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Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from Naomi & The Reckoning, a new novelette by Christine Sloan Stoddard from Finishing Line Press.
Naomi abandoned the Catholic Church on her wedding day. She fled the moment her new husband came inside of her swollen vagina and fell asleep on top of her. Though she didn’t turn her eyes to heaven and curse the pope, she turned her eyes to the dusty ceiling fan in the motel room. The whiny appliance threatened to fall on the newlyweds at any second. Naomi decided she would’ve welcomed the incident. At least then she would never have to have painful, awkward sex with her husband again.
Naomi flicked off the lamp on the warped, particleboard nightstand and thought about brunch with her family the next morning. She didn’t imagine she would be hungry, even though they were going to her favorite restaurant—another “contemporary Southern fusion” joint with “eclectic décor” and “a lively ambiance,” as the city culture magazine once described it. Naomi would stare at her shrimp and grits as her stomach did a backflip. She pictured the dress she chose for the occasion—a burgundy chiffon number—somehow getting stained, even though it was dark, and she didn’t plan on touching food or drink of any kind. She would feel too sore and defeated. She was already more battered than a Thanksgiving turkey that was donated to a homeless shelter by a supermarket the day after Black Friday.
During premarital counseling, Naomi’s pastor told her and her then- fiancé that one does not “lose” their virginity; they “give” it. Sex is a gift, an act of love. Its purpose is to create children and express love, in order to strengthen the marital bond. What the pastor did not mention as he shifted in his chair, was pleasure. After reading so many sex articles with guilty fascination, Naomi wanted the thrill promised to her in Cosmopolitan and Glamour. She wanted to curl her toes and wipe sweat from her brow. She wanted endlessness and perfection. But that desire also gave her a bad taste in her mouth. She shuddered.
It’s only the first day and you’ve aged a century, Naomi told herself as she got up to spit and drink a glass of water. The water ran as she inspected her reflection in the mirror. Apart from the fake eyelashes she had put on for her wedding, she looked the same as yesterday. Still with those big green eyes and the mauve scar left over from her infant cleft lip operation. When Naomi was dating, she used to imagine herself without the scar, and wonder how many more men would’ve noticed her if she hadn’t been born with a gaping hole in the middle of her face. The girl with the cleft lip doesn’t get catcalled.