Saturday 6 June 2020

Debut Fiction: 'Sophie' by Deb Waters

The woman in the café is about to give birth.

I can tell it’s her first by the way her mother fusses and instructs, and that it’s soon by the bursting rotundity of her belly. Sophie’s pretty, blonde, retroussé-nosed. She’s polite to the server. But she’s not happy; she twists her limbs, exhales with effort. She half-smiles at photos of her mother’s Christmas pudding party but it’s hard to tell if she cares. Perhaps she thinks there are better foods to celebrate.

Sophie’s husband comes in, opens his arms and cocks his head like a spaniel. He also has a belly, which isn’t unusual – some men gain weight when their partners are pregnant; it’s an empathy thing. He orders a cappuccino, adds three sugars and howls at his mother-in-law when she says she smoked when she was pregnant.

‘The doctor said I’d have an easier birth,’ she says laughing.

‘Ah, the good old days,’ he says. Sophie scratches her elbow.

He asks his mother-in-law about her Brussels trip.

‘The Christmas markets are wonderful,’ he says.

‘Have you been?’ she replies.

‘Well, no, but they’re amazing. Did you drink glühwein? Did you try the moules frites? Delicious.’ Sophie’s husband is a man who knows everything, even about places he’s never been and things he’s never seen. He rubs his stomach. He likes his food. He likes his life.

Sophie pecks at poached eggs as if eating is a chore. Sophie’s husband talks about Sophie’s birth plan and what they want and don’t want. He talks about her generous maternity allowance. He’s less happy about the loft conversion, which should have been finished weeks ago. ‘Dems the breaks,’ he says, in an accent. Sophie’s cheeks flush.

‘Have you decided on names?’ Sophie’s mother asks her daughter.

‘Eva for a girl, George for a boy,’ Sophie’s husband says.

Sophie’s husband leaves for the gym. He kisses Sophie’s forehead and shouts goodbye. Sophie’s mother orders more tea and talks about a neighbour’s cat – it got trapped in someone’s motorhome and died from stress, but not before destroying the upholstery.

‘It cost thousands to refurbish,’ says Sophie’s mother, shaking her head.

‘Mother!’ Sophie says.

No one fears for Sophie but I do – everyone’s saying it’s the best time of her life but her bottom lip is bitten and her eyes dart like a scared bird’s. Perhaps she feels the odds are stacked against her but she’s too primed by privilege to say so. Perhaps she’s scared that when her contractions start her body or baby will betray her. Sophie, your spotty blouse is modest and your earrings are tiny pearls – my top flaunts a crinkling cleavage and I wear fuck-you-forty hoops. I doubt you’ll swear at your child, I doubt you’ve gotten high and floated on your back in the Thai Gulf, dripping in phosphorescence, convinced you can hear the secrets of the sea. I doubt you call people ‘love’ and your vowels aren’t flat. But I have your back, I have your aching back.


  1. Love this story — I feel like I’m sitting right there in the cafe, that I know Sophie and the narrator. So much in such a tight story!

  2. Great story. Love it. Well done Deb Waters whoever you are.

  3. Terrific story, beautifully observed - funny and moving. Bravo.

  4. I really love the way this story pans out at the end, the narrator spinning into her own life ‘I have your aching back‘ - gorgeous story.

  5. Lovely story - I really feel for Sophie! Brilliantly observed.

  6. Beautifully, skillfully done. Really enjoyed this sisterly story. Congrats!

  7. A great observation of character/life. A wonderful ending.

  8. Wonderfully told with a great and unexpected ending.
    Looking forward to reading an entire book of them:)
    Yanna xx

  9. Amazing. I felt like I was there, witnessing it all while the others took no real notice of Sophie.

  10. A poignant and empathic story.

  11. Wonderful debut. Love the empathy. And the "fuck-you-forty hoops". Bravo!

  12. Loved this story,how impactful on the reader with such an economy of words!


Congratulations to our 2023 Pushcart Prize Nominees!

We are delighted to nominate the following FlashFlood stories to the 2023 Pushcart Prize: ' The Doll House ' by Nathan Alling Long &...