Mother’s Milk

1

“I’m hungry, mummy,” the girl said atop her mother’s lap. They were on the couch, daddy alongside with a hand on his little girl’s leg, eyes on the touch screen of his phone.

The girl was growing to be something of a monster, and whenever she flashed that look—the wide-eyed sparkle and frenzied grin—it meant she was after one thing. “But there’s nothing left,” her mother said. “Mummy’s milkies dried up a long time ago. You’re a big girl now. You eat big girl food, like sandwiches and pasta and sushi.”

“Mil-kies, mil-kies,” she said in a half-laughing zombie voice. She held her mother’s arms tight to her body, bared pointy whites, attempted to bite at a breast.

The mother arched away and nudged her daughter off but the girl kept pushing, mouth searching for a place to connect. “Sweetheart, stop trying to eat me. Daddy will get you something to eat. Won’t you, Daddy?”

“I’m looking at old photos of us, from last summer,” he said, fingering the phone. He smiled. “Look. Here’s one where we’re at the beach. And another, all of us caught up in the seaweed. It covered the sand completely, do you remember that? That was a great day. Do you remember?”

“Honey! Help me!” the mother shrieked. The girl had suckered herself to her mother’s neck.

“She’s very attached to you. What can I do?” he said.

“Get her something to eat. Something that isn’t me!”

The little one unlatched. “Milkies,” came the demand.

“Offer her a glass of milk,” he said.

But the girl was already shaking her head. “No. I want mummy.”

The phone binged and buzzed, and he buried himself deeper into the lit glass. “Well, my princesses,” he said, rising up, “this means I have to head off for a bit. See you soon, okay?”

The girl smiled sweetly, skinny limbs still hooked around her mother’s. “Goodbye, daddy.”

The mother implored her husband with a frantic look from her pinned-in position.

“You’ll be right,” he said, and he pressed kisses onto their foreheads, tugged the front door to a gentle close.

*

It took minutes for her to drink in the whole of her mother from neck to toe, bones and all, until the only part left of her was the head—externally intact, though ever so slightly dehydrated. The brain had been devoured, the skull sucked clean from within.

When her daddy returned, the girl was frolicking around the house, wearing the hollowed-out head over her own.

“My tiny ballet dancer.” He laughed and picked her up, swept the too-long strands from her obstructed view. “You know,” he said, gazing into her face, “you have your mother’s mouth.”

Photo by Dean Pasch

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About Author

Hannah van Didden lives in Perth, Western Australia, with her husband and their three children. As well as playing with words, Hannah chases butterflies with her little people, eats mindfully, and fixes broken projects. She likes to think that her shower voice is particularly suited to jazz; others in earshot may not agree. You will find some of Hannah's short pieces in Southword Journal, Quail Bell Magazine, Gravel Magazine, A Quiet Courage, and the Other Voices anthology--and on her writing blog, http://37thirtyseven.wordpress.com. She hopes to have her first novel published soon.

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