Fiction from Laila Amado

Peach and gray bathroom tiles

Photo: Danny Howe

Complete Blood Count

The time you cry in a stall of the girls’ restroom in middle school. The walls are dismal beige and a telephone number of someone called Tasha is scribbled on the wall in black ink. There is a bright red blotch on the crotch of your panties. Your friends are waiting for you; their laughter echoes through the hallway. You think you might be dying. You stay in the stall until your friends get bored and leave, and the school goes quiet, and you hear the cleaner pushing her trolley at the far end of the hall. Then, only then, you roll up a wad of toilet paper, stuff it in your panties and run home, sobbing.

The time you sit on the toilet in your college dorm scrutinizing the pristine whiteness of your panties. It’s that time of the month, but your period is not coming. The thought of going out to buy a pregnancy test makes you feel vaguely unwell. You text your boyfriend. He doesn’t respond, never calls you back. When you manage to corner him in the hallway, he avoids looking at you. One week later, you’re sitting in a green plastic chair at the clinic. Alone.

The time you wail like a banshee in the bathroom of the house bought together with your husband. The sage tiles and the carefully chosen flower prints shift in and out of focus. There is a deep burgundy stain on your panties. It shouldn’t be there. You’re on your seventh week—the last one—of your third pregnancy. “How long will you keep trying?” asks your mother when you call her.

The time you swear in the bathroom of the house for which the mortgage has been paid in full. Your children are off to their respective colleges and the last day of summer is quiet. You’re staring at the clean crotch of your panties. No sign of blood. Your face is on fire. Hot lava is spilling down your chest, promising to burn everything.

There is a bright red blotch on the satin of your panties. Your last period was fifteen years ago. The walls of the bathroom stall at the airport close in, a dismal beige, and you take a deep breath, buy a tampon from a vending machine, straighten your dress, take the connecting flight to attend your son’s wedding. You’ll set an appointment with the doctor when you get back. You hope you still have time.

Laila Amado writes in her second language, lives in her fourth country, and cooks decent paella. Her stories have been published or are forthcoming in Best Small Fictions 2022, Rejection Letters, Milk Candy Review, Gastropoda, No Contact, and other publications. In her free time, she can be found staring at the Mediterranean Sea. Occasionally, the sea stares back. Follow her on Twitter at @onbonbon7.

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