They drove out to Hamilton the day after the wedding, the bridal dust still swirling around them, the babies struggling to take shape. The groom picked the bride up and carried her, kicking and screaming, to the water. Turtles and catfish scattered as the other revelers rolled their eyes.
Let’s head for the waterfall, the bride said, defying the water moccasins known to lurk in the pool’s dark depths. She was a bold girl made bolder by the strange rituals of white tulle and a sugar-tower cake.
As they swam across the aquamarine surface, the bride believed herself to be transformed, a married woman. Even the ferns and the wet rocks seemed to know this.
Just think, she said as she gripped the rock wall to steady herself, our children are floating inside of me right now. My eggs. I am running the show. She shimmied her hips under the cool water. Inspired by those eggs and all the stories they would tell, the groom, groaning and newly ridiculous without his tuxedo, did his best swamp monster imitation. She rewarded him with a B-movie scream.
You and me together, the groom said, pulling her to him as he fumbled with his shorts. You and me in the depths.
And what about the kids?
They’ll be born with gills. And fins. They’ll be fine.
She did. She closed her eyes under the privacy of the waterfall and used her free hand to manage her bikini.
The bride and groom looked completely different back then. Different skin. Different eyes. If you had cut them open, even their hearts would have looked different, young and untested. The bride was right about the kids: they were inside of her, where they existed in a state of readiness. It was a while before she met them, and when they were creatures out in the world it took a long time for her to truly know them. On her worst days she would sink to the floor of the bathroom and doubt herself. The first two kids did not even make it to week twelve before they changed shape again and exited her body, and she was destroyed by the thought that they could slip away like that, as if they had not been there all along, as if they did not remember that day at Hamilton Pool.
Jan Stinchcomb is the author of The Blood Trail (Red Bird Chapbooks) and Find the Girl (Main Street Rag). Her stories have appeared in Longleaf Review, FlashBack Fiction, gravel, Monkeybicycle and matchbook, among other places. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology and is featured in The Best Small Fictions 2018. Currently living in Southern California with her family, she is a story editor for Paper Darts.