Stars in the River

Image of Short Story
“A healthy baby boy! Congratulations!”

Miriam looked up at the doctor and gave a forced smile.

The doctor sat down beside her bed. “You must be pretty tired.”

Miriam nodded. Childbirth had been tiring, but what was truly exhausting was the conveyor belt of thoughts she was processing. Except the conveyor belt wouldn’t stop spinning faster and faster, and her thoughts were threatening to spill all over her and swallow her.

In her arms she held her twin boys. For nine months she had imagined holding them side by side, their heads nestled against her breasts. Their small, determined breaths. Their warm bodies, one and the same with hers.

She looked into their warm amber eyes. They reminded her of Christmas. What would Christmas be like with them? Would they love crowding around the fireplace just as much as her? She could imagine trying to herd the boys to the table, waving her arms around wildly and kneeling down to gasp for air. Inevitably, she would surrender and join in their childish fun, chasing them and falling to the ground in warm raucous laughter.

Miriam loved the stars. They always instilled in her a deep-seated calmness and certainty. "Sentinels of the night," her father would call them. Would they love the stars too? She could imagine them gazing together at the North star, the constellations, and all the twinkling lights of the vast universe encompassing them. The kids would ask her question after question, and after they were exhausted of questions, their breathing would slow and she would stroke them to sleep.

A kiss on the cheek, a whisper in the ear. Good night.

Then she looked back at the doctor’s beady black eyes, and then the sterile white room, and then her husband Caleb, and then back at her beautiful, innocent twins. She turned cold.

“I’m going to grab the stuff. I’ll be right back.”

The door slammed shut.

Miriam locked eyes with Caleb.


Caleb carefully let go of the balloons he was holding until they covered the security camera. Then, he shot up and seized the two baskets by his chair. He gently bundled each boy in a blanket and placed them into the baskets.

Miriam was exhausted, but seeing her babies like that made her suddenly lurch up.

“Be more careful!” she cried. “Make sure they’re comfortable.”

Caleb finished and put on his coat when Miriam wobbled out of bed.

“Let me check them, let me see them one last time.”

She opened the baskets, and cupped each of their tiny faces in her palm. She trembled—then, tears streamed down her face, stinging her like a whip to the cheeks. She grabbed two more blankets and wrapped her boys again, smoothing out the wrinkles.

They were sleeping now.

She kissed them.

It was over.

“Make sure they go their separate ways along the river,” she choked. “Make sure they’re wrapped warm enough. Make sure they’re not scared.”

Caleb looked back at Marium as he opened the door to the cool night.

“This is for the best, Miriam.”