It was true that after years of IVF failure, Meredith had resorted to contacting Madame Ovary, but she was too embarrassed to admit that to the other moms in the La Leche League group. They were making fun of the commercials. Madame Ovary had been far less campy in person, but her late-night two-minute appeals were definitely over the top. She looked like a sideshow gypsy, as if being a Licensed Fertility Witch was akin to reading palms and gazing into crystal balls. The moms were laughing and guessing that she must work out of the back room of a nail salon or a laundromat. In reality, there was nothing strip mall about her facility. It was in a very respectable office park out past the Walmart on Route 138.
Still. Meredith didn’t feel confident enough to divulge that information to Amanda the LLL Leader, or the dozen or so women assembled in the spacious living room of Amanda’s McMansion. Amanda looked like a magazine ad come to life. She was absolutely symmetrical. Her makeup was flawless, and she looked incredible in her yoga pants. Meredith could have sworn she was Photoshopped. Amanda smiled at everyone and glided through the crowd of moms confidently, her Toms shoes seeming to barely touch the carpet. The moms milled around before the meeting proper began, snacking on flaxseed-studded corn chips and cooing over each other’s babies.
Meredith had never set foot in a house so big. The place was a cul-de-sac castle. She stood in a gap between the grand piano and the bookshelves, clutching her own newborn. She tilted her head to read the titles in the LLL Lending Library while jiggling little Stanley rhythmically. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Birth Without Fear, Dr. Sears … but then something odd. A very thick old book, bound in deep red leather, with brass hinges. As Meredith began to slide the book off the shelf, its gilt catching the light, one of the moms laid a hand on her shoulder.
“Hell-o! My name is Gabrielle. It’s so nice to see a new face!”
She was a tall black woman, with perfect skinny dreadlocks and an impeccable French manicure. She had a cherub-faced toddler in a pack on her back, but she was effortlessly balanced on three-inch heels.
Meredith smiled and nodded, introducing herself and Stanley.
Then Gabrielle leaned in conspiratorially, her dreads dangling, and made holy-shit-intense eye contact as she said, “You know, we all came here with difficulties, Meredith. Every one of us. And now we are free. Free to love our babies, free to love ourselves.”
Gabrielle nodded with an air of profundity.
“So how is Stanley’s latch?” she asked.
* * *
The next afternoon, she was side-lying in her bed, nursing Stanley while trying to read a McSweeney’s piece on her phone. It was amusing, but her mind kept wandering to yesterday. That mom who kept humming to herself. That baby girl who Meredith could have sworn levitated for just a hot second while reaching for the vegetable-dyed handmade German wooden stacking blocks. The mom who enthusiastically insisted Meredith try sunflower oil instead of olive oil to treat Stanley’s cradle cap, adding, “Great things can start with a little sunflower oil. Have you ever read Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita?”
And then there were the tattoos. Somehow, perhaps by the grace of God, Meredith had managed to come of age as a young slut in the early 90s without the ubiquitous tramp stamp. But she was pretty sure all of the moms at the La Leche League meeting, many of them far younger than Meredith herself, had lower back tattoos. She’d had a chance to check them all out as the moms bent and reached while tending to their littles. There was a black cat, a lightning bolt, a gaggle of dancing skeletons. She was pretty sure a particularly weird one was supposed to be some kind of abstract giant squid.
* * *
Meredith had thanked Amanda for a helpful meeting and told her she’d be back next month, but Amanda called to follow up with her within 48 hours.
“The truth is,” she said, “we just lost one of our members. Joy. She moved to Chicago. And we were so happy to meet you. We all think you’ll fit in just wonderfully with the group.”
“Thanks again,” Meredith said.
“We understand that being new in town, you might not know a lot of moms already, and we would love to offer you our support and encouragement. We want to be your best friends.”
“Um, OK,” Meredith said.
“It’s a commitment, Meredith. Breastfeeding is a commitment. Mothering is a commitment. Friendship is a commitment.”
“Wow,” Meredith said.
* * *
They invited her to have brunch at Charleen’s house that Saturday. There were weak mimosas. And crab dip. Charleen had a slightly less intimidating house than Amanda did. She drove an older Volvo station wagon and still wore hair scrunchies. Charleen worked part-time at the Y as a Pilates instructor. She hinted that if Meredith became a LLL member, she could expect a little discount on Pilates classes, too.
“There’s a friend code,” she whispered, raising her groomed eyebrows.
Meredith was wearing the same jeans she’d worn to the meeting. In fact, she hadn’t washed them since then. She may or may not have slept in them one night that week, too. Stanley was having trouble latching again, so she was a mess, and actually pretty glad for the brunch. She wanted Amanda to demonstrate that C-hold again, and the “breast sandwich.”
Luckily, Amanda shimmied up to her right away. They moved to a quiet spot on Charleen’s white leather sofa. As Meredith guided Stanley’s fishfaced mouth to her exposed nipple, Amanda looked on with approval.
“That’s right, bring the baby to the breast, not the breast to the baby.”
Meredith could feel the knotted muscles in her shoulders relaxing as Stanley settled into a rhythmic pattern of sucking and swallowing.
“You see his ears move? That’s when he’s swallowing. He’s doing well. Remember not to watch the clock. He knows how much he needs. As long as he’s making plenty of wet diapers, you know he’s getting enough milk.”
Meredith sank back into the sofa cushions and almost cried. “It’s so easy when I’m here,” she said.
Suddenly, Amanda was making that creepy-as-fuck eye contact, just like the dreadlocked mom had.
“It can be this easy all the time, Meredith.”
A faux-hawked mom named Vanessa walked over with a half-empty mimosa flute in her hand. She was the one with the big cobra tattoo, its hood flared and its fanged mouth ready to strike. She glared at Meredith. She had iceberg blue eyes and they made Meredith shivery.
“You don’t have some kind of problem with witchcraft, do you? You seem like such a tolerant kind of person.”
Meredith almost mentioned Madame Ovary then, but by some inscrutable instinct, she did not. Instead she mumbled, “I went to a moon circle once before I dropped out of college. There was a cute girl named Turtle who lived in her van and we had to hold a feather and talk about our feelings.”
Amanda crinkled her brow. Vanessa rolled her cold eyes.
“Look,” Vanessa said, “We aren’t some kind of pussyfoot Wiccans. Nobody’s got time for that kind of shit.” She tossed back the rest of her diluted mimosa. “We’re fucking metal.”
It was Meredith’s turn to crinkle some part of her face. She turned to Amanda questioningly.
“It’s true,” Amanda said. “We’re metal.”
“Fucking metal,” Vanessa corrected.
“Yes,” Amanda said. “Fucking metal.”
“What’s that even supposed to mean?” asked Meredith.
“In the simplest terms,” Amanda explained, “we’ve sold our souls to the Dark Lord, Satan, for payment in abundant milk and perfectly nourished children.”
“That’s not really what I had in mind, though,” said Meredith.
“Look,” Vanessa said, “we lost Joy and we need 13 for the coven. You need to get your turds in a row and get your tattoo before the full moon.”
She was pointing her empty flute at Meredith menacingly. Her tinted lip balm was smudged.
Another mom slid onto the sofa next to Meredith and stroked Stanley’s head fuzz. She was the one with the artsy squid tattoo. The one who wanted her to read Bulgakov. She wore black eyeliner and had a Sherilyn Fenn mole next to her eye.
“Vanessa gets a little worked up sometimes. But it’s only reasonable for us to be concerned. We have a covenant to think of. Our children are depending on us, Meredith.”
“Pam is right,” said the mom with the dancing skeletons tattoo and the two long black braids that hung over her shoulders. She passed Meredith a fresh mimosa and set a 99 percent post-consumer recycled paper plate of crab dip and crudités on the coffee table in front of her.
“What we are talking about here is our children.”
“Bijal!”a mom barked from across the room. “Seriously? Eye contact much?”
“Shit,” Bijal of the Dancing Skeletons said, picking nervously at the laces on her peasant blouse. “I forgot about the eye contact. Should I say it again?”
“Oh, you don’t need to,” said Meredith. “It seemed very sincere.”
“Thank you! That means so much. I’ve been doing these affirmations, you know?”
“OK,” Amanda said, “let’s give Meredith a little space.”
They withdrew to beyond the edge of the coffee table. Other moms stepped forward from the reaches of the living room. They made a dense crescent of bodies around the sofa, their eyes trained earnestly on Meredith and her baby.
“I am so sure that you will think about what’s best for Stanley,” said Amanda with a slow nod.
“Babies’ skulls are so soft,” said Vanessa.
* * *
The moms explained that Meredith wasn’t really a prisoner. However, they had locked her into Charleen’s master bedroom suite. She did have snacks and television and fresh guest towels stacked in the attached bath. Charleen used some kind of great fabric softener and the towels smelled really good. Meredith had never actually purchased fabric softener. She understood it in theory, though.
Meredith got Stanley down for a nap and she lay on Charleen’s bed watching an episode of Myth Busters. She didn’t have cable at home. She and Kevin were lucky to catch something interesting on PBS with the digital antenna. Meredith kind of wished she could call Kevin right then and ask him to rescue her, and she would have if the moms hadn’t taken her phone, but honestly she wished even more that she could check and see if she’d won that eBay auction for the BOB Revolution Flex stroller she’d been bidding on. Kevin would likely just get pissed off at her anyway for getting herself into this mess. And she really wanted that BOB. There were so many wonderful things that she would love to have for Stanley, but she knew there was only so much that she and Kevin could afford.
If she submitted to the Great Horned Beast, Stanley would definitely have a better start in life.
On the other hand, she was pretty sure she might need her soul one day.
Meredith was loath to risk waking Stanley, but she managed to get him fastened securely to her back with a bedsheet so she could escape out Charleen’s bedroom window and go for help. She sure was glad she was wearing her stretch jeans. She had to climb down an oak tree. She cut through the back lawn that abutted Charleen’s and made for the main road. The tangle of the subdivision’s streets was confusing, and there were no sidewalks. Meredith started to sweat. She needed to scratch an itch under her left boob, and she was painfully aware that she would need to nurse Stanley again soon. Her armpits felt swollen.
She trudged toward yet another street named after a classical composer. A sleek black minivan glided to a stop in front of her blurry eyes. It was nigh silent. Hybrid.
“Quick, get in!” shouted the frizzy-haired blonde behind the wheel.
Two spit-bubbling identical redheads were rear-facing in identical Britax car seats in the middle row. This was the mom with the black cat tattoo. Maybe her name was Dinah. She had kind green eyes, love handles small enough to be adorable, and that unfortunate four-boob effect from wearing her bra a size too small. Meredith decided in one ineluctable moment that she would trust her completely.
* * *
Her name was Deirdre, not Dinah. Deirdre’s house was cozy and quiet. She had a small dog with a sparkly collar. The twins crawled on the carpet and shoved plastic rings into each other’s mouths. They were boys, Vern and James. Meredith nursed Stanley as she and Deirdre sat at the dining room table.
“It’s a fucked-up situation,” Deirdre started, nudging a bowl of trail mix toward her. It had dried cranberries in it, and Meredith couldn’t resist, even though the thought crossed her mind that it could be poisoned or drugged. But no, just look at Deirdre. She was wearing a cute cardigan and she had spirited her away from the group’s infernal grasp.
“I want out myself,” Deirdre continued. “I mean, I really do care about the babies. I love them. I want everything to be perfect. But, devil worship is really a drag.”
“I can imagine,” Meredith said.
“Such a time suck.”
“I believe that.”
“The problem really is that I don’t know if I can get my soul back now.”
“I guess Satan would probably be a dick about it.”
* * *
It was one of Madame Ovary’s ridiculous commercials that got Meredith thinking. The witch pranced on Deirdre’s flat-screen TV in her Stevie Nicks getup, trilling in the background as Vern and James babbled at each other, poking at Stanley wrapped up like a baby burrito on the sofa. If Madame Ovary could breathe life into Meredith’s shriveled uterus, wasn’t it possible that she could somehow use her magic to defeat the diabolic La Leche Leaguers?
She told Deirdre her plan. They packed up the kids into Deirdre’s minivan and drove toward the office park on 138. Deirdre wanted to stop at the Walmart for a case of baby wipes and some vitamin drops, but Meredith told her to stay focused.
Madame Ovary’s reception area was just as Meredith remembered it. Modern molded-plastic chairs with stainless-steel accents. Aloe plants and issues of Vanity Fair.
“I was expecting wind chimes and dreamcatchers,” Deirdre said.
“I’m telling you she’s not like that at all.”
Madame Ovary strode into the room in a tasteful beige pantsuit.
“Meredith! How wonderful to see you again. Oh, and the baby! How sweet he is.”
“We need your help,” Meredith said. “Our souls are in peril.”
“Please,” Madame Ovary said, “step into my exam room.”
* * *
Madame Ovary introduced herself briskly to Deirdre, handing her a crisp card embossed with her name and website. She wasted no time getting down to business. The La Leche League moms had been on Madame Ovary’s radar. In fact, she knew quite a bit about them. Amanda’s pregnancy, and her darling daughter, Echo, were the results of Madame Ovary’s magic.
Madame O revealed that it hadn’t been until after Amanda’s successful orgasmic dolphin water birth, when she realized that her inverted nipples would be a hurdle, that she turned to the dark side. Amanda had cursed her nipples and cursed God. She’d punched herself in the head and wept bitterly into her fenugreek tea.
“Her grief was too much to bear,” Madame Ovary said. “She was like a woman possessed.”
“Because she was possessed?” Meredith asked.
“Well, yes,” Madame Ovary replied. “And I fought for her, I did. I was able to cast a protective circle around her for a short time. But in the end, my Grand Caravan is just such a piece-a-shit.”
“Excuse me?” Deirdre said.
“My minivan. The only way you’re going to be able to win your soul from Satan is drag racing. It’s kind of his thing.”
“Drag racing?” Meredith asked.
“He calls it Minivan Mayhem.”
* * *
Amanda stood in the middle of the cul-de-sac, her house looming behind her, flanked by all the moms with their babies strapped to their bodies in various contortions. She wore Echo in a high back carry, crisscrossed by a woven wrap of turquoises and pinks. Her lips curled into a glossy snarl.
“Madame Ovary, we meet again.”
“Yes, but this time you aren’t blubbering ‘Breast Is Best’ hysterically while rolling in the gutter.”
Amanda tossed her Pantene-commercial hair and bounced on the balls of her feet to keep Echo babbling happily. “Things have changed.”
Vanessa stepped out of the crowd. “Enough bullshit,” she said. “Let’s do this.”
“Yes,” Madame Ovary said. “Where’s your Prince of Darkness?”
Vanessa grimaced tetchily. “That’s just passive aggressive, O. You know he prefers Prince of Light.”
“Darkness is really more apt, though, isn’t it?”
“Lucifer,” Vanessa snapped. “Lucifer, Prince of Light.”
“Whatever,” Madame Ovary said.
“So where is he?” Meredith asked.
A voice boomed out across the cul-de-sac. “HERE I AM.”
Satan sounded remarkably like Bill Cosby doing Fat Albert. Meredith turned to see that he did not look like Fat Albert or even Bill Cosby at all. He looked middle-aged and Caucasian, unexceptional save for the hooves and the jean jacket with Chinese dragons painted on the sleeves.
“Does he always talk like that?” Meredith asked.
“Like what?” Amanda said.
“You know, the Fat Albert thing.”
“Oh-em-gee,” Bijal piped up, her braids swinging. “Are you seriously fat-shaming him? And I bet you call yourself a feminist.” Bijal still had baby weight. Her dancing skeletons were a little stretched.
“No, the cartoon,” Meredith said. “Jesus, I really am the Old Mom, aren’t I?”
“Uh-uh-uh,” Amanda said, wagging a finger. “Legally, we can’t use the J-word. There was a whole packet of paperwork. The J-Man doesn’t want to have anything to do with Minivan Mayhem.”
“A fucking square, if you ask me,” said Vanessa.
Then he snarled at Meredith, “IT’S NOT FAT ALBERT, IT’S GLENN DANZIG, YOU BITCH.”
“Do you ever use your Inside Voice?” Bijal grumbled. The squirming lump in her ring sling whimpered every time The Dark Lord spoke.
“WE’RE NOT EVEN INSIDE, BIJAL.”
“Still.” Bijal pursed her lips.
“NOT EVEN INSIDE.”
“OK, enough already,” Deirdre said. “What are you driving? We’re using my minivan.”
“Ooooh! The hybrid!” Pam gasped. Her mole wiggled as her eyes widened.
Satan shook his head and snorted. “TREE HUGGERS.”
“The Prince of Light will be driving my 2016 Lexus IS,” Vanessa said. “Suck on that and choke.”
* * *
Meredith sat on the curb nursing Stanley while the moms programmed their GPS units and loaded the babies into their car seats. Fussing toddlers were demanding yogurt tubes and nut-free granola bars. Now that Satan and Bijal were done bickering, they were making out. He was pressing her against the hood of Charleen’s clapped-out Volvo, his long nails pawing eagerly at the prodigious curves beneath her pink yoga pants. Bijal giggled. Meredith tried not to stare. Amanda walked over to Meredith and looked at Stanley with soft eyes.
“How is he feeding now?” she asked. “Better?”
“He really is a cutie,” Amanda offered.
“Look, Amanda,” Meredith said, “I know you’re not a total twat.”
“Thanks,” Amanda said. “I meant it when I said we liked you.”
“The thing is, inverted nipples aren’t the end of the world. As a La Leche League leader, you should know that.”
Amanda was taken aback. Her eyebrows bobbed.
“Yeah,”said Meredith. “Sorry, but Madame Ovary told us all about your boob fail.”
“You don’t know what it was like,” Amanda whispered.
“I know what it’s like to be exhausted and trying and wearing the same jeans for a week straight.”
Amanda attempted a polite smile, but it wobbled on her face.
“You’ve never worn dirty pants for a week, have you?”
“No,” said Amanda.
“The point is, you can do this. It might be hard sometimes without the witchcraft, but just like you said, breastfeeding is a commitment. We’ll all have each other for support. Isn’t that what La Leche League is all about?”
Amanda’s eyes were moist. “But I couldn’t even get pregnant without Madame Ovary.”
“Me either! But here we are,” Meredith said. She stood up and laid some of that insane eye contact on Amanda. “We are going to win this race. We are going to win back the souls of the whole coven. Being a mom is hard, but you can do it without Satan’s help.”
“I just don’t know,” said Amanda.
* * *
They met on a long straight stretch of Route 138. The moon was full and the rivets on Satan’s jean jacket gleamed. Parked minivans lined both sides of the asphalt. The coven moms drank smoothies they had picked up on the way, and Meredith considered asking one of them for a juice box or something. Madame Ovary was pulling on leather driving gloves. She’d shed her beige office attire in favor of a bright-red zippered jumpsuit, also leather.
“She could totally pull off wearing a mask with that,” Deirdre said from over Meredith’s shoulder.
Meredith nodded. “Very superhero. She is so hot.”
“OK, BITCHES,” Satan announced, “IT’S TIME TO ROLL.”
“Let me just remind you all,” Amanda said, “that we’re racing for souls.”
Her look lingered on Meredith.
“And for the children!” Pam exclaimed.
Vanessa shoved past Pam and stood inches from Meredith’s face. “You could have been cooperative,” she said. “You could have been a helper.”
“I just really want to keep my soul, though,” Meredith said.
Vanessa’s nostrils twitched. “Because you’re lame sauce.”
The engines of the two minivans roared. The moms cheered. Lightning bisected the starry sky, and everybody turned to look at Satan in Vanessa’s Lexus.
“YEAH,” he said, “I DID THAT.”
Meredith hustled over to Deirdre’s minivan and stuck her head into the open driver’s side window.
“Thank you, Madame O. Thank you so much for doing this.”
Madame Ovary’s gloved hand shot out and grabbed a fistful of Meredith’s t-shirt.
“You’ve got to do this, Meredith.”
“What? Fuck that!”
“No, seriously,” Madame Ovary said. “The Dark Lord has defeated me once already. You have to take the wheel. It’s the only way we can save their souls.”
Meredith balked. “You’re just having a little dip in confidence, that’s all.”
“No, no. I’m really great at fertility magic but I’m shit at drag racing.”
“Well, fuck,” said Meredith. “Let me get Stanley in the car seat.”
* * *
Meredith was no expert on the unwritten social contract normal people have about the rules of drag racing, but she was certain Satan was driving dirty. He was not keeping in his lane. And just seconds after they’d both done their wicked burnouts, a thick swarm of demons had erupted from the side window of Satan’s minivan and covered the windshield of Meredith’s. They looked like Jim Henson goblins, and she tried to knock them loose with the wipers. It only helped a little. They slobbered on the glass, and Meredith peered between them as she buried the needle of the speedometer. The soundtrack from the Curious George movie blared through the speakers.
Jack Johnson, give me strength.
The Lexus swerved and nudged Meredith’s bumper. She skidded into the gravel shoulder and back onto the asphalt. They were fast approaching the bend before the Walmart parking lot, where they’d agreed to turn back. The layer of demons on the windshield burst into flames. Suddenly, the cab of the minivan was ripe with the tangy yeast smell of breastmilk poop.
“Oh, damn,” Meredith said. She pressed the button for the hazard lights and eased onto the shoulder.
She was crouched in the backseat holding Stanley’s ankles in one hand and gently swabbing his tush with a baby wipe when Satan sauntered up to the minivan and leaned into the open sliding side door.
“WHATCHA DOIN’?” he asked.
“What’s it look like?” Meredith replied. “Stanley made poops.”
Satan nodded and dragged one hoof through the gravel casually.
“OH, I LIKE THIS SONG,” he said, jutting his chin toward the stereo.
Meredith snapped the harness over Stanley’s chest. She really didn’t want to make small talk.
“I WAS THINKING MAYBE WE COULD, LIKE, HANG OUT AND JUST SEE HOW WE GET ALONG.”
“No, thanks,” Meredith said. “Let’s just finish with the drag racing thing.”
Satan grimaced. “YOU KNOW, I’M KIND OF MISUNDERSTOOD.”
“OK, then,” Meredith said, shrugging. “Do you want to forfeit?”
“NO,” he said petulantly. “BUT WE COULD MAKE A DEAL WHERE I JUST EAT THE BABY AND WE CALL IT EVEN.”
“You’re an asshole.”
Meredith slid back into the driver’s seat.
“NO, I’M REALLY NOT,” Satan said. “WHAT ABOUT IF WE JUST GO BACK TO MY RAPE CAVE AND WATCH SOME NETFLIX?”
Meredith slammed the door shut and revved the engine.
“Rape jokes are never funny.”
She pounded her foot on the accelerator and peeled out, sending a spray of gravel into the Dark Lord’s face as she turned. He hissed and hid his visage behind one side of his jean jacket. Smoldering demons slid from the windshield and scattered in a cloud of cinders. Meredith hauled ass.
She was halfway back to the moms when she saw him in the rearview mirror, hell-bent on overtaking her, the Lexus a flaming streak on the center line. The night sky roiled above him, curdling with black clouds and stabbed by lightning. Thunder shook the road and the asphalt cracked just yards ahead of Meredith. She slammed on the brakes as hard as she could, and the minivan spun sideways, airbags deploying.
Meredith clawed her way out of the driver’s seat and tumbled toward Stanley. He was blinking and sucking contentedly, his three middle fingers jammed between his pink lips. Meredith unfastened his five-point harness and scooped him into her arms. Satan’s minivan was screeching to a halt beside the wreckage of her own.
He stood in the middle of the road, his bland Caucasian forehead now bulging with curling ram’s horns. He unfurled a gigantic pair of midnight blue wings, the feathers crackling with electricity. His pants were now missing, and his terrifyingly huge penis was erect and barbed. When he bellowed, Meredith realized that she had never before heard a true bellow. She felt like her kneecaps would split open.
But she ran.
She clutched Stanley tightly and ran like the fucking wind. She would finish the race on foot and win those souls if it killed her. Satan chased after, his wings still spread wide, his hooves sending up sparks and cracking the asphalt with each impact. Meredith could see the moms in the distance, lining the sides of the road. They were stomping and cheering. One of the toddler moms waved a Baby Bjorn potty in the air above her head, like a drunk chick at a Skynyrd concert waving her bra. Meredith wasn’t sure who they were actually rooting for at this point, but it didn’t matter. She just ran as fast as she could. She thought that if it were a movie, it would be the perfect time for a flashback to reveal she’d been a high school track star. Unfortunately, as a teenager Meredith just hung out behind the bleachers and smoked pot. Satan was literally breathing down her neck.
She was millimeters away from feeling his talons sink deep into the meat of her shoulders when Amanda came screaming out of the underbrush like a wild and glorious yoga-pantsed banshee, tackling Satan with her full body weight and ramming her bent elbow straight into his windpipe. He flew off his hooves sideways, his great thorny member swinging helplessly as he gasped for air. He hit the road and the ground shook. Meredith felt a surge of adrenalin as she turned and sprinted toward the finish.
She collapsed into mom arms, hyperventilating. Madame Ovary cradled Stanley as Meredith’s head swayed on her neck and her eyes rolled madly. Pam clamped a Trader Joe’s grocery sack over her mouth and instructed her to breathe deeply.
“Unholy fuck, you actually did it,” Vanessa said. She stood there slack-jawed, unsure what to do next. There was nobody to threaten.
“We’re free!” Deirdre squealed.
Moms were looking at each other in confusion, clutching their babies anxiously.
“What’s going to happen now?” Pam asked, her black-lined eyes gone big again.
She removed the bag from Meredith’s face, and Meredith tried to answer, but her lips were rubber and her vision dissolved.
* * *
“I am so happy you could make it,” Meredith said, opening her front door wide. “Everybody else is already here!”
She’d put up a decorative wreath for the occasion. A thick circle of braided ivy speckled with spray glitter hung on the painted yellow wood.
Amanda stood on Meredith’s doorstep, beaming, Echo in an Ergo on her back. The classic, discontinued insect print. It must have cost her a small fortune.
She hugged Meredith warmly.
“You know I wouldn’t miss it for the world! It’s not just any day a new leader hosts her first La Leche League meeting!”
“I owe it all to you, Amanda.”
“Oh, stop.” She blushed.
Then she leaned in and did the eye contact.
“It’s a commitment,” Amanda said. “Breastfeeding, mothering. Friendship.”
Meredith smiled and lifted up the back of her t-shirt to show her new tattoo.
“What do you think?”
“Oh!” said Amanda. “Oh. My. God. A flaming minivan. That is so you.”