“Round” by Zoe DeLeon

Cynthia’s eyes flicker between her cereal and her mother’s stomach. The cereal, once a swirl of sugary delight, has dissolved into a tasteless texture; its rainbow drained into the milky depths below.

“Finish your cereal honey, or you’ll be late,” her mother says, engorging a banana. Cynthia knows the hunger comes from the bulge and recoils. The stomach is encased in orange polyester.

Leaving her cereal, Cynthia propels herself to progress with the boring schedule of the everyday, putting on her school uniform- a white shirt with a stiff skort.

In the minivan, Cynthia’s heart thumps with the bumps in the road. She envisions the replacement in her car seat, and shudders.

“Make it a great day Cyn,” her mother says. As if she has control over how her day goes.

Mrs. Hornsburger greets them and her wrinkly hands touch her mother’s orange roundness.

“You’re going to be a big sister,” a classmate named Kara says. Cynthia pictures herself as a giant next to a cute little baby.

Why do they make us do math before lunch? Spork. Skort… Cynthia’s brain reels with the elementary school portmanteaus. Kara busily scribbles on her worksheet, tongue pushing out of her mouth in concentration. Kara’s plump face is framed with bushy hair and a bright orange hair clip.

Spork. Skort. Spork. Skort. Cynthia’s grubby fingers grip her pencil, digging into the wide ruled paper with feverish intensity. She retraces the number six over and over again: the impregnated number. Six. Six. Spork. Skort.

Kara glows with authorial creation and a worksheet full of correct answers. Her hair clip mocks Cynthia, whose paper is mutilated with sixes.

An uncomfortable warmness trickles down Cynthia’s leg.

Six. Six. Six. Six. Six. Six. Spork. Skort. Spork. Skort. Spork. Skort. Spork. Skort.

The unnatural protuberance! The blinding brightness of the orange!

Tears leak from Cynthia’s eyes and her damp skort chafes her inner thigh. A small puddle forms, and she wallows in her own overflowing misery

“Is everyone finished with his or her worksheet?” Mrs. Hornsburger looms from her dominating desk at the front of the classroom.

Cynthia shifts in her seat. Self-disgust hits her nostrils with the smell of the urine.

A bell rings for lunch and a gaggle of giggly uniforms grab lunchboxes and leave the classroom.

Kara stays behind. She stares at Cynthia.

“What?” Cynthia asks, hastening to crumple her defaced worksheet. .

“Do you want me to tell Mrs. Hornsburger to call your mom?”

Cynthia says nothing.

“It’s going to be okay, you know.”

As if saying it’s going to be okay actually makes it okay.

“Why don’t you try saying it?”

“Saying what?”

“Say: it’s going to be okay.”

A pause.

“It’s going to be okay.”

“Say it again.”

“It’s going to be okay.”

This approach to life had never occurred to Cynthia before. Believing that you can…

Not many first graders experience revelations before lunchtime, but Cynthia wasn’t just any first grader. She is going to be a big sister.

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