Give Me War by Kate McCarthy



My eyes blink open slowly. I’m in bed. It’s dark and my head is foggy. I know I didn’t drink last night so it can only mean I’ve woken at a crazy hour. Again. Why, insomnia? Why? I snap my lids closed and try to capture that sleepy feeling before full awareness smacks me in the face.

I snuffle into my pillow, starting to drift off again when something niggles at me. Something important. Something big. Oh shit. It’s Christmas Eve, and my to-do list for today is longer than the Great Wall of China, give or take.

Why are we hosting lunch tomorrow? Because I’m an idiot, that’s why. I even said I’d make two trifles—original and chocolate. Evidence of my lunacy. I blame hormones. Mine have taken control of my mind, forcing me to do and say things I wouldn’t ordinarily do. Jared even suggested weeks ago that we have tomorrow catered for. I vetoed; my voice laced with so much stubbornness I want to punch myself as I lay here feeling sick. I told him tomorrow will be a time for us to reconnect as a family, and apparently the only way to do that is by baking stuff, roasting things, and acting as if you have it all under control. Newsflash, I don’t. I haven’t even bought Jared’s gift yet. I’m considering just wrapping a bow around my belly and propping myself beneath the tree for when he wakes. A baby is gift enough, isn’t it?

We’ve been trying for number two for over three years. Three years. After visits with the specialist, my uterus was declared hospitable and Jared’s swimmers enthusiastic, though perhaps a little blind. Or maybe they forgot how to read a map and are just too stubborn to ask for directions. But if one more person says everything works out how it’s meant to be, I’ll gouge out their eyes.

Either way, I’ve been sitting on this news for almost two weeks, throwing up undetected almost every morning, hiding my day-long nausea, mood swings, and my newly acquired craving for peanut butter ice-cream. I’ve resorted to hiding the empty cartons in all manner of places; under the kitchen sink, behind Jared’s dusty golf clubs in the garage, and I’m pretty sure there’s one inside the entertainment unit in the living area. It’s hard to keep track of them all to be honest. I mentally add that to my list of things to do today—search the house and clear them all out. Along with the wrappers from last night’s frenzy with the fun-size chocolates. I bought them thinking my willpower was strong enough to have one every couple of days. Satisfy the craving and move on, right? Wrong. I was fooling myself, Jared too when I put them in the shopping trolley, lecturing him on how it was actually good for you to have a small treat now and then. His expression of scepticism left me determined to prove him wrong.

I add that to my list for today too. Buying another bag of fun-sized chocolates so Jared won’t know how weak my willpower is.

I sigh quietly. Living with a radical health nut is exhausting.

You brought it all on yourself, I can hear Henry say, and Mac, and everyone else. There’s no sympathy. No support.

But it’s the truth. I did bring it on myself. My mantra is ‘life is short, eat the damn cake,’ and yet I married him anyway. It’s true that love makes you stupid. Now it’s Jared’s personal quest to keep me as healthy as possible. He wants me to live an extremely long life, but what’s the point if broccoli and grilled chicken make me miserable? You don’t see anyone posting pictures on Instagram of their cauliflower rice and spinach smoothies with the hashtag #YOLO.

I roll over, yawning, and a little squeak catches in my throat.

Jared is wide awake, his head propped in his hand. His green eyes are on me, unblinking in the dark.

My heart pounds. “What are you doing?”

“You woke me up.” His voice is deep and sleepy, all smoky like a Cuban cigar.

I actually shiver, marvelling that this man is my husband. “No I didn’t.”

“You did. You snorted and said ‘cake.’”

“I said bake. Not cake,” I lie, because it’s highly likely I was mumbling my mantra aloud. “I’m going over my to-do list.”

“Hmm,” he says in a disbelieving tone. “You’re sure you’re not dreaming about cake again, babe?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I reply, indignant and thoroughly embarrassed about the dream I had a week ago where our house was a giant wedding cake with our kid trapped inside. I had to eat it all to save him. I’m annoyed with myself for sharing. Jared thought it hilarious, but what he doesn’t get is how staggeringly high my cravings and maternal feels are right now. Mama bear is out and she’s hungry.