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Facing the Wind

Samantha Murray is a writer, mathematician, and mother. Not particularly in that order. Her stories have been seen in places such as Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Writers of the Future Volume 31, Escape Pod, Flash Fiction Online, Nature Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and previously here at Daily Science Fiction. Samantha won the 2016 Aurealis Award for best SF short story. You can follow her at mailbysea.wordpress.com, or find her on twitter @SamanthaNMurray. Samantha lives in Western Australia in a household of unruly boys.

Every day when I wake up, something has changed. I can never really relax until I find out what it is each time. I wake, and blink, and feel the familiar tightness behind my breastbone.
Sometimes I find it early. We now have a pool, or our cat Victoria has become a curly-haired labradoodle named Wallis. The landscape painting in greys and browns I always loved has become a slightly awkward looking nude; I don't appear to need glasses anymore; our bed is now a futon; I am now left-handed.
Only one thing changes, at least I have always and ever only found one. If anything else has changed, if my favorite book now has a different ending, I do not know it.
I always find it--the one thing. A few months ago it was past 8 p.m. and I still had not caught it, and I thought the fizzy tension would set my teeth chattering, but then the phone rang and it was my Mother, to ask about golf on Wednesday. My mother who had passed away this last December.
Or who didn't pass away. After I find it, the new memories slowly creep up on me. And gradually, although it can take some time, the old memories, the ones belonging only to me now, that no one shares anymore, fade. Still there, just lacking in luster.
Still there.
You come out of the shower, your hair damp, and the familiar, swirling horror recedes. Your eyes are brown, a deep brown I fall into, as they have always been, as I always have.
Surely I'd love you if your eyes were green instead of brown, if your skin was pale, if you had a cock hanging between your legs. Surely I would.
I didn't fall in love with the color of your eyes. Or did I? Sometimes it feels like I might die a little, just a little, if I woke and found your eyes were not brown.
"Can you feed Wallis?" You ask me, and when I go downstairs to do so I find that our old oak table is now an oval of some dark, sleeker, more reflective wood. I sit there and let my breathing slow to the point of stillness.
Our son is at camp, and I am reminded of how quiet it was before he was here. Before I woke up one morning and found that I had an almost-three year old, sleeping with flushed cheeks in the room next to ours. That I had traded the scars of years of childlessness, failed rounds of IVF, early miscarriages, negative pregnancy tests and despair, despair, despair, for this one long curved scar at the base of my belly.
When I was a child I thought this must happen to everyone, but it was somehow secret, hushed, not to be spoken of. That they might wake and find their favorite toy was now a giraffe instead of a shaggy bear; that the colors of their room would change to bright yellow. I asked my best friend what changed for her, because I thought we were such good friends that even this most secret thing could be shared. She giggled, and looked confused, and I found out that this was not, after all, a thing we could have between us. Later that year her seat was filled one day with a freckled boy called Felix. He was my best friend too, but I never asked him about it.
I told you. Early in our relationship, when the thought of secrets between us was abhorrent. Some days after I had woken to find the curves of my body new terrain, softer, more mysterious. I had never questioned my male body, but this new, concave, convexing body felt right too.
I told you, and you did not believe me. You were concerned, you tried to understand. But you did not believe me. How could you love me and not believe me? I didn't know then. I don't know if I know now.
To you, I was the same as I had always been, everything we had was what we had always had.
I have never understood how changing one thing could not change everything, changes fanning out like the ripples in a pond. Could everything else stay the same? Surely it could not. It couldn't, surely. Unless I am somehow hopping to universes that are compensating and balancing in counterpoint, cancelling out those ripples in exactly the right way so that everything is still again. A frozen pond.
I don't know. There are questions I have stopped asking myself. I have stopped wondering if there are other mes, lurching to fill the space of the lives I have moved on from, the life only different in one way. Or if that old life has ceased to exist everywhere but in my head. Of if maybe it never existed, was only ever a possibility and yet somehow I felt it and lived it and breathed it.
I wake feeling peaceful. This is new.
I feed the dog, his golden curly head soft under my cupped hand.
I find you in the garden, pegging clothes on the line, your lips thin and tight.
And I know, with a quick intake of breath, I know, the thing that is different about today.
You have not changed. Your eyes are brown. You are the one thing that is constant.
But you have changed, too. There are little lines crosshatched in the delicate skin under your eyes. There is more asperity in your tone. Your gaze used to catch and hold mine, but now your eyes dart away from mine like little minnows.
A sharp chill breeze has swept through my heart, leaving it full of baleful, unsettled leaves. And I don't know if this knowledge is what I was meant to find this morning, or if later I will find the car in our garage is now a blue station wagon, or that I have a grown-up daughter just gone off to college.
I don't know, but I know it is true.
I don't love you, anymore.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, December 14th, 2017
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