As usual, based on real events in my life.
As I placed my infant daughter in her crib, I could hear the sound of water rushing through the plumbing.
I smiled. Celia, my wife, was finally getting that shower she'd needed, wanted, for three days. Caring for a small baby was time-consuming, of that there was no doubt. She was suffering a little post-partum depression; a good hot bath should ease some of that tension, I hoped.
Soon enough, the water stopped running. I waited a couple more minutes, and then wandered into the bedroom. My wife was sitting there, on the edge of the bed; her hair was tied up in one towel, while she was perched on the other, trying to reach places which only a year before had been in close proximity, now unfamiliarly difficult to reach.
She looked at me dolefully, her eyes red from more, I suspected, than simply soap and water.
I grabbed another towel and sat behind her to dry her back. As I patted her down, I felt her shaking. She was sobbing.
I put my hands on her shoulders and said softly, "Hey, what's all this?"
She shook me off. "You can't possibly love me now," she moaned.
I got off the bed and knelt before her, taking her chin in my hand and tilting her head to look at me. "Of course I love you," I said; it sounded lame, but there it was.
She grabbed the towel and covered her breasts. "I'm fat and ugly!" she wailed.
I tried to peel the towel away; she was having none of it. "You never hid the bosoms from me before," I chided gently. "They're still my breast friends."
"They're ugly and stretchy and saggy!" she snapped. "Plus they leak all the time!"
I was silent for a moment, then sat on the bed beside and slightly behind her. I turned her torso toward me, forcing her to lift her right knee onto the bed.
"You wanna know what I see?" I asked.
She shook her head as fresh tears rolled down her cheeks. "I've got stretch marks and fat. That's what you see."
I pulled her other leg onto the bed, settling her into a mostly prone position, propped by three pillows. I gently but firmly pulled the towel from her chest.
I placed a finger on a stretch mark, at its origin high up on her chest, and traced it down its length, ending somewhere around mid-breast. "You know what this is?" I asked quietly.
"Yeah, it's a stretch mark," she said peevishly, without a lot of heat.
I smiled and shook my head. "It's a tattoo. An organic tattoo." A slight smile played on her lips. "Know what it says?" I continued.
"Tell me," she whispered.
"It's the date of Emily's conception," I said, looking her right in the eye. "And this one?" I traced another stretch mark. "This one is Emily's name. And this one is my name."
She was trying not to admit she was pleased to hear these things, the way a small child tries to remain angry when a parent has them on the verge of laughter. Her mood had improved; her posture, too, as she was no longer huddled into a near-fetal crunch.
.... There is more of this story ...