Echoes

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Colette

Colette fixed her clothing, and put the seat cover of the toilet down so she could sit on it. Through the relatively thin walls of the bathroom she could hear Josh wandering around the top floor; in the bedroom first and then pacing up and down outside her door. It was like having her own personal sentry, expect he was guarding her escape rather than anyone else’s entry.

She should have known, she should have kept her secret until she had the opportunity to take the pregnancy test in private. She had another day off tomorrow, when Josh had to be back at work - that would have given her ample time to go to the chemist for herself.

It had only occurred to her that her period was late as she was getting ready for bed the previous night, when she couldn’t realistically have done anything about it. Josh had been exhausted after his day’s work and she’d been grateful when he’d fallen into a deep sleep beside her rather than picking up on her concern. Not that it had helped her to sleep any. She’d tossed and turned all night, trying to come to terms with the thought that she could be pregnant. She was on the pill, but these things were never certainties, were they? It was possible, it was feasible, it was a disaster.

The sound of Josh’s voice coming through the bathroom door, broke her from her musings.

“Colette are you done yet?”

She looked down at the little white stick, such an innocuous looking piece of plastic, but it held the knowledge of her future all the same.

He was knocking now, and she glanced down at her watch, startled to see how long she’d been sitting there daydreaming.

“Alright, alright, I’m coming!”

She stood, pulled the flush handle and washed her hands, all the time staring at that test stick as it seemed to stare back up at her from its position on the toilet’s lid. As yet it was still minutes away from making any indication of its answer. It seemed as undecided as she was. She used to think she‘d be a good mother, but so much had changed over the years, and now all she had were doubts and a very painful history.

She slowly slid the bolt back across the door. She wouldn’t usually have bothered locking the door when it was just the two of them in the house, but after the way he had acted that morning she wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d wanted to stand over her, and she was under enough pressure already.

She’d seen the way his face lit up when she’d told him, he’d been more excited by the prospect of fatherhood than by the prospect of making love to her, which at that point had been fine by her, it was that that had got her into this situation in the first place. He’d sprung out of bed, and dressed in the blink of an eye, then ran downstairs shouting something about having to be sure. She’d watched him drive off from the bedroom window, knowing that he’d drive all day in search of an open chemist if that’s what it took.

Colette stepped out of the bathroom, nearly colliding with Josh as he hovered guard-like outside.

“Well?”

She bit back the urge to tell him to leave her alone. He wouldn’t of course, and it’d only upset him if she asked him to.

“It’ll take a few minutes Josh…”

He seemed content to stand and wait on the landing and so she pushed past him into the bedroom, perching herself on the edge of the bed, her eyes once more becoming transfixed on the test stick. He sat down beside her, too close, and put his arm around her back. His proximity combined with the heat from the sunlight that streamed through the window was almost too much to bear. She felt trapped, physically and even more so emotionally. He’s ready for this, she thought to herself, I’m not.

She resisted his attempt to pull her close, and he sank backwards, fidgeting until he came across a semi-comfortable position.

“Is it doing anything yet?”

“No, Josh, I’ll tell you when it does.”

She glanced over her shoulder at him, feeling tired, drained even from her sleepless night. He looked happy though, a tad nervous perhaps, but happy nonetheless. When she caught his eye a frown passed across his expression. She wondered whether he’d worked out how scared she was, but he said nothing, and she turned back to the damned stick.

They had been married for less than six months, and their relationship was only a little older, couldn’t he see that it was too soon, regardless of any other factors? She felt the bed move slightly as he fidgeted again, this time ending up with his eyes closed, flat on his back. He reminded her of a cat sunning itself, lying in utter contentment at being master of its world.

As soon as the thought entered her head she berated herself for it. It wasn’t his fault that he wanted children when she didn’t. Perhaps if she could just find the right words to explain to him how she felt he’d understand her worries. The problem was that Colette wasn’t exactly sure she understood them herself.

He mind drifted back the seventeen years to the test that proved Natalie’s impending existence. She’d bough the test with her savings on a field trip with her geography class. She’d known that if she’d gone to her local chemist, word would quickly have got back to her mother, she always seemed to have eyes and ears everywhere. Even her doctor wasn’t an option. He was an old friend of the family, and a regular visitor to the house since her father had become ill. She hadn’t felt able to trust him.

In many ways she was more concerned about her parents finding out that she’d had sex than about actually being pregnant. Other girls had had false alarms before, and if she was pregnant her parents wouldn’t stop her from seeing David, she’d have to marry him. They’d stop her if she wasn’t though. She knew that.

She’d tucked the small box in her inside blazer pocket and caught up with Sharon and the others. Sharon Naylor was her best friend at the time, and David’s younger sister. Sharon knew that Colette and David were together, but Colette couldn’t be sure how she’d react to the thought of her being pregnant, so she didn’t say anything all day, or even when she went back to Sharon’s house after school.

She did the test in the Naylor family bathroom that evening when they were all downstairs watching TV. She’d sat, perched on the edge of the bath tub, in the same way she was perched on the edge of the bed now, but back then she’d actually been just a little excited. Scared, very scared indeed, but images of a glorious white wedding with David floated through her thoughts, and plastered over all the negative considerations. She could see herself as a mother. She would have to postpone her dreams of being a nurse, but she could do it, and she’s be good at it.

By the time Natalie was due everything had changed. Her mother had all but disowned her, forced her into setting up an adoption for the baby. David had called her all sorts of cruel names and denied all responsibility. Even Sharon had started to avoid her at school and in the street. All the girls did, as though pregnancy was catching.

She sniffed back the beginnings of tears and wiped her eyes, glancing back over her shoulder at Josh, but he was still lost in his own world, oblivious to her heartache.

This baby, if it turned out she was pregnant again, would have all that she wouldn’t have been able to give Natalie. A good home, financial security, a loving father, but how could she love it? How could she ever learn to love a new baby when she was barely on speaking terms with her first child. How could she not look at it every day and think of all she missed out on before.

Her mother’s words still echoed in her head. Words from her childhood: “It’s not easy being a mother you know Colette. You couldn’t cope, you don’t have the first clue how to bring up a baby. You wouldn’t last five minutes…”

And words from more recently, that were all the more hurtful: “Why are you marrying him? Eh? He is too old for you Colette, he just wants a pretty young wife to give him children…”

What if her mother was right…

Josh was struggling back to his sitting position next to her, and she forced her watery eyes to focus back on the test stick.

“It’s changing”.

“Is it…? Are you…? Are we…?” Josh seemed about to explode with curiosity.

She took a deep breath trying to compose herself. Thinking over and over again: please be negative, please be negative…

“It’s… it’s negative”.

She exhaled with relief, but was surprised to see Josh doing the same. Maybe she’d got him wrong, and he was as unsure about starting a family as she was.

She let him pull her into a hug, feeling like a great weight had been lifted from her. She loved him, just him, she wasn’t ready to add a third to their family unit.

“It doesn’t matter”, he was saying, and she felt him kiss her gently, reassuringly. It felt nice, comforting. Despite herself she felt tears well up in her eyes. He lifted her face with his thumb and forefinger, and she gazed into his eyes, hardly daring to believe that she’d got him so wrong.

“Really?” she whispered.

“Of course Colette. There’s always next month”. She almost felt her heart break on hearing his words, and she could no longer even try to fight the tears.

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