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 this,” he said, though she knew he had been out in
it all morning, had left a sodden pile of clothing in the utility room before he’d changed. He patted her knee as she held a tissue, turning it in winds around a finger, waiting until the receptionist called, “Marie O’Donovan,” and the pair of them rose.
Marie lay on the dark couch where the older woman pointed her. Brian sat lower, on a chair by her side, averting his eyes when, as instructed, Marie lowered the waist of her long skirt and tried not to flinch when the woman poured a thick, clear fluid on her stomach. “It should be nice and warm there, now,” the woman said, and Marie noticed the softer, city vowels, less thick than the local people’s. “We’ve a warmer for the liquid, you see, so it doesn’t give a shock. And I’ll just now have a good feel about there and see how things are doing. This will press quite hard upon you to start with and....” she paused and
“She looked up at the ceiling and exhaled a juddering breath and urged
herself to dam the bubble of emotion she felt gathering within her chest.”
looked from the wand of the probe to the television screen which flickered briefly into life before another burst of static. She moved to the side and made gave
a soft grunt, “Hunnh,” and moved again, to the other side, slid the probe again, length ways down the flat expanse of Marie’s stomach, pulling gently for more give from the waistband. A furrow came over her brow as Marie watched her work and saw the streak of silver in her dark hair, where she’d need her roots doing soon. “I’m afraid, my dear,” she said, when she lifted the probe again, “that there is no good way to tell you what I must. The baby has stopped developing in there, and there’s no sign of a heart-beat. I couldn’t be more sorry.” Marie felt the woman’s soft hand on her arm and Brian’s rough callouses as he held her other hand with his own. She looked up at the ceiling and ex- haled a juddering breath and urged herself to dam the bubble of emotion she felt gathering within her chest.
“I’ll be alright,” she told Brian, but he barely slept the night before the procedure. “They’ll have me out in a day and you can be back here in the meantime,” Marie told him. But the fool would have none of it, spent the night fetching feedbags, buzzing about the yard in
the tractor so she barely slept herself with the noise, though with the thought of the needles and the pain of it, there was little chance of sleep in any case.
The hospital though, was spry and clean, the worst of the stress the hammering the horn took when Brian honked at some local lad who cut across him as he searched for a parking space. She saw the knuckles on his hands go white as he gripped the wheel and the crane of his neck, searching for the kid as he carried her bag with her, superfluous she knew, across to the ward. He’d insisted that she bring it, that you never know, despite the doctor’s insistence that it’d only be a few hours before she was out and could go home.
What he’d not told her, though, O’Connor, when he’d described the operation was the emptiness that came after it, long past the receding of the blood and ache inside herself, when she was back at work, driving
to the small town branches of her bank, of the ghost of that old woman’s hand on her waistband when she hauled the nylon band of her tights down to pee. Nor could she dispel the sight of him, in her mind, the little lad she’d imagined. Her September child, he would have been, with a shock of red hair to him, a band of freckles on his nose, rambunctious and huge in the playground, among the younger children, a shape already to his sturdy limbs.
Brian, love him, was a comfort. As the days length- ened into spring, he left earlier but was home but more often than not, was there already when she got to the yard, greeted her from the car, took her into the sheds to see the calf he’d bottle-reared which gambolled to the fence at the sound of his tread. He’d been gentle in his way, shooing her out to the sofa
so that he could wash the dishes after dinner of an evening, though, more often than not, she’d do to them again after he’d gone to bed, the state he made of them. Often in the night, she’d wake to find that he had draped a thick arm over her, pulling her in to the bulge of his chest as he huffed through his dreams behind her.
It was when she did her spring clean, in May, that she found the graph paper, the thermometer and diary in her drawer. She felt the paper crisp in her fist as she clamped her hand around it, screwed the graph into a ball.
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