I stroked the swelling arch of my stomach, crooning above the murmured conversation outside my doorway.
“Charlotte’s resting, Doctor,” my husband said. “Speak freely.”
“Then there’s no need to be delicate. Your wife is—”
My hum morphed into the familiar, dusty cough.
“Let’s continue elsewhere,” my husband said.
I strained to hear more, but silence followed their footsteps. Beyond my window, daylight shifted into the evening’s ebony robes.
I cradled my pregnant belly. “The Brontё women can bear the weight of knowledge even if our men don’t believe so. Forgive your father, darling. He’s a traditional man who swears you’ll be a son. But a mother knows.”
I leaned over, grabbing the newspaper and magnifying glass from my nightstand. The lens enlarged another critic’s narrow opinion of Jane Eyre. My stomach fluttered as my fingers dug through the nightstand’s drawer and exchanged the magnifying glass for a fountain pen. I dashed through the scathing print.
Let them criticize. My writing would endure the treacherous sands of time. It had to.
I hunched over, nauseous from pain. The pen slipped, rolling onto the floorboards.
“Daughter,” I whispered, “of all my unfinished stories, yours would’ve shone brightest.”
My chin trembled even as my breath stiffened. A better world awaited. One where I could sit on a grassy knoll, listening to my daughter’s dreams, with no one to silence us.
Somewhere in the shadows, she was waiting. I could see the ghostly hue of her little fingers wrapping around mine.
I smiled and embraced my final chapter.