The Open Door
Midday passion, sheets over us flapping as though we might ascend straight to heaven. After: quiet panting, skin pressed to skin, gentle kisses. And then this sudden rapping at the back door.
Who, we wondered in the shocked space opening between our bodies, uses the back door? And where was that dog whose righteous howls erupt when a car door slams a block away? We scrambled for clothes like caught teenagers, my husband nearly tripping as he pulled up his khakis. I wrapped a cardigan around me and grabbed the baseball bat we keep in the hall closet.
We approached the door together and saw it was already opening to reveal a teenaged girl, shiny black hair well past her shoulders, skin so clear and smooth I felt a flash of envy. “Hi!” she chirped, waving once and searching both of our faces. “Recognize me?”
There was something vaguely familiar about her. My nerves prickled a warning as the door swung all the way open. I tightened my grip on the bat. She asked, “Going to a baseball game?”
“It’s for protection,” I said. My husband puffed up beside me.
The girl burst out in gleeful laughter. “Oh, you should have thought about that like twenty minutes ago! Though I’m glad you didn’t.”
My husband and I exchanged nervous glances. He adopted his most commanding voice. “I’m sorry, but who are you?”
“Your daughter,” she said with a shrug like it should have been obvious.
“I’m calling the police,” my husband mumbled to me, but I touched his hand. Not yet. Something familiar in the lines of her nose and jaw, the eyes that reminded me of my own mother, dead two years already.
“I think you’re mistaken,” I said calmly, wondering where the damn dog, our real protection, was. “We have twin sons about your age, start of high school. No girls.”
“Yet,” added the girl at our back door. Her skin glowed in the afternoon sunlight, her eyes softening with what I swore was affection. “Look, this is going to sound weird. I’m told to expect utter disbelief, maybe even violence.” She looked pointedly at the bat. “But I’m from the future. I’m the daughter you just created.”
I shook my head at this lonely, deluded girl. “Just. Created. Honey, I’m past the age of motherhood.”
“Don’t you still get your period sometimes?”
“That’s none of your business, young lady.” My husband used his father voice, the one that made my boys pause. “Find a more gullible couple for your scam. And stop listening at bedroom windows before you get arrested.”
She teared up then, her lips puckering the way my husband’s do when he’s upset. “But I’m not lying! They used to require pregnant women to look at a little pulsing white piston on an ultrasound. They’d say, “Look and listen…there’s your baby’s heartbeat!”
“Used to?” Anger flared in my chest. I wondered if she was an activist, a home-schooled pro-lifer sent to sway the vote in the last state that hadn’t adopted the heartbeat law.
“Yet,” the girl said, as though she could read my mind. “It just wasn’t enough. The women were still making such selfish decisions. The Greater United States had to do something.”
“The what?” My husband reached for his cell phone then, scrolling for the number of the borough police while the girl rushed to explain.
“The country finally has this technology where they can recombine genetic material from couples who made those terrible choices. They can project your lost child back through time to you before you even know you’re pregnant. You can see them in full personhood so you can really understand what you’re losing. So you can make a better choice…Mom.” She smiled again, flashing straight, white teeth. She held her arms out, so fiercely pretty and vulnerable in that moment that I nearly hugged her.
My husband set down his phone and asked, “So these sophisticated Greater Americans of the future actually think I’ll be swayed to want another teenager?”
“A girl,” she said, gazing into my eyes, promising late night heart-to-hearts, trips to the spa and the mall, those gendered fantasies daughterless mothers are supposed to crave. I remembered all the coffee dates I’d never again share with my own mom. I felt my heartbeat flutter then pound.
My husband looked at my face. He shrugged and said, “It’s up to you.”
It had taken me all my life to love my life, nothing ever as easy as I’d once imagined, but that life had led me here, to all I wanted: to lunch break lust with my husband of twenty-one years, to two energetic, moody, silly, squabbling, smelly, affectionate teenage sons, to a job with a retirement plan that might actually get me off the payroll before age 70, to a dog that snuggled like a baby at night and drove me crazy all day with her barking.
“Where is that dog?” I asked aloud, and my husband called for her. We heard her leap off our son’s bed upstairs and shake herself awake, tags jingling.
I turned to the open door, thinking, as women often do, that I should apologize. But the back porch was empty, and so was the yard, except for the high grass and the bright dandelions and the blooming azalea and the drunken bumblebees and the waving red maple and that single grouching grackle that our dog soon chased away.
Chauna Craig is the author of the story collection The Widow’s Guide to Edible Mushrooms and the creative nonfiction editor at Atticus Review. In ninth grade civics class she wrote an essay on why Americans needed to re-elect Reagan, citing his pro-life stance. In graduate school she volunteered at a Planned Parenthood clinic and has never wavered since in her support of every girl and woman’s right to choose what happens to and with her own body.
Art Zinaida Serebriakova Public Domain
This story is part of our Pro-Choice theme. If you are interested in helping support women’s right to autonomy, consider checking out these websites and if you’re able maybe even supporting organizations like these:
Alabama’s Yellowhammer Fund https://yellowhammerfund.org/
Planned Parenthood in the US https://www.plannedparenthood.org/
Alliance for Choice in North and South Ireland http://www.alliance4choice.com/
Marie Stopes International https://mariestopes.org/what-we-do/our-services/safe-abortion-and-post-abortion-care/
and many other pro-choice organizations and charities. We are looking forward to expanding this list as we learn more.