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a conversation between floors by juleshg

18 Apr

“Shoot, I have to get this,” Jason looked apologetically at Lisa as she hit the up button on the elevator.  He tried to juggle his briefcase and reach for the cell phone in his pocket without spilling his unopened coffee cup.

With a sigh Lisa reached over and grabbed the hot cup to give Jason a free hand.  “Look, we are going to be late.  I’ll go up ahead to the office.  You take your call and meet me up in suite 510 when you are done. “

“Thanks,” he said blowing her a kiss as she stepped onto the elevator.

Lisa walked to the back wall of the small car and leaned against the mirror before noticing that she still had both coffee cups.  Great, she thought, I am only a few weeks pregnant and I am already getting absent-minded.


Lisa looked over at the older lady standing on the other side of the elevator and smiled.  “No, just tired, really tired.  I…”

Before she could finish her sentence the two ladies were shaken by a sudden stop of the car and a flash of the lights overhead.

“Are you OK?” Lisa asked the older lady who was clutching elevator rail in an effort to stay balanced.

“Oh, I’m fine dear.  How are you?”

“I’m good.”  Lisa crouched down to put her purse and the coffee cups on the floor before crossing the elevator to open the emergency panel.  It was an old building with a beat up phone and she lifted the receiver to see if she could get help.  After a few minutes chatting with the security guard downstairs Lisa hung up the phone and turned to her companion.

“Well, good news and bad news.  The bad news is that it will take at least 30 minutes to get someone here to fix the elevator.”

“Oh dear, the good news…?”

“We have two fresh cups of hot coffee.  Can I help you down to the floor?  We may as well get comfortable.”

The older lady smiled and laughed.  “Thank you dear.  My name is Margaret and coffee sounds delightful.”

“Hi, Margaret.  I’m Lisa.”

The older lady chuckled quietly as she settled down on the floor and stretched out her thin legs.  “My daughter Rose is going to be having a fit downstairs.  She is always telling me how busy she is and about all of the appointments she has to re-arrange just to take me out of the nursing home for a few hours.   I almost feel sorry for the repairman who has to listen to her while trying to get the elevator running again.”

“Jason will be on his case too.  He already had a really busy day planned and had to move two meetings just to get here for this appointment, let alone an extra half hour while they spring me from the elevator.”

The two women laughed and toasted with their paper cups.

“So, what brings you out today, Lisa?”

“I’m pregnant,” Lisa said looking down at her cup.

“I am sensing that may not be the best news,” Margaret said quietly.  “I don’t mean to pry but I am a stranger on an elevator and completely impartial.  Who better to tell your secrets too?  Plus, I have been around the block a few times myself.”

Lisa looked up with a grin.  “I think I’m more shocked than anything.  Jason, the baby’s father, is thrilled.  I wasn’t planning to have a baby for a few more years and now I feel like I am in a run-away cart that is heading downhill and picking up speed.  Everything is out of control.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.  I’ll get married I guess,” Lisa said with a shrug.  “Jason is a nice guy and he’ll be a great dad.  He has been wanting to get married for a while now and I’ve been stalling.  My mom will be thrilled to see me married to a successful lawyer but will be horrified that I’m ‘knocked up’.”

Margaret cackled.

“In my day, a woman in your situation was either sent away to live with relatives out-of-town or in a white dress at an altar within the week.  That’s what happened to me.”


“Oh yes,” Margaret said with a smile.  “I was in love with a lovely man named Alfred but his parents hated me.  It broke my heart when he moved away to take another job and I poured out my heart to a very nice boy named Peter who had always had a crush on me. “

Lisa smiled as the other woman blushed.  She gave her a light poke with her elbow encouraging her to go on with the story.

“Peter was a dear man and was so kind to me.  At first I was just trying not to hurt his feelings but before I knew it, I realized that I was a little sweet on him too.  We had not known each other for very long but one night we went out and one thing lead to another…. Well, I guess I don’t have to explain it to you.”

Lisa laughed at the teasing.  “Did you marry him?”

“Oh yes.  Peter was not the sort of man who would have stepped away from his responsibilities.  When I told him about the baby he went right to my parents and asked for my hand.  We eloped to Niagara Falls the next day and I had Rose seven months later.”

“Were you happy?”  Lisa stared at the other woman intently.  Margaret saw desperation in her eyes:  like a drowning woman watching for a lifeboat.

Margaret reached over and put her hand on Lisa’s knee. “We were married for fifty years and I loved him dearly.”

Lisa took a deep breath and sighed.   “I don’t know if I can do it,” she confessed.  “I don’t know if I can just get married and live happily ever after.”

You don’t have to my dear.  It’s a different world than when I was in your shoes.  Maybe it was easier for me not having to choose.  Looking back I don’t know what I would have done if I would have been given an option.”  Margaret shook her head.  “I don’t envy you.”

Once again the lights flickered and Lisa and Margaret felt the elevator begin to move.

As the doors opened the women looked out to find Rose and Jason waiting frantically on the ground floor and Margaret gave Lisa’s hand a squeeze.


past due by juleshg

4 Apr

Her laughter broke the silence and attracted angry stares from students at surrounding tables who had crowded the library to study for finals.

Jon looked up from his textbook and watched Lisa as she leafed through the papers in front of her.

“Something funny?”

“No, that was hysteria.”  Lisa lifted the top page off the pile and waved it for him to see.

“This is my phone bill.  I owe $300 and I am $150 past due.”  She continued to rifle through the pile.  “This is my electric bill:  $285 owing.   This is my credit card bill:  $600 owing.  At this point I owe so much money, to so many people, that each new bill I open is almost funny.   What’s one more? Maybe I’ll just burn the bills to keep warm and let them cut off my heat to save cash.”

She folded her arms over the pile in front of her and lay down her head looking exasperated.

Jon watched her take a deep breath and exhale with a sigh before reaching out to ruffle her short brown hair.  “If you want I can give you a few of my shifts at the cafe if that will help to make ends meet.”

She lifted her head and reached out to grab his hand.  “You are so sweet but I know that you need the money as much as I do.  Your tuition bill is coming due soon and you can’t afford to be giving up shifts or tip money.”

“What about your tuition bill?  I hope you took my advice and put some money aside from each cheque to cover tuition,”  he said remembering the long talk they had about finances during her last money crisis when he helped her to put together a budget.

Lisa shook her head.  “I tried. I really did but when my laptop died last month I had to use that money to buy a new one.  You can’t get through pre-law without a computer – not that it does me much good now.”

Jon looked down at her pale hand that he was still holding across the table and gave it a little squeeze.  What he wouldn’t give to be able to fix this for her.  If only there was a way that he could swoop in, wrap her in his arms and protect her.  To tell her that everything was going to be OK.

“You have bad karma,” he said with a teasing smile.

“You’re telling me.  I am beginning to believe that I am not destined to be a lawyer.”

“What?  You are at the top of our class and you are brilliant.  One day you are going to be a partner in a huge firm, raking in cash and this will just be a distant memory.”

She shook her head and pulled her hand back staring at the table.  She pushed her hair behind her ears with a nervous fidget deliberately avoiding his intent gaze.

“Leese?  What are you planning?”

“I am not going to law school,” she said, the words spilling out quickly.  “I spoke with the registrar at the community college yesterday and they can give me credit for some of my pre-law courses towards a diploma as a paralegal.  They figure it will only take me six months to finish the program and then I can make some real money to pay these bills.”

Jon sat at the table in a stunned silence.

“Jon, say something….  I’ll go back to law school one day.  I just can’t do it now; I can’t keep living with this stress.”

“Lisa, why don’t you move in with me?  My place is small but there is room enough for a roommate and splitting the rent would be good for us both.”

“Jon, you are my best friend and I already owe you so much.  You got me a job at the cafe.  You escorted me to the wedding-from-hell when my mom got married.  You don’t need me to keep looking after me.  Your family doesn’t have money either and I know how hard you are working now just to keep your head above water.”

“This is plan is ridiculous.”  He took a deep breath trying to control his rising frustration.

“Lisa, you are the best in the program.  You can’t become a paralegal while some idiot like Jason Randall just coasts along.  He’ll graduate in the middle of the pack and walk into some cushy job just because his family owns the top law firm in town.”

“Jon, life sucks.  How did you get though pre-law without figuring it out before?  Besides, Jason isn’t a bad guy.  His family isn’t his fault any more than our families are ours.”

Hearing Lisa defend Jason Randall was the last straw.  As he thought about all of the late nights they had spent studying and the evenings that they had worked together at the small cafe on campus he began to get angry at her for not seeing the obvious.  How could she be oblivious to the fact that he was in love with her?

He stood up from his chair and grabbed his books.  “Well it seems like you have it all figured out then.  Maybe Jason can put in a good word for you and get you a job at daddy’s law firm as a paralegal.”

“Jon, wait…”

But he could not bear to turn around and face her.  Instead he hurried towards the exit without ever looking back.

Links:  We met Lisa — and Jason — a few weeks ago in Two Minutes

peacekeeping by phoenix.writing

14 Mar

Lisa darted around the corner, flying down the corridor as fast as her ridiculous shoes would allow, and saw what she’d been looking for.

The ladies’ room.

She darted inside, wishing that this place wasn’t so damn fancy so that the room had an actual door.  Preferably with a deadbolt, the kind which you could turn in an emergency.

She reminded herself that she was on her best behaviour and not supposed to be causing any incidents.  They were trying to keep it together enough for the evening to be salvaged.

Which was, of course, why Lisa was hiding in the bathroom instead of stomping on Ian’s instep right before she kneed him in the groin.

Not very discreet, that.

Probably hard to accomplish in this dress, too.

She stared at herself in the mirror.  She was stuck here in this hideous dress that was a colour that no one could possibly like—whoever’d said it was the perfect colour for a spring wedding was out of their damn mind—being chased by a man that no one could possibly like who had drunk too much alcohol and was even less likeable than he had been when he was sober.

And she was doing it for someone who wasn’t even here.

It was sort of like the blind date from hell.

She heard the sound of drunken pursuit and narrowly resisted the urge to start banging her head against the wall.  Her updo was too expensive for that, and the pain was unlikely to help.

It looked like she was going to have to try to knock him out after all.


She looked over and found that a girl was beckoning to her from one of the stalls.

She looked to be about thirteen or fourteen, with straight dark hair and big blue eyes.

“In,” she instructed.  “I’ll take care of the Hulk.”

Lisa had had a little to drink, needing the liquor to make this almost bearable and prevent herself from just giving up and ducking out.  But she had been reasonably certain up to this moment that she wasn’t drunk.

Of course, Ian was kind of big and hulk-like….

The girl looked at her with exasperation.  “Come on, we haven’t got all day.”

Really, it was no stranger than anything else that had happened today.

She headed into the stall, the girl urging her to climb up on the toilet seat so that her feet weren’t showing.  Lisa locked herself in, slipped off her shoes so that she didn’t fall and break her neck, and then did as suggested.

She gritted her teeth as she balanced on the toilet seat.

Amy owed her so much for this.

There was the sound of running water, but Lisa couldn’t see what was going on without risking some part of her being visible.  It was impossible not to know when Ian arrived, however, because he bellowed.


The sound of water ceased.

“Are you aware that you’re in the ladies’ bathroom?”

Lisa’s lip curled up involuntarily.  The amount of disdain and condescension in the tone was impressive.  She could envision Ian looking round himself in confusion.

“Lisa!  Come out, come out, wherever you are.”

Lisa had to resist the urge to hit her head against the wall again.

“Are you talking about the woman in the salmon dress?”

There was silence for a moment, and Lisa could envision the eye roll from the girl before she repeated, “The woman in the pink dress?”


Drunken recognition at its finest.

“She went the other way,” the girl told him.  “Popped in here to get a drink of water, but said she wanted some exercise, so she’s taking the long way back to the ballroom.”  A beat of silence.  “You’d better get going if you want to catch up with her.”

Crossing her fingers, Lisa hoped, for once, that he was as drunk and stupid as he had been behaving all evening.

“Thanks, squirt.”

Lisa breathed a sigh of relief as it grew silent outside.

“I think it’s safe to come out now.”

She emerged from the stall, putting her shoes back on reluctantly; they looked great.  Unfortunately, they were the same colour as the dress, and she’d been wearing them for hours.

“Thanks,” she said with a smile.  “I owe you one.”

The girl shrugged carelessly.  “No problem.  You’ve been at it for hours, and he is clearly a loser.”

“Definitely not at his best while drunk,” Lisa agreed diplomatically, though privately, she’d thought he was a bit of an ass before the drinking had started.

“Don’t know why Uncle Dave is friends with him.”

Ah.  That explained the girl’s presence—and made Lisa lucky that she hadn’t been turned in forthwith.  Some of David’s family hadn’t been taking the desertion of the bride so well.  And with her gone, those salmon-coloured bridesmaids made obvious targets.

“Perhaps David simply hasn’t seen how he behaves in ladies’ washrooms,” Lisa suggested.

The girl cracked a grin.  “There is that.”

“I’d better get back out there.  Make sure no one’s started throwing cake at one another again.”

“Good luck.”


She headed back to the ballroom.  She understood the purpose of the open bar, she really did.  It would have been an open bar anyway, and now, with most of the guests either confused or pissed, it made doubly as much sense.  It gave them something to do now that there was nothing to celebrate.  The small group of them who were still celebrating the actual outcome were smart enough not to do so loudly, and Stacey had drafted the whole group of them to be peacekeepers.

No one had ever told Lisa that saying yes to being a bridesmaid could land her in a gig like this.

But she’d personally broken up one food fight and three verbal sparring matches, averted impending disaster with fourteen trips to the bar and thirteen walks outside—thank god for the mild weather—and got seven people on their way back to their hotel rooms to sleep it off.  She’d also ensured that at least half the men who wanted dances on David’s side got them.  And so long as there was an open bar and an excuse to dance with a reasonably pretty woman—even if she was in a dreadful dress—that was apparently a good enough reason for most people to be here and keep the peace.

It had been working pretty well until Ian had decided that he had a protracted interest in her.  The groping on the dance floor had been bad enough, but there was really only so much Lisa would take, even in the name of trying to prevent Amy from getting disowned by her family.

It was nearing midnight now, so surely they were getting close to the period where they were allowed to call it quits, go home, climb out of the dress from hell, and pretend that none of this had ever happened.

But just looking at the ballroom now, she could see the salmon colour scattered throughout the room and knew that nobody else had given up, so she couldn’t do so either.  Not even if she was the only one who had been stuck with Ian to this annoying a degree.

She made it through thirty more minutes, dancing with men whose names she didn’t know, carting off several more towards their rooms, and smiling what she felt sure must be a grimace.

And then, of course, Ian found her again.  Breath that reeked of alcohol wafted past her cheek, and then she found herself wrapped in an embrace from behind.

“You run fast, little bunny.”

She twisted out of his arms, turning to face him and trying not to look quite as pissed as she felt.  She had kept it together all evening, and she really, really didn’t want to be responsible for a brawl.

He sidled closer.  “I just want to dance.”

Yeah, if by “dance”, you meant “grope, fondle, and pinch”.  There was no way Lisa was going through that again.

“Sorry,” she said.  “I’m all done for the night.”

He frowned at her, clearly having trouble processing this.  “Just one dance.”

She loved Amy and had a lot of respect for David, who’d behaved like a true gentleman through this whole debacle, but not even half a dance.

“No,” she said clearly and tried to get past him.

His hand closed over her arm, hard enough that she couldn’t wrench out of his grasp.  Hard enough that it was probably going to leave a bruise to go with the one that she was sure that he had already left from that pinch to her butt.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

She was going to have to hit him.  She had a vision of the other bridesmaids coming to her aid, a sudden swarm of salmon all over Ian.  It was going to be a disaster.

“I believe the lady said she didn’t want to dance.”

They both swung around to face the new voice, Ian’s look of anger melting into one of submission so fast, Lisa was astonished.

“Take a walk, and make sure it ends at your hotel room.”

For a moment, it looked as though the man was going to protest, but then he lumbered off without another word.

Lisa looked at her rescuer with some confusion.  Blue eyes, dark hair that was just starting to grey a bit at the temples.  Older than she and Ian, definitely, but probably only two thirds Ian’s size.

His expression indicated he wasn’t someone to mess with, but she’d thought that Ian was well past caring about that sort of thing.

The other man held out his hand gravely, and Lisa accepted it without thought and was soon waltzing about the room.  Unlike half the men who had stepped on her toes tonight, this particular man actually knew what he was doing—and didn’t look as though he’d gone near the bar, never mind actually drinking any alcohol.

“Thanks for that,” she said gratefully.  “I was afraid I was going to have to cause a scene.”

“I was told quite firmly that if I allowed the Hulk to get you, I would be in serious trouble.”

Lisa frowned at him, and then her brow cleared as she finally recognized those eyes.

“It looks as though I owe your family a great deal this evening.  I’m Lisa, by the way.”

“Daniel Arnsworth.”

Looking into those brilliant blue eyes, Lisa decided that maybe when Amy’s mom had prattled on about spring being a time for new beginnings, she hadn’t been totally wrong.


Links to Cold Feet and Motherhood

“answered questions”, paris, may, 2004 by jmforceton

14 Mar

“Answered Questions”

A slender young woman with short, straight, black hair stood, arms crossed, and wearing a Bowdoin sweatshirt, is framed in the second floor window of her apartment looking out at the park across the street. She was thinking about their time together, that week here in Berlin, the most incredible of her life.

They planned to meet again in Paris in three weeks time and talking to her grandfather Alfred, days later, Lisa learned that he too would be in Paris. He was promoting a book and would be staying at the Hotel Crillon the month of May. Because she had the quickest mind of any of his six grandchildren, she had always been his favorite and he offered her the gift of a room there. She accepted and it was decided she would arrive three days earlier than she had originally planned so that her grandfather could show her some of the city. She told him she was meeting friends. He didn’t press for details.

It had been four days before the trip that she had become concerned. She had never been three days late. She couldn’t be pregnant. To anyone watching her, her life was normal as she made the final arrangements for her holiday. She followed through with her plan to buy the red strapless evening gown. She tried to finish her book about Amelia Earhart but couldn’t bear to read the ending. She changed her picture on her Facebook profile from, her reading on the beach at Ft. Lauderdale, to, her reading in a leather chair in a dimly lit corner of her den. None of her friends asked why. She had enough vacation time accumulated in her position at the U.S. embassy in Berlin to allow her to take more days off than she originally requested and she did.

For her, the world had changed. Inescapable thoughts kept running through her mind, questions that she had never thought she would have to deal with. A baby, her baby, his baby, all the ways her life could change. What would he say, what would he do? She learned that she should wait until day seven to take the test. She couldn’t stop her mind, options, questions, and thoughts drifted through uncontrolled. Never in her past had she spent time thinking about pregnancy, her unexpected pregnancy. She had never considered it might happen this way.

The trip itself and the first days in Paris quickly passed. Her grandfather Alfred took more pleasure in presenting the city to her than anything in his life. She loved the twinkle in his eye when he saw or heard anything that pleased him. It was an amazing three-day tour, Pantheon, Sorbonne, Luxemburg Gardens, Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower, Centre Pompidou, Montmartre, the Moulin Rouge. It was exuberant spring. The sky was clear, bright. He was happy and she would do nothing to distract or disappoint her grandfather, yet her mind, for those three days, grew more restive.

She had delayed as long as she could. Her mind remained in turmoil as she took the test kit into her small bathroom at the Hotel Crillon. Ten minutes and a lifetime later she emerged.

Relieved, invigorated, perhaps exhilarated, Lisa left the bathroom ready to restart her life. In that room she had realized and resolved that pregnant or not she must and would move on in her life. She would not look back but forward. If she had been pregnant her grandfather, Alfred, would have been one of the first to find out and, without thinking, she knew he would have supported her in everyway he could.

Her meeting with her new friend, her lover, was not for another hour. He was not the father of their child, not yet anyway. She decided to clear her head, take in the fresh spring air, and walk in the Tuileries Garden that her grandfather loved so much and had twice taken her in the last three days. There was a bench she liked, near the pond where the young children sailed their lifelike toy sailboats. New blossoms were everywhere. There was no place she knew that was better to just sit, relax, and gather one’s self. “Merci” she said to the doorman as she glided through the front door of the hotel and turned in the direction of the gardens.

Walking around the outside of the Place it occurred to her that there was more than the usual noise and congestion, particularly on the other side of the Obelisk. See looked over but it obscured her view. She also thought that her grandfather had told her he was going in that direction when he left the hotel some time ago. With a hint of anxiety she hurried past the entrance to the gardens to get a clear view of whatever was happening on the other side of the Place. She saw a cab and a Mini. Apparently there had been an accident. She felt momentary relief, then she noticed the man and two women, one a striking, young blond, taller than she was, walking together, away from her towards the Champs Elysée. “Was that him?” Now she hesitated, confused and a touch disoriented, perhaps it was just recent emotions catching up with her. Without thinking, she moved to have a closer look and weaved through traffic, cutting across to the center island. “That can’t be him, but it looked like him.” She was too far away to be sure.

She crossed again to the opposite side of the Place. Snarled traffic, horns, and angry cabbies assaulted her already heightened senses. She reached the curb walking briskly now and turned onto the granite-paved walk of the Champs. Still a good distance away, she saw the three stop at a red-canopied café. As they moved to a sidewalk table they walked past, Alfred?

The man she was following turned slightly as he sat. It was Jimmy. He was smiling and his hand was on the blond girl’s shoulder.

At that point she stopped and walked over to a nearby empty bench and sat, no longer following, not aware of the gentle spring breeze and the strolling cheerful people filling the broad, tree lined, walk.

After a short time, she stood up, walking slowly now in the direction of the hotel, passing the Obelisk, remembering her grandfather telling her that the name, “Place de la Concorde”, was chosen “symbolizing the end of a troubled era and the hope for a better future.”

Her cell phone chirped, it was a text message from Jimmy. “I was going to surprise you and get there early but got tied up. I’ll be a little late. See you soon.”

She would not cry. Instead she thought, “another test”. Lisa knew more questions would be answered before this day would end. She also thought, “Amelia would have walked over to the table”.

Links – week 9  “Pregnant? Thoughts” , week 8  “Number Talk” , week 7  “Monolithic” , week 6  “Committed?”

the script by parenthesized

11 Mar

Lisa tapped her fingers against the too-white tile.  The click-click-click of her fingernails sounded like the tick of a clock counting down. Or like the revolving barrel of a gun.

Thirty seconds.

Click. Click. Click.

Twenty-seven seconds and a bullet slides into a chamber.


Time was up.  She pulled the white stick from the mug and angled it to face the bright overhead lights.  Two pink lines.  Pregnant.  Expecting.  Knocked up.  Bun in the oven.   Screwed.  The test fell to the ground, and Lisa collapsed into herself.  Her head pressed against her shaking knees.

When she heard the click of the camera, she raised her head and sighed.  “Was that good?  You got the shot?”

“Yeah, great take Lisa.”

“Good, I’m heading out then.”  She grabbed her coat and purse, rushing out of the studio.

Of course, it was just pretend.  She was an actress, and this was her job.  She put on whatever face they wanted: happy, flirtatious, contemplative, disdainful, depressed.  Today’s script called for anxious…and pregnant.  She always delivered even when sometimes the script hit a little too close to home.

When she came home, she pulled a wrinkled picture out of the drawer.  Sometimes, the script almost asked too much of her.  She touched the black and white ultrasound photo, outlined the tiny body of what should have been a beautiful baby girl.

She needed no reminders.

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…

best/worst thing that ever happened to her by ingridfnl

7 Mar

Lisa stared at the stick, disbelieving, resisting, accepting, crushed, happy, terrified, eager, hopeless, hopeful… She imagined telling her parents, her grandmother, her boss, her … professor who was also her lover.

She sat down on the bathroom mat and thought through everything that could be worse than now: this choice, this moment.

She imagined telling her future child that it was the best thing that ever happened. That John and her were brought together by this pregnancy. That she had spent a few years just raising her baby and then had gone back to school and finished, that motherhood had made her a better woman. She imagined this scenario was unlikely since in her heart she knew John did not love her.

She imagined her future without a child, working as a professor in a university much like this one. She imagined having traveled the world as a respected and well-known archeologist. She imagined that after years of single, strong independent living marrying someone like a carpenter and living in a rural farm. Finding a man who could build her a deck and sit with her on long evenings, the sound of crickets soothing them from the surrounding forest. They would not have children but they would have greyhounds from the greyhound rescue.

She imagined giving up this child for adoption and spending the rest of her life wondering about it. If it was happy. If it had good parents. If she had made a mistake.

She imagined keeping her child and working in Walmart. Scraping pennies together under the neon lights and struggling to give her child opportunity.

She imagined her parents’ disgust and disapproval. Their outright rejection which was inevitable if they knew. Her mother would remind her of her wasted life, of her lost opportunity and of her immorality. She would be as cold to this child as a grandmother as she had been as a mother.

She imagined her father’s initial shame but then gentle approval.

She imagined John denying until the paternity test she pursued as she fought for financial help. She imagined his cold hatred of her as he threw the demise of his marriage in her face, her aloneness and her weak explanations or lies to her child of its existence and of the absence of its father.

She imagined regret and opportunity regardless of what she chose next.

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