Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Fire in the Belly"

This poem is from the December 1, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] technoshaman and [personal profile] lone_cat. It also fills the "competent" square in my 12-1-15 card for the Defining Character Bingo fest, and the "warming/cooling drinks" square in my 6-10-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the Damask thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Fire in the Belly"


I wake up with Mallory shaking me, hard,
hard enough to make the bed squeak,
and the storm outside rattles cold rain
against the bedroom windows.

"Something's going on and I don't know what
and it's driving me nuts and I need to know,"
she says all in one desperate breath.

She's sweaty and hunched over with
one hand clutching her belly, and
I really don't want to get puked on.

"I'll get Clement," I say.

He's asleep, all my other headmates
are at fuck o'clock in the morning,
but when I hammer my fist against
the green door, Clement comes out.

"Mallory needs you --" is all I get out
before he bolts toward Front.


I dive into Front, and already I
can tell how upset Mallory is.

"What's wrong?" I ask.

"I've been trying to figure out
all week if what I feel is just gas
or is actually the baby kicking," she says.

"That's normal," I assure her.
"Lots of women have trouble telling
at first, especially new mothers."

"Only now I've been having hot and cold flashes
all day, and it's getting so bad it woke me up,"
she says, rubbing her belly with one hand.

Bad enough for her to come wake us up,
and she hates asking for help, I realize.

"Temperature swings can be normal too,
or they might mean something more," I say.
"Would you like me to take a look?"

"Yeah," Mallory says. She drags up
her sleep shirt to give me access to
her bare skin, and it's fever-hot ...
except that she doesn't look flushed.

"Are you feeling hot and cold flashes
all over your body, or just here?" I ask.

"Mostly just there," she says.
"It's like a fire in the belly,
but then sometimes it spreads.
Why's it doing this to me?"

"You know, superpowers can be
inherited," I point out. "Sometimes
they manifest even before birth now."

"Fucking great," she mutters.

I sweep my power over her, through her,
but I can't pin down anything.

The temperature shifts are real enough
that they've left pools of warm and cool flesh
behind that I can find, but beyond that
there is nothing more than glimpses,
like a bird moving behind leaves.

"I'm sorry, Mallory, I'm just a healer, not
a gift-reader," I say, spreading my hands.
"I can't tell you for sure whether this is
regular pregnancy stuff or super stuff.
All I can say is that the baby's fine and
whatever it is, doesn't seem to be
causing any actual damage."

"Fuck my life," she grumbles.
"When I came in here, I was roasting,
and now I'm freezing." She shivers
in her thin sleep shirt, and the rain
against the window makes me cold too.

"Come on, let's go down to the kitchen,"
I say, getting up to grab a bathrobe.
"I found a recipe for hot cocoa made
with white chocolate and basil."

"Baby loves the basil," Mallory says dryly.
"Let me grab a robe and I'll come down."

That gives me time to put the pan
on the stove and start warming
the milk with the basil leaves.

I'm grating the white chocolate
into a bowl when Mallory arrives.

"Sorry I'm being such a pain again,"
she says as she sits down.

"I don't think you're being a pain," I say.
"I'm sorry that you're uncomfortable,
but I enjoy helping people."

Thunder grumbles outside, spring storm
shaking the trees around the house
as the wet, chill wind tries
to find a way inside.

The kitchen is fragrant with
the scent of warm milk and basil.
I strain out the leaves, then
put the milk back on the stove
with the white chocolate,
stirring briskly.

"I could get used to it,"
Mallory says quietly to my back.

I smile where she can't see it.

* * *


Quickening, the first motion of an unborn baby, typically becomes noticeable between week 13 and 25 weeks. This is Monday, May 5, and Mallory is 17 weeks pregnant.

"Fire in the belly" can mean passionate dedication to a cause, or medical issues such as digestive upset and immune disorders. But it also touches on more allegorical things.

Temperature swings are common during pregnancy because the same hormones that regulate fertility also control temperature.

Thermal Manipulation is a superpower for making things warmer or colder. Flickering is one type of manifestation where powers seem to "blink" on and off quickly. Some babies even display superpowers before birth, especially if both parents have superpowers themselves.

Asking for help can be very difficult, especially for people who have had bad experiences with it in the past. This is huge progress for Mallory, compared to how she's handled things alone before due to lack of better options. Follow the steps to stop thinking of help as a sign of weakness, and then to ask for help.

Emotional First Aid suggests ways to comfort an upset friend.

Herbal hot chocolate can be customized for many purposes. White chocolate such as this Tafeln Weisse Vanille has different health benefits than dark chocolate. Basil soothes fevers and stress.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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