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November 15, 2021

The Wraith

Ellie Gordon

for Brendan

After the long-overdue conversation that resulted in my wife not talking for the rest of dinner, she broke silence at 3:12 AM.

“The baby’s crying.”

I’d heard it too, but thought I was dreaming. I only sat up once she left the bed. “Where are you going?”

Again, she said, “The baby’s crying.”

Our door and windows were locked. We lived on the fifth floor. Either I didn’t know how to explain my concern about a baby mysteriously appearing in our apartment to somebody who was more than painfully aware of never having kids, or I was simply at my limit with months of her wistfully staring at other families during our date nights, or how she avoided the question whenever her parents asked about "settling down"; not to mention her secret Facebook account featuring photos of newborns, accessible only to those she’d added as friends.

In short, I’d lost the energy to stop my wife from chasing what wasn’t there. She entered the hall and vanished into darkness as a police helicopter’s spotlight flashed the bathroom window. The accompanying sirens upset our uninvited visitor even more. Crying turned to shrieking. Our neighbor pounded the shared wall. Everything overwhelmed my senses until I heard my wife in the other room.


The wailing faded. The neighbor’s TV resumed its place as the only noise to invade our apartment. My wife sang for the first time since our honeymoon. When she returned, it was without a child. “Well?” I asked.

“It’s fine now.”

Whatever it was, it kept me up all night. When morning came, my wife stirred, then pressed herself against my back. She kissed my ear before whispering, “I love you.”

And something similar in shape to me--sleepless, unblinking--slipped between us to say, “I love you too.”