biscuit by jadamthwaite

7 Mar

A fruit fly scuttled round the ochre-green flowers, rubbing its feet through ceramic pollen. Lisa squinted at the oranged grouting between the tiles. She’d only cleaned them last week. She pulled her knees up to her chin and watched the fly closely, stealing herself to open the thin foil package.

The walk had been daunting enough. She hadn’t passed a shop window without catching sight of her stomach pushing her top out, a soft woollen speed bump in the middle of her body. Lisa knew she couldn’t possibly be showing yet. But she’d felt the heavy weight round her middle bearing down on her hips like a lead-filled life belt. She’d felt eyes hot on her skin as she scuttled, warm-cheeked, towards the chemist, pulling her coat away from her to tent her body. In every direction, there’d been children, pushchairs, harassed mothers…

Lisa looked down at the instructions on the floor beside her. The bath mat was imprinted with the damp outlines of James’ toes. The booklet fluttered as she lifted it, her hand trembling softly. Pass under urine stream… wait for one minute… alternatively fill a clean, dry container with urine… Lisa looked around the narrow bathroom at the sink, the windowsill, the bath: toothbrushes… soap… a basket of sun-yellowed bath pearls… flannels… shampoo… three candles in mottled green glasses…. bubble bath… She looked at the small lilac puddle in the bottom of the bottle. That’d do.

Lisa hovered over the toilet seat, awkwardly holding the purple lid beneath her like a milking bucket. She was reminded of family holidays, the frequent toilet stops when she and her sister would squat on the dried banks of a lay-by, their dresses scrunched into ruffled nests in their laps.

– Shit, this one will have to have a sister… or a brother… you can’t just have one, can you?

A hot trickle ran over her fingers.

– Fuck. No one ever mentions this bit.

Lisa balanced the lid on the plughole, shuffling her knickers up with one hand. She stooped over the bath to wash her hands, lathering them frantically with a slippery bar of soap.

She checked the instructions again and tore open the foil package: white plastic with a pink cap, pretty and clean and feminine. She grimaced. It should be an angry red with a foreboding black lid. This was not a pretty pink kind of a moment. This was ugly and messy. She was holed up in a poky green bathroom with a cup of urine and a plastic stick that determined her future. This was not the time for sugary pastels.

And what if it was positive? Then what? They had no plan for this. Lisa felt the panic rising in her throat and overflowing down her back.

– We’d have to get a cot and nappies and a car seat…

Lisa’s mind was racing. She’d have to organise nurseries and birthday parties… and swimming lessons, he’d have to have swimming lessons.

– Could be a girl, Lisa thought suddenly. – What would I do with a girl? Christ, I’m not ready for this.

There was a proper order to this kind of thing. Lisa had always felt that.

– And what about names? We had enough trouble with the damn cat.

Sasha was named after James’ family dog, a lumbering black Labrador with a lazy eye and a waggy tail. They could hardly use this system again. Lisa’s first pet had been a neurotic long-haired hamster named Biscuit.

– What kind of kid is called Biscuit?

Lisa breathed deeply and picked up the bubble bath lid. She dunked the cotton tip.

– One elephant. Two elephants. Three elephants. Four elephants.

The fruit fly crossed her face in the mirror, its gossamer wings twitching in the shallow breeze of her breath.

– Seven elephants. Eight elephants.

Lisa’s forehead was hot and damp, her throat as dry as limestone.

– Nine elephants. Ten elephants.

She clicked the cap back on the test and emptied the lid into the plughole. She checked her watch and laid the test on the windowsill. She squirted bathroom cleaner around the sink and swished a tatty pink jay cloth under the hot water, scrubbing toothpaste and soap scum from the olive porcelain.

She checked her watch.

The second hand flickered slowly.

A minute was a long time.

55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60.

Lisa stared at the white plastic stick.

Maybe she should give it a bit longer.

She took a nervous breath, swallowing the nauseous feeling like the last mouthful of an unpleasant drink. She picked the test up and glanced at the two oval windows. A blue line… and…

… an empty window.

Lisa breathed out heavily. The fly whirled upwards and found a high spot on the frosted glass.

Not pregnant.

Lisa stared at the test. Soft waves of relief lapped across her spine.

– But what if this is the 0.1% chance that it’s not accurate?

She slid it back into the foil wrapping.

– Why did I miss a period if I’m not pregnant?

She tucked the test inside a toilet roll tube nestled in the bin.

Lisa sat on the side of the bath, eyes fixed firmly on the bin. She wondered if Biscuit would have been a boy or a girl, what colour eyes it might have had…

Sasha’s tail flicked past the window as she stalked the sill outside.

– I wonder how she’d be with a baby…

10 Responses to “biscuit by jadamthwaite”

  1. ingridfnl March 7, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    I love how this captured the terror, hopefulness and contradictions that are part of the moment. There are so many phrases that I love in this piece: the lead-filled life belt, the purple lid like a milking bucket, her scrubbing the sink… etc.

    • J Adamthwaite March 9, 2010 at 9:33 pm #

      Thank you. I tried to follow Lisa’s thoughts throughout the whole process, which turned out to be quite hard. Naturally, I think I avoid sticking to a complete scenario from the beginning to the end. It was an interesting exercise.

  2. juleshg March 7, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    I like how you described her walk to the drug store and how she had seen mothers and babies at every turn. I also liked how you describe her trying to keep busy during that very, very long two minutes.

    • J Adamthwaite March 9, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

      Thanks. The elephants/mississippi thing, as well as being a good second-counting tool, really helps the passage of time to feel long and painful, doesn’t it? I like it that our Lisas use both methods between them!

  3. jmforceton March 7, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    Well done and great use of the internal dialog. Glad I’ll never have to go through this little procedure. Never thought about it in this detail.

    • J Adamthwaite March 9, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

      Thanks. I’m glad you felt the internal dialogue worked – I’d been a little worried about it.

  4. fairyhedgehog March 8, 2010 at 9:12 am #

    I liked this a lot. I laughed out loud at

    “A hot trickle ran over her fingers.

    – Fuck. No one ever mentions this bit.

    It brought back old memories for me!

  5. phoenix.writing March 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm #

    I’m still imagining the poor kid called Biscuit. 😉 You did a great job of capturing Lisa’s mind through the whole process, the scattered thoughts and the shifts between being terrified at the prospect of having a baby and then almost heartbroken when she (probably) isn’t.

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