Lea looked into the distance and walked back to her car. Dry year, pale dry, yellow washed out, she thought and drove, back into the city, going sixty. She had sat on that field and observed the floodway and the faint spells of colours blooming and the sunlight penetrating. A dog and its owner had passed and they were now two lines on the gravel, but Lea had forgotten about them. Dust unsettled. The ground prickled, the ground was stubble. After ten minutes she blinked and left and picked away the pebbles from the sole of her sandalled foot, one hand balanced on the silver door.
It was Saturday, and she had one errand to do. It was no rush, fingers tapping on the steering wheel, there would not be much to do. She slowed down and veered towards the centre of the road for a cyclist, and then came back to it. This was a steady car, Lea’s parents’ car, the family car, and the tank was full, filled up for her before they left for China this morning, two suitcases each.
Twice at this drugstore Lea had bumped into a guy she knew from her old elementary school, mainly because they shared the same bus, although never the same seat. He really had not changed physically, making small talk in his blue collared uniform. No discernable features, one shape amongst other shapes. The entire strip mall was like that.
It was quiet under the radio music, and she made an educated guess as to the aisle. Lea was right because they were right at the opening, big wide section. She crouched down, then slowly extended her legs upward, carefully eying the prices, looking for indications of red stickers. Googled some reviews, texted a friend back with some abbreviations and emojis. Oh—it barely mattered, it barely mattered. She grabbed a purple box with two pregnancy tests and headed to the self-check-out.
She had ten dollars to redeem from her points card but figured, not today. Her mom had always advised her to keep accumulating the points. It made sense that way.
“Are you sure you cannot come with us, Lili?”
“Mama, I’ve told you, my work won’t let me!”
“Did you even ask? I feel like it would be fine.”
“Three weeks? My job contract is barely four months. Don’t worry, I’ll make it next time. Or on my own time.”
“Alright. I’ll make some extra food and freeze it for you. What do you want?”
Her period was late but was she really worried? The sex she had had was embarrassing and incomplete. Which is probably why she did not bother Adam regarding condoms. And which is why she was careful. The light transformed yellow and Lea pressed the break. She and her friend agreed that if she was truly pregnant, it would be immaculate conception. But that she had to get birth control, soon.
It was a dry year, smoke filled summer, gray cold and hot. The houses stood quiet, and two twin fawn stood quietly, wobbling near their mother in the neighbourhood forest. Lea’s dad said the smell was that of his childhood autumns in the countryside. Nowadays, the Chinese government ordered the burning; standardized and contained. It kept her inside, reorganizing her bookshelf and trying new recipes before her move for grad school. There was an ache for all those books she could not bring, all these years.
“When the beans are grown, make sure to harvest them. Or else they’ll grow old and won’t be any good.”
“How often do you want me to water the vegetables?”
“Depends on if it rains. If it’s still dry, every two to three days.”
“Sounds good, hope we get lots of veggies!”
“Yes Lili. And also—keep an eye out for rabbits!”
“I know, of course.”
Lea sat on the concrete stairs of her front porch, flipping the purple box around in her hands. She wanted to laugh. Adam also told her to not worry. Adam was somewhere on the West coast with some co-workers. She told him to bring extra layers, and to visit the emerald lake at the provincial border. He agreed and only brought one flimsy fleece. She liked their friendship. Friends, she told her family.
She turned the key into the lock, and heard scrambling. A zipping, a small clang, an opening of the fridge.
Oh you whore, I am just about to make dinner. Do you want me to reheat or pan fry your jiaozi?”
Lea made her way into the kitchen, and found her mother transferring the dumplings from a glass container to a white plate, the old green apron tied around her waist. Lea then looked towards the backyard—her dad was pulling out dandelions in his outdoor jeans.
“Where were you? It’s starting to get so smoky outside.”
Her mom turned towards her and gave a small smile, then turned around to grab the pan from the pantry.
“By the way, dad needs the car tonight. And I’m heading to the grocery market in the morning, let me know if you need anything. You have made me lose my dignity.”
When she finished dinner and washing the dishes, Lea headed upstairs. She closed the washroom door and brought out the box from the drawer. Sitting on the toilet seat, she peeled the cardboard and handled the crinkly plastic wrap around the stick. She read the instructions and came to the thing about morning pee. So, she decided to wait.
When she woke with her eyes closed there was the smell of heavy smoke in the air. Her skin tingled with a dew that was bound to the grass. She stretched her body and felt the sleek blades of grass bending to her limbs. And when she finally opened her eyes, she was met by two red globes. It was a small grey rabbit, gently masticating, little water drops wriggling on the pad of its nose. Lea kept still, her right cheek to the ground. The rabbit kept its red eyes on her gaze and hopped forward, sniffing her face, rubbing its fur against her chest. It stopped at her waist, laid a paw on the pocket of her pants, and scattered away.
Lea didn’t move but moved her hand towards her pocket. She felt the plastic stick and brought it to her face. One line—negative.
She breathed out, and rolled onto her back. The sky was smoke orange, and she wept.
Grace Ma is biking towards the forest meadow of her dream. She is currently studying law at McGill, and previously completed a double major in English and Environmental Science at the University of Toronto. She is a former Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Review, and her poetry has been published in Acta Victoriana, the UC Review, and The Lyre.