Flash fiction by Gillian Church
She didn’t know how she would find something to quell the agony of starvation, until her coworker, Paul, introduced his wife to her.
It started when Tessa was about six. Her neighbor’s cherished doll was ugly and not much good for playing with, but Tessa had to have it. She tucked it in her closet, where it eased her cravings for a little while. But just a little while.
The overwhelming hunger for more always returned, and, like Tessa, it grew a little bit each time. She couldn’t ignore it, so she took more. Her sister’s favorite book, her mother’s car keys, her classmate’s eyeglasses. Nobody ever saw Tessa squirrel these away and bury them under sweaters and inside old shoeboxes.
Eventually Tessa was grown and moved to her own apartment. She carefully moved her collected treasures into her newer, larger closet. Each one held the memory of a deep sense of satisfaction, and she smiled recalling each. Tommy’s inhaler, Annie’s drivers’ license, Chris’s phone. It was so simple in those younger days, when her cravings were so easily fulfilled.
It was harder now. Tessa’s neighbor began to talk non-stop about how he’d finally be getting the puppy he had been waiting for, after being on some dog breeder’s waitlist for years. He showed off that beautiful creature for two weeks before it mysteriously disappeared. Tessa felt full and happy as he hung posters up in the hallway of their building. He had wanted that dog so badly.
At her work’s Christmas party, she noticed how clingy her boss was with her husband, and Tessa’s stomach growled. It took some elbow grease, but she stole his heart. Then she cut it out and sealed it into a large glass jar. This kept the cravings away longer than anything she had taken before, but when they came back, they came back stronger than ever.
The hunger pains woke her during the night and distracted her during the day. She grew thin and pale, and had trouble dragging herself out of bed in the morning. Going to work felt like climbing Mount Everest. She didn’t know how she would find something to quell the agony of starvation, until her coworker, Paul, introduced his wife to her.
“This is Lori,” he said. “We’re going to grab some lunch before her ultrasound this afternoon.”
“We get to find out if it’s a boy or a girl!” His wife truly glowed, and they both wore the excited expressions of people who had something that they desperately and truly wanted.
Tessa never had any interest in being a mother, or babies in general. But the eager gurgle from deep in her gut made it absolutely clear: she had to have it.