Rumpus Original Fiction: Biswell and Hope, the Surprise Pregnancy, Conception

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“You’re a bomb,” Biswell says to Hope.

“Do you want to eat something? Sometimes sex makes me hungry.”

“A good bomb, but still a bomb.” He’s thinking about dropping out of law school. He has sex with Hope now. What’s the point of law school? Who would ever want to file a brief? She’s walking around in her underwear. She picks up his t-shirt and pulls it over her head like she’s climbing up something.

“French toast is my comfort food.”  She stares at him. “A bomb? Like after sex, our bodies are strewn everywhere, our clothes are scattered, like a post-apocalypse or something?”

“I guess it’s like how the world can be divided in two—pre-Hiroshima and post. The dawning of the Nuclear Age.”

“You’re in the dawning of a Hope Unrue Age.” She flops back in bed and lies next to him, their legs entwine.

“I don’t think it’s great to eat after sex. French toast can be too bready,” Biswell says. “My mother used to make breakfast for dinner when my father was away on business. She would suggest that he was a tyrant and, if not for him, we’d eat breakfast for dinner every night. She was always trying to get us to like her more. It was smart, post-divorce.”

“Your childhood split in two?”

“I survived the Dawning of the Divorce Age pretty well.”

It’s hard to say when Hope became pregnant, but in a few weeks, they’ll tally up dates, counting backwards—clumsily and quickly—trying to recall the night when they got drunk playing charades with Hope’s work friends. And the sex was sloppy and rushed and the condom wasn’t so important. Hope doesn’t take pills, doesn’t handle hormone doses well—not the pill or Plan B. Plus, her gynecologist in college told her she’d likely have trouble getting pregnant so she’s never taken those things very seriously. And, if she got pregnant accidentally, she’d be happy. She’s thirty and not caught up in institutions, especially not something as flimsy as marriage.

But they aren’t thinking of any of this now. None of it at all.

“Will you love me if I eat bready breakfasts for every meal forever?” Hope asks. “If I become enormous?”

“More to love.”

“What if I had a serious medical condition and I knew I’d would most likely die young?”

“I’d love you with that much more urgency then. I’d power-love you.”

Hope props herself on one elbow. “What if we were married and I told you that I was born a boy and that I grew up a boy and had undergone reassignment surgeries to make me a woman?”

He imagines Hope as a little boy. He sees her in swim trunks and going to middle school dances in button downs and playing on a soccer team then in a gym locker. Hope, the boy named something else, is scared and tired of being scared. Biswell loves her. “God,” he says. “Maybe that’s how I grew up. Maybe that’s just me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I didn’t know who I was as a kid, not at all. And I want to save you—the kid I see in my head. Do you want to save me?” It feels like the most honest thing he’s ever said.

“I thought I was a bomb.”

“A good bomb.”

“I don’t think we’re supposed to feel like relationships save us. Feminism et cetera.”

“But I want to be saved,” he says, “and I want to save you.”

“Okay,” she says. “As long as it’s even.”

“It will be. We can take turns.”

“Who’s first?” she asks.

He can’t help it. The thought is there: I want to know who’s last.

***

Rumpus original art by Zach Swisher.


Julianna Baggott is the author of many poetry collections and novels, including Pure (Grand Central, Hachette) and Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders (Little Brown, Hachette), both New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Her stories, essays, and poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Agni, at Tor.com, and on NPR. She teaches screenwriting at the Florida State University Film School and is the creator of Efficient Creativity: The Six-Week Audio Series. More from this author →