfollowed me when he went home to Toronto. I scroll through posts of friends and family celebrating the New Year. Glittery dresses, champagne flutes, kissing couples, my best friend Asha posing with her cat for a New Years kiss. I click on Beck’s Instagram story. He is smoking a joint in his bedroom with a redheaded girl. She smiles at him. I used to smile at him like that, I think. Back in TO where I can ring in the New Year with 5 ounces of premium legal Mary Jane! He laughs and adjusts the camera. This is Mary Jane! The girl laughs. It’s Catherine, you dummy! I watch the video four times. I pause it when Beck’s smile is wide. I cry in the bathroom at 11:05pm on New Years Eve.

My phone beeps. An email reminding me of my appointment at Reproductive Choices Clinic in the morning. I know they will probably turn me away. I know I should have let someone who can actually qualify take the appointment. But, just like I know I should tell Beck about the baby, I ignore it and hang my head between my legs.

-X-

I wake up and Brendan is open-mouthed, snoring next to me. I roll over and scroll through Instagram, stopping on a photo of Beck and the redhead, kissing while confetti falls around them. It’s captioned Third NYE with the love of my life. So happy we found our way back to each other in 2018. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2019. #blessed #couplegoals I want to comment on it. More than that I want to message him and tell him how angry I am. My appointment is in an hour on the other side of Dublin, though. I tell Brendan he can let himself out and eat whatever’s in the fridge. He grunts and rolls over.

I hold my wool coat close around me and lean into the wind. I pass St. Brigid’s Primary School. I stop at a stained glass window depicting the Saint.

Please. I whisper, before carrying on towards The Liffey.

At a newsagent by Beckett Bridge, papers have Abortion Legal Today! Splashed across the cover.

-X-

Quite frankly, Ms. Boyle, I am shocked that you would book an appointment for an abortion, knowing you would not be eligible, therefore taking this time away from a deserving woman who is eligible. I know this is upsetting but there is nothing we can do. I can direct you to Marie Stopes in the United Kingdom if you’d like. I know it isn’t ideal but you would have ten more weeks to make the trip and get the funds together. Perhaps the father can help out with the cost?

The nurse hands me a pamphlet and I leave the clinic. I cry and I think about all of the statues of the Virgin Mary weeping. She was probably weeping because she couldn’t get an abortion, either. Protesters flock me as I leave the clinic. Do you really want to start the New Year with murder, ma’am? A few women with signs chant Reinstate the Eighth!

I spit at the stained glass image of Brigid as I walk past the primary school. A little girl playing in the playground runs over to me.

You can’t spit at things! That’s not allowed! The girl is six or seven years old. I wonder if her parents wanted her. As I walk back to my flat I wonder about every child and parent I see. I wonder how many children were actually wanted. I wonder how many women chose to be mothers. I stop at a Macdonald’s and order a large fries. I open Instagram.

My girlfriends are posting about the first day of abortion access.

#WeLegalizedIt #ProChoice.

Beck is posting about the dispensary in his neighbourhood.

#WeLegalizedIt #ProCannabis.

My cousins are posting photos of their kids asleep before midnight on New Years Eve.

Clare is posting photos from the party the night before. In one I am clutching my stomach and grimacing at the camera.

I click on the messages tab.

Hey, Beck. It’s been awhile. Text me when you can. 00353 1 830 0700. C. I don’t expect him to message me back, but I need the money to cross the border and get the abortion. He bought the condoms, after all.

As I finish my fries and lick the salt from my fingers I wonder about the redhead. I wonder if she’s ever been pregnant. I Google “abortion in Canada.” No legal restrictions on abortion at any stage. Outside, a group of girls with pink pussy hats hold up signs that say We did it! In big letters above a photo of Savita Halappanavar. In October I saw on Instagram a photo that Beck’s best friend posted of the two of them outside of a dispensary in Toronto, holding little baggies of weed. It was captioned We did it!

I wonder if there is anything wrong with the fetus that could warrant an abortion after twelve weeks. I wonder what the chances are of a medical emergency that would warrant an abortion after twelve weeks. I wonder if the herb mix I saw for sale online could actually induce a miscarriage after twelve weeks. I wonder if Beck will message me back. I wonder if I’ll be able to tell him. I haven’t told him in any of the twelve weeks I’ve known. I wonder if the Virgin Mary wept because she could not get an abortion after twelve weeks. I wonder if God is laughing at me, spitting on St. Brigid, comparing myself to the Virgin Mary, and just a week shy of being able to get an abortion in Dublin. I wonder if God is laughing at my bank balance and the extra 800-euro I need to make in order to go to England to get an abortion after twelve weeks.

I throw up in the MacDonald’s bathroom.

December Flash Contest Reveal

Yesterday was 2018, today it’s a whole new year, and our December flash contest asked participants to imagine what happens when something that was illegal or prohibited suddenly becomes available. Our two winners, Taylor Skaalrud and Erin Vance, took this prompt in very different directions, though both centred their pieces around the holidays. Erin’s political and poignant short story will be revealed later today, and Taylor’s festive ode will be posted tomorrow.

If you want to get in on our monthly flash contests, head over to our Patreon page and sign up to donate $2/ month (or more, if you want!). And that’s it– every month we will post a new prompt and the top three winners will be featured here on our blog!