“Spectrum” is the winner of the 2016 carte blanche/CNFC competition for creative nonfiction.


The wild strawberry flush across my chest, her cheeks. An illicit kiss in her basement suite.
Five years in, we start counting: two eggs bled away casually every month.
Then, six months of flirting, negotiations. Two hopeful women. A captivated man.
Cosmopolitans. Our red leather couch under mistletoe and holly berries. Jazzberry cartoon hearts radiate around all of us.
“Please don’t break our hearts,” I say.
“I won’t.” His scarlet cape promise. The last time we see him.
A year and a half later the rouged Costco employee, white hair rolled into a hairnet, hands out samples. Lights up, says “Such a beautiful baby!” and asks again, “But really, who’s the real mother?”
My girlfriend — the birth mother — looks down at her kid-size cup of tickle-me-pink sauce and says flatly, “This tastes terrible.”


A December sunset baby tries to keep up with the atomic tangerine girls. Soccer cones. Goal posts. Carrot sticks. Vivid oranges cut into cool eighths.
Daycare. An A-line ABC dress matched with mango tango barrettes, a razzle dazzle rose boa. Redhead Maisie’s mom forces a smile at the butterfly coat pegs, but her eyes aren’t smiling.
She bends and picks up an umbrella — outrageous orange and laser lemon flowers — and pulls Maisie out the door.
Orange you glad I’m not exactly straight?

Our son clutches the apricot-black striped tiger tight in his baby fist. His fine eyelashes — almost copper in the light. A ginger’s genes.
The woman at the government office with the big amber ring disappears to find her supervisor. Asks repeatedly, flustered, confused, “But what’s the father’s name again? I’ll just write down ‘unknown’. How’s that?”
How’s this, Nancy?
We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.





Our parents’ shame, outclassed by the buttercup face of their first grandchild.
A sunny day on the school playground. A tangle of older boys circle and shout “Don’t play with Hanna! She has two moms.” Yield. Proceed with caution. One goldenrod dotted line after another under moonglow headlights, hospital-bound.

{That seething smothering canaryinacage feeling I will never stay pregnant/give birth/be a “real” mom.}
White gold. A mellow yellow Boston afternoon. Banana peel questions from one of the brothers. Jaundiced? “None of us have a problem with you/Mum thinks it’s a sin you’re getting married.”
Yellow ribbon surprise! Mum comes to the reception with three bottles of champagne. One for her, one for each of her sons that don’t show.

Another surprise. A small sparkly dandelion shirt from a cousin: I my two mommies.
And another. Our first Mother’s Day a gold envelope arrives in the mail without my name on it. From one of the brothers, for the real mom.


Finally lucky. No more mincing self-hatred in a weeping willow medical gown.
He’s born the day after St. Patrick’s Day. His big sister’s gift, a soft stuffed puppy covered in green clovers. Shamrock.

Six months later, the seafoam trim on my bride’s creamy dress paired with kelly green striped socks and turquoise Converse All Stars.
We push the stroller and look up at granny smith treetops. Gaze down at mountain meadow grass. Exchange vows in a lush forest in the Emerald Necklace. Stroll through Boston Common with our children.
Strangers shout “Congratulations!” A woman busking at the footbridge smiles, “Way to go, ladies!” She plucks and sings I Hope You Had The Time Of Your Life.
Electric lime envy that it doesn’t feel this way all the time.


My mother wants me to be less selfish, her voice a steel blue hysteria. “This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to us.”
Falling backwards, head first, out of the periwinkle sky. The email said no agreement ratified with Vietnam. No adoption.
Should we return to Copenhagen, make a baby our daring make it-break it finale? This unending robin egg ache in our chests.
We paint the walls of his nursery before we dare to hope. Outer space. A soothing cornflower for dreaming.
A one-size-fits-all form at the clinic asks for my husband’s name. Crossed out, obviously, in midnight blue.
No formal engagement, just phase three of our clandestine plan: Wild Blue Yonder. Atlantic waves. Azurite skies. Hydrangea bouquets.

Our six month old son’s wondrous Pacific blue eyes.

At school drop off a blonde mystery mom drives past with a rainbow flag on the trunk of her car. A shadow spreads on my palm as I bang on the glass shouting, “Hey! Us, too!”
Donor 2635’s favourite colour. Noted.
A midnight search for formula. The Indigo Girls sing over the supermarket speakers
I call on the resting soul of Galileo
King of night vision, king of insight
Manatee injection memories on my belly, my back. That playful painting of squiggly twilight sperm swimming over Dr. Branigan’s examination table.
At preschool a girl with a flower for a name notices I’m dressed up fancy and asks
“Noam, is your mom going on a date with your dad?”
“Noam doesn’t have a dad. He has two moms.”
“Noam, are your two moms going on a date?”
A bluebell dream at the haunted hotel down the street from St. Joe’s: a tiny newborn girl curled up in a seashell.
Nine months later, our daughter.


“Disgusting!” Violence, the way the shaved head spits at us as he circles on his purple bike. Still, we don’t stop holding hands along Toronto’s waterfront.
Nothing but smiles at the kindergarten party where I serve homemade cupcakes frosted with royal velvet icing. My hair, wild violet streaks.
A long rolling night of labour, stretching out in wisteria waves. Debussy’s La Mer. The magenta sky, of course. Serenity. Relief.
My father lies awake, the darkened room a sapphire tide. His granddaughter swims in the belly of the woman I chose.
Christ’s portrait on the wall? Tangled thorns, blackberry twigs, strangling the divine heart hovering between his hands.
The colour of epiphanies.
I understand, Dad tells me. Love is love. His lapis eyes clear and sure.

Nicole Breit is a poet and essayist who lives and writes in the suburbs of Vancouver. She was nominated for the Malahat Review 2016 Open Season awards, the 2015 Room poetry prize and the 2015 PRISM International CNF contest. Her debut poetry chapbook, I Can Make Life, was a finalist for the 2012 Mary Ballard poetry competition. Her work has been published in carte blanche, Exhale and other print and online publications.