Friday, 8 March 2013

The Care of Babes by Ethel Rohan

William helped his pregnant wife step from the bathtub, her dark hair piled high on her head and her huge bump ringed in purple stretch marks. He wrapped her in a plush white towel and kissed the side of her neck, tasting lavender soap. The fogged mirror made them both seem invisible.
The following week, William’s client phoned at the last minute to cancel dinner, leaving him alone inside the restaurant. In the opposite corner, an attractive brunette occupied the black leather nook. Their eyes met, hers smoky and mischievous. He looked away. When his eyes found hers again, they lingered. She stood up and moved toward him. He couldn’t but notice her curves and the sparkles in her lip-gloss.
They shared dinner, Cabernet, and stories. He was a game designer and she a pediatric cardiologist, in San Francisco to speak at the annual Heart Association conference. Across the room, a champagne cork popped. She refused dessert. He offered to walk her back to her hotel. They stepped out into the chill and the rain. He removed his denim jacket, shielding her from the downpour. A red fire truck rumbled past, clanging and howling.
The rain eased and they slowed their pace. She removed a brown paper bag from her purse and offered him a black-purple plum. The healthy choice, she said. He sank his teeth into the fruit’s two-tone flesh. She held her plum at her mouth, sucking.
“The healthy choice?” she added moments later. “I’m not always successful.”
            They hurried. To get out of the rain, he told himself.

After, she held him against her heart. His fingers moved over the flat of her damp abdomen. He saw a flash of his wife’s swollen belly and pulled his hand away. They didn’t know what they were getting, a boy or a girl. His wife wanted the surprise.
Her red-polished fingernails tugged at his chest hair. Years since he’d felt this heady rush with his wife, the sense of liquefying.
“Hey, where’d you go?” She pushed him onto his back and mounted him again.
            He grinned. “You’re too good.”
            “It’s my specialty, remember? The care of babes.”
            He thrust himself into her, almost at climax again, and clawed at her back.
“Babe,” she said.
Sated, slick, they held onto each other.
“Nice. Very nice,” she said.
He peeled himself from her and moved to the bathroom.
As he washed his hands, her sharp laugh carried from the bedroom, barely audible above the fall of water. “You sure you’re not a surgeon? You’re using so much water?”
He bit down hard between his knuckles. This soap tasted of lemongrass. From the bedroom, his cell phone rang, sounding his wife’s ringtone.
“Your phone’s ringing.”
The ringing stopped, only to start again seconds later.
“You going to get that?” she said. “Babe?”

About the Author: Ethel Rohan's second story collection Goodnight Nobody is forthcoming September, 2013. Her work has or will appear in The New York Times, World Literature Today, Tin House Online, The Irish Times, The Rumpus, and Post Road Magazine, among many others. Raised in Ireland, Ethel Rohan now lives in San Francisco where she is a member of the Writers Grotto. Visit her at 

Image: (c) Kenny MÃ,ller