Brunch by Claire Polders


Who will I be now that you know her?

After the complex agony of dusting bookshelves, baking quiche Lorraine, changing tops twice (who is she kidding? four times), uncorking the Sauvignon Blanc, downing a glass, feeling embarrassed about drinking in advance so brushing teeth again, and, hearing the car pull up, putting an uncorked bottle on the counter, Ellen Arendonk is not up to the task of sitting through the brunch that called for all these preparations. But knock-of-ring-against-glass, there she is. Her mother.

What do you mean you have her hands?

Ellen Arendonk, the traitor, opens the door. The woman on the stoop smiles whole-heartedly, still unaware that the young woman in front of her has contacted the adoption agency and knows about the womb in which she once grew. Short arms draw Ellen into an embrace, arms that are unrelated to the womb in Ellen’s mind.

Habits are not genetic. People often tell me you have my way of rubbing your knuckles.

Nerves don’t settle down in the embrace, despite the familiarity of the arms. There is a sensation of otherness, of being utterly alone. Yet there is also quiche and wine, so please come in.

Ellen Arendonk serves. After so many months of secrecy, there is no rush. They are celebrating Ellen’s twenty-fourth birthday.

Where did your curiosity come from?

Her mother’s nightmare: the other woman, claiming, pulling. The umbilical cord may be cut but not the string of DNA. Another glass of Sauvignon?

When she was ten, Ellen Arendonk was told she came from somewhere else, another family. It was a relief at the time, an explanation of why her parents never understood her. She was also no longer obliged to love them and could do so by choice.

After brunch, she takes her mother’s knotted hands into hers and begins by saying that nothing will change.




Claire Polders is a Dutch author of four novels. Her flash & short stories in English have appeared or are forthcoming in Denver QuarterlyOkey-PankySmokeLong Quarterly, Hobart, matchbook, and elsewhere. Her nonfiction is published in Green Mountains ReviewTin House (Flash Fidelity), Word Riot, and Fiction Southeast. A first novel in English is on the way. More at or say hello @clairepolders.

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