Shifa’s love of experimental fiction and feminist theory have contributed to the conception of ‘Womb’, a serialized novel to be featured here once every two weeks week. Here’s chapter onetwothreefourfivesixseven  and eight.

When K— gets home I’m sitting at the dining table, smoking a cigarette.

He frowns and walks over. He snatches the cigarette from between my lips and puts it out.

“What’s wrong with you?” He says “You’re pregnant. You shouldn’t be doing that!”

“This isn’t working out,” I say quietly. I stare fixedly at the floor.

“What isn’t working out?” He looks unconcerned; he brushes something off his shirt.

“This. You, us. The baby.”

“These are the hormones talking.” His voice is confident, like he believes he knows me inside-out.

“You’re right. I’m stressed out. I need to get away from it all for a while. Is that okay?”

“A holiday?” He is nonchalant.

“Something like that.”

“Where to?”

“It’s a place just outside town—it’s a retreat, as a matter of fact. It caters to women like me—women who are pregnant and just need to get away from it all for a bit. You don’t have to worry—I spoke to Lakshmi, she had a friend who stayed there once. It’s legit. Unlike the other one. No psychotropic medication in your morning coffee.”  I smile.

“Are you sure? A bit of yoga in the morning? A few books to read? Massages? That sort of thing?”

“Yes! Exactly. Just what I need.”

“Okay then. How long would this last?”

“Just until I’m feeling better. Maybe three weeks?”

“That sounds fair.” He bends down and kisses my forehead. “I love you. I want you to be happy.”

“I am happy,” I say, sounding sincere.

“Good,” he smiles, kisses me full on the lips, lays a hand against my belly. “When are you leaving?”

“A few days maybe? Lakshmi’s setting it all up. She’ll call me.”

He smiles. “What’s for dinner?” He asks.

“Come visit me,” I say.

“I will. Let’s eat.”

He sits down opposite me. I rise to get the food from the kitchen.

There is a quick tightening of my stomach muscles. A flutter like a sigh in secret spaces.

I smile and return.