The Northville Review
an online literary journal

Leah Browning

Last night, when I told my husband that my period was two weeks late, he made a little joke about the doctor who’d performed his vasectomy, and how maybe he should have gotten some references. Then this morning I read an article in the newspaper about how women who are getting older sometimes drop two eggs instead of one. The kids were all at school and I was alone in the house. I thought about accidentally getting pregnant with twins, about turning forty and still having to lie there with my feet in the stirrups again, having to go through everything right from the beginning, and I started hyperventilating and had to sit in a kitchen chair and put my head down for a few minutes. We’d given away the stroller and the crib, had just stopped buying diapers in the last few months. Kindergarten was around the corner, and I was finally looking at want-ads again.

My husband called from work. “Any news?” he said. “Did Aunt Flo come to visit?”

I knew just how he would look, sitting at the desk in his office, leaning back a little bit in the chair, with one leg crossed over the other and those big stupid shiny black laced shoes and his big fat smug stupid face smiling a little bit when he thought of such a stupid, stupid thing to say. I wanted to reach my arm through the telephone and squeeze his neck until his eyes bugged out.

But when I didn’t answer, he said, “Sorry, Margo. That was dumb,” and I could remember again that this was just Steve, who’d brought me popsicles and wiped my face in the delivery room, a guy that I sometimes really loved with regular shiny black shoes and a regular face, not an older version of the creep from my middle school P.E. class.

Still, after I’d hung up the phone, I went on sitting dully in the kitchen, thinking about all the wasted sit-ups I’d done in the last two years and wanting to die. Not that I could admit that to anyone. Because if it were Steve who would be walking around for nine months with hemorrhoids and a dull backache, with the elastic waist of his maternity jeans crimping from overuse, I’d be able to be happy; I’d be thinking about how to fit another car seat in the minivan and whether I should start buying rice in bulk. I’d be sitting at the desk in my office practicing the breathing exercises, prepping.

Then I had to pick the kids up from school, and later that night, after they were in bed, I went to the bathroom and found a few spots of blood and my first thought was Thank you, Jesus. I mean, I was almost forty and I just couldn’t face the thought of those sleepless nights. But then I also couldn’t help crying a little bit, too, thinking about all the times I’d had to tell Steve that I’d gotten my period again, back when it seemed like it might never happen for us—all the times I’d been in this bathroom with the same striped wallpaper and the same scent of soap and the same blood.

About the author

Leah Browning is the author of three nonfiction books for teens and pre-teens. Her fiction, poetry, essays, and articles have also appeared in a variety of publications including Queen's Quarterly, 42opus, The Saint Ann's Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, and Autumn Sky Poetry, on a broadside from Broadsided Press, on postcards from the program Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf, and in several anthologies. Leah Browning's first chapbook, Picking Cherries in the Española Valley, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press (Fall 2009). In addition to writing, Browning serves as the editor of the Apple Valley Review, an online literary journal. Her personal website is located at