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Georgia Hase



The Wrong Forecast


The weather forecast was wrong the day Dr. Harmon told me

about you. Clear skies with a light south-westerly wind, only a five

percent chance of rain. Normally I would’ve stood in front of

my kitchen window and watched the clouds. I would’ve

checked for frost, for rain, for sun, my chamomile tea

warming my hands, its steam unfurling towards the ceiling.

But thanks to Luke switching off my alarm (apparently I

needed the sleep), I’d been running behind my planned

schedule all day. I didn’t have time to check the clouds that

morning and blamed the BBC for my decision to leave my

umbrella in its ceramic stand by my front door. My favourite

suede shoes, heavy with the rain that wasn’t supposed to

have fallen, squeaked on the linoleum floor as I walked to Dr.

Harmon’s room. When she first gave me a tissue from the box

on her desk, it was to wipe away the water trickling from my

hairline into my eyes. The second tissue caught the tears that

fell when she said you were growing inside me.

You would’ve been so small that Wednesday afternoon.

Smaller than a fingernail, smaller than the freckle on my left

nipple, and yet, when I knew you were there, it was like I

could feel you. Each cell forming, dividing, growing. At 41,

thanks to regular Pilates classes, fruit instead of chocolate,

and only the occasional glass of red, my stomach was, if not

firm, then definitely flat. But with the tissues scrunched

between my fingers, and my palm on my stomach, it didn’t

feel so flat anymore. How could it? It was now a house to one

tiny, rapidly developing occupant. You.

Dr. Harmon gave me several leaflets, booked in my next

appointment, asked if I had any questions. I had thousands.

But with my toes curled against damp suede, my left hand

on my stomach, and my right hand full of tissues and leaflets,

my questions dissolved before they could be asked. As I

walked through the too-bright waiting room, the squeak of

my shoes was obnoxiously loud. I gripped my leaflets tighter;

the squeaking got faster. I didn’t look up as I walk-ran to my

car. I slammed the door on the rain and threw the tissues and

leaflets on the passenger seat. I tried to breathe, felt my breath

hiccup in my throat, once, twice. By the sixth I was fixing my

mascara in the rear-view mirror. I smiled at my reflection; told

myself what Mum told me the day Dad left: we’ll get through

this. You’ll see. By the time I pulled up to my drive, I’d ripped

my thumb nail down to the bed. The stinging helped me

focus, or rather it kept me distracted. I just had to make a

plan. I sat at the kitchen table and smoothed flat the leaflets,

got my good pen and my good paper (the ruled kind, 120 gsm

– only the best for you). I sucked at my thumb to stop the

blood seeping onto my clothes – blood stains are such a

nuisance. We could do this. I could do this.

I’m good at research, always have been, it’s what I do three

days a week for Luke’s firm. Made it easy to fit around your

appointments. Luke thought I should stop working, reduce

the stress to my body. What does he know? After sixteen years

he still struggles to find my G-spot. It’s not like it’s moved.

When he suggested I give up work, I laughed more than I had

for months; it wasn’t part of my plan to give up working,

never was. Besides, all the websites and articles had

suggested keeping to a normal routine. They recommended

removing unhealthy and sugary foods, said adding daily

walks would help stimulate blood flow and, of course, that

occasional glass of red was the first to go.

Three mornings after we found out about you, Luke joined

me in the kitchen. He took the mug of chamomile tea, which

had been burning my palms in the most pleasant way, and

placed it onto the counter with a soft clink. Then he turned

my face away from the window, away from the clouds,

towards him. He took my hands, rubbing his thumb in small

circles against my skin. His hands smelt of cocoa butter and,

as they were still slightly slippery from applying moisturiser,

they struggled to hold tight to mine.

‘How about we call our families round and tell them

together?’ he said. ‘What do you think?’

I had wanted to wait a bit before telling anyone. Maybe

speak to Dr. Harmon again, maybe just sit with you under

some clouds, but I did like how efficient Luke’s idea was.

Besides, I suspected Luke wanted to speak to his mother

about you, and my mum would be furious to know I kept you

from her. So, on the Sunday after Dr. Harmon first told me

about you, our families all crammed into our perfect-for-two

living room. My mum and sister sat on our cerulean velvet

sofa, Luke’s mother perched in the single armchair next to

our oak bookshelf. His father stood, muttering under his

breath by the window. The clouds behind him were of the

cumulus variety – the white cotton balls would look

spectacular come sunset. Luke’s brother and his husband sat

on the floor with their three year old son, Tom. Tom’s fingers

were sticky from God knows what, and I winced as he

flattened his small hands on my Persian rug.

I almost laughed when we told them about you. There was

the expected shock; Luke’s father was silent for once. Then

came the tears. Big fat tears spilled down my mum’s and

sister’s cheeks, dropped onto the sofa. Where they fell, the

cerulean dappled to navy. Then they were all hugging us,

squeezing so hard my back clicked. It seemed almost fake, a

performance straight out of a movie. I half expected a director

to yell ‘cut’. Only Tom seemed real to me, still on the floor,

trying to smoosh his grubby little fingers into the yellow

fibres of my rug.

I think Sarah, my sister, thought Luke and I were

divorcing. I always called her after we fought, that occasional

glass of red turning into a bottle, sometimes more. On those

days, she’d remind me that if I needed help stashing a body,

her rotting vegetable patch was always available, saying

that’s what big sisters are for. It’s funny how your arrival

fixed things that had been broken for so long. Luke was

touching me again, finding any excuse to hold me, kiss me.

When we talked, we talked about you. Not about work, or

taxes, or who’d forgotten to buy milk – again.

Mum started calling me every day after we told her. Our

conversations centred on you, though Sarah did get the

occasional mention: ‘Sarah came round yesterday. She said

she was there to see me, but really she just stole my green

turtleneck again. I’m going to have to put that jumper under

bloody lock and key.’ Sometimes a call was not sufficient for

her and she’d join me on my daily walk. She’d tut at the state

of my nails, mark my breathing and the flush in my cheeks.

If she ever felt I was overexerting myself, we’d return home

for tea and biscuits. She prefers the chocolate ones, I favour a

custard cream, but we always argue over whether to dunk or

not. Mum’s pro-dunking. I think it makes tea disgusting, bits

of soggy biscuit swimming around, no thanks.

The next time I saw Dr. Harmon, the scan showed you’d

grown to about the size of a walnut. Luke got the morning off

work to come with me, said we were in this together. I knew

he was trying to be supportive. If I checked his iPad search

history, I’m sure I’d find bookmarked articles on “how to be

an empathetic partner”. But it’s not his body you’re growing

in, it’s mine. Besides, he wasn’t much company – kept

complaining about how uncomfortable hospital chairs are, no

lumbar support apparently. At least the forecast had been

correct: cloudy and mild throughout much of the day, heavy

showers expected early evening in the South. Even though the

rain hadn’t fallen until later that day, the grey clouds meant

my umbrella was under my chair and my new suede shoes

were at home. When Dr. Harmon told us I was further along

than she thought, Luke gripped my hand to stop me biting

my nails. My fingers flexed between his and I pulled at the

dry skin of my lips instead. Luke has always hated my

nervous habit. Mum tried to stop me doing it by using that

vile tasting varnish, but I learnt to quite like the taste.

Our appointment didn’t last long, and outside Dr.

Harmon’s door I shared a small smile with a woman who was

sitting on one of the plastic chairs in the waiting room. Luke

held my hand the entire drive home; I don’t think he’d have

let go even if we’d had a manual car and he’d had to shift

gears. It would’ve been nice if his hands hadn’t been sweaty.

He didn’t want to go back to work after he dropped me at

home. The skin around his eyes was scrunched up in concern.

He needn’t have worried; I knew what to do. After he

checked for the fifth time that I would definitely be ok, he

kissed me goodbye and reversed the car back out of the drive.

I think before that appointment I’d thought of you as more

of an abstract possibility than a real eventuality. But Dr.

Harmon’s face as Luke held my hand told me you were

growing quickly, and we weren’t ready.

I was surprised to see Luke when he got home late that

evening, I hadn’t realised it was almost nine. I’d been

packing my things for almost ten hours – it would’ve been

longer, but I’d had to go and buy the boxes. I was in the

living room, surrounded by boxes that had spilled out into

the kitchen. I loved our place. It was small, but it was ours.

We bought it ten years ago, chose it for its proximity to work,

its quiet middle class neighbours. One bedroom, a kitchen, a

living room, and a garden that backs onto Richmond Park.

Perfection. I would miss it; miss the eggshell walls, miss

seeing the deer pick their way through the park. Luke was

silent while I showed him the boxes and their labels. I

explained how each one was colour coordinated by room.

He needed to understand my system. He took the

alphabetical list I gave him, glanced at it only once before he

placed it on one of the boxes, the one marked bedroom in

purple pen. When he started shushing me, I realised I’d been

shouting, my volume raised over the sobs that had bubbled

in my chest. You had made me cry again, and I really didn’t

like crying. He grabbed my hands. I got blood on him then.

I hadn’t even realised I was bleeding. I’d been biting my nails

again. When I looked at the boxes, smears of blood rimmed

where I’d taped them, the red drops ruining my colour

system. I knew Luke wanted to say something, his lips were

pressed together so tightly they’d puckered white. But he

didn’t let out the words that were probably hot on his

tongue. Instead he pulled me close, my back against his

chest, and wrapped his arms around me. His hands were

warm where they rested on you.

Before you, he might’ve said something, but his

bookmarked articles probably suggested just being quiet,

being there for what I needed. Where was this Luke before

you arrived? Before you, I’m sure our arguments had been

the talk of the street, our decision to move to a quiet

neighbourhood coming back to bite us. But we’d been

together for years and you don’t just throw something like

that away. Besides, we had you to think about now. You had

carved out a space in our lives that stole all our attention,

good and bad.

It was nothing but clear skies the day the vomiting

started. If I had looked out of the bathroom window, I

might’ve seen two plane contrails crisscross to form a white

‘x’ in the sky, I might’ve seen a hot air balloon, I might’ve

seen Santa-fucking-Claus fly past, but all I saw was the

bleached off-white of a toilet bowl. It got so bad I made a nest

out of blankets and towels so I wouldn’t have far to go before

my intestines made a run for it up my gullet. The cool

pinpricks in the centre of my forehead and the blush

vanishing from my cheeks were the only warnings my body

deigned to give me before I’d be on my knees, hugging the

toilet like I was adrift at sea, heaving and heaving and

heaving. Cooled mugs of chamomile tea surrounded me like

a ceramic fairy ring, Luke’s offering of comfort when he

didn’t know what else to do. It was so bad that Mum came

around on the days Luke was at work. She rubbed my back

in clockwise circles, singing the made-up songs she’d sung

to my sister and me as children.

Two little girls flew on a swing,

one went up, one went down.

up and down

went the pretty little girls

so high and so fast

they even grew wings.

The circular hand motion actually made me feel worse,

but I didn’t tell her that, enjoying being cared for like a child

again. The times I was alone and wasn’t vomiting, I’d lay with

my forehead pressed against our cool tiled floor and pull my

knees as close to my chin as I could. I’d lay there and cup my

stomach, cup you.

Is it weird that I haven’t named you? When Sarah and I

met at the pub (a pint of Hogstar for her, soda and lime for

me), she said I should call you The Beast, because of what you

were doing to my body. I thought about it when she went

outside to smoke. I watched her through the window, red

flaring at her mouth. Sarah’s smoking started young. She

preferred to be out with her friends, stealing lipsticks from

Woolworths and sharing damp cigarettes with the boys from

the year above, than staying home with me to listen to Mum

and Dad fight. At lunch last week, Mum used my condition to

try for the hundredth time to get Sarah to quit. She’d clearly

failed. I watched as the clouds behind Sarah hurried through

the air. I could see her shiver, despite her green turtleneck.

The Beast might’ve been more of an official name, but I

suppose you is still a name of sorts; it straddles the line

between accusatory and affectionate. It lets me address you,

you who are now the size of a peach.

The radio had been saying all week that there was a cold

front coming to the UK from across the Atlantic, bringing the

potential conditions for heavy snow. On Friday, I saw frosted

grass and the darkening sky through the kitchen window, so

I had my fluffy socks and gloves at the ready. On my way to

work I overheard several groups of school children talking,

hoping for the most treasured weather phenomenon; snow.

Their breaths mingled in warm clouds above their hatted

heads; they were all excitable, giggling at the likely prospect

of days spent at home building snowmen. I understood that

they were excited, but did they have to walk so slowly? I tried

to slip between them, but they had linked arms and spanned

the width of the pavement. I sucked my left cheek in and bit

down to keep from saying something I’d most likely regret.

Instead I stepped down onto the road to overtake them.

My right foot was in the road, my left still on the curb,

when you decided to make yourself known. It felt like you

had grabbed hold of my insides and were ripping and tearing

at them with thousands of sharp little knives. I think I might

have screamed; I definitely fell, the back of my skull

connecting with the curb with a loud smack that vibrated my

jaw, clicking my teeth together. I know now that I was

concussed. At the time, it was like everything had slowed.

The children were asking me if I was ok, and I wanted to say

yes, say that I was fine, but the words slurred into a formless

sound. The back of my head was feeling warm when an adult

joined the hatted heads looking down at me. I tried to sit up,

but the woman, I remember she had curly black hair and

wasn’t wearing a hat, placed a hand on my shoulder to keep

me down. I remember the sky; the clouds had merged to form

a nimbostratus and the blue lights of the ambulance arrived

when the first snowflake caught in a strand of the woman’s

hair, the white stark against the black. The radio weather

forecast had been right.

I’d done my research; I knew what that intensity of pain

meant. Dr Harmon didn’t need to tell me, though she did.

See, not content to stay in my cervix, you’d spread yourself

across my uterus, to my lymph nodes, stretching as far as my

lungs. Aggressive little thing, aren’t you? Luke went quite

grey when he heard, Sarah and my mum each gripped one of

my hands. I was surprised that I cared more about not being

able to get at my nails than I did about what Dr. Harmon was

saying. I kept silent, let my mum do the arguing, ask the

questions.

‘There must be other options!’

But there weren’t. Chemo hadn’t killed you and you’d

spread too far to operate. I could hear Dr. Harmon trying to

placate my family. I wonder how much of her job is actually

about dealing with the patient’s family. Mine certainly

weren’t going to make it easy. I winced when Sarah’s hand

tightened around my own. When I turned to look at her, I saw

that she was crying soft, silent tears. They ran down her

cheeks in such perfect rivulets, they belonged on a film set.

Mum’s cheeks and neck were flushing red, her grip on my

hand becoming painful, her voice getting louder – poor Dr.

Harmon. Luke was shaking his head, quiet ‘no’s’ making it

past his lips to my ears. It seems the articles he’d read could

only prepare him so much. I wanted to say, save something for

when I’m gone, but I don’t think they’d have appreciated my

attempt at humour (though Sarah might’ve). Instead I looked

out of the window.

The clouds had thickened while I’d been out, eddies of

snow now swirled in the wind. Sarah and I used to love

catching snowflakes on our tongue. She’d told me they were

magic sweets and, if we ate enough, we’d become magic too.


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