May 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
“Luke, will you stay with me if… you know, if it turns out positive?”
“Of course, babe,” he replied instantly. “Of course I will. You don’t even need to ask – you know I will.”
She didn’t know, and the truth was, neither did he. This was uncharted territory now, and shit was very definitely hitting the fan. Luke turned away from his girlfriend Sheena, and resumed staring at the frosted glass pane of the reception desk, directly in front of his vision; a blank canvas that allowed his mind to wander. He tried to piece together the events that had led them to this waiting room in the doctor’s surgery, to this decisive crossroads in their young lives, to a test result that would likely change everything for both of them and shape all that was to follow for the remainder of their lives. But no images came, just a flurry of fragmented memories and seething regrets. They had been so stupid.
A nurse appeared in the doorway, her soft-soled shoes barely audible against the polished wooden floor. He felt Sheena tense involuntarily in her seat at the sight of her, and then relax again as the nurse called out for another patient. Luke watched a frail old man rise gingerly from his seat in the corner. He picked up his walking stick from where it was propped against an adjacent armrest and took a few tentative steps towards the nurse, who looked on with an expression of well-worn patience, forged from years of practice. The old man suddenly coughed violently, faltering where he stood. The nurse crossed over to him quickly, and with words of encouragement and sympathy, quickly extracted him from the waiting room. Wow, thought Luke, it really sucks to be old.
“Because, you know-” Sheena began softly, turned towards him now as he watched them walk away. “I’m not sure I could cope without you. I’d be lost without you.”
Luke looked at her closely, watching as her pretty face began to crumble as the gravity of her situation dawned on her. Her eyes were sparkling with the onset of tears. Strands of her fiery red hair were falling down from behind her ear to rest against her cheeks. She was so frightened, and it terrified Luke to accept how vulnerable she was, and how much she was relying on his strength to carry her through. He managed a wan smile and brushed the strands of hair back from her face. This display of tenderness surprised them both, and Sheena’s face broke with emotion. A huge tear rolled down her cheek, dropped off her chin and splashed silently into her dress. “Baby, I promise. Honestly, I promise.”
The seconds ticked slowly into minutes, which in turn became an hour. They had long since lapsed into silence. Sheena had busied herself with a magazine in an attempt to distract herself from what lay ahead, but Luke was too restless to concentrate on anything other than the ticking of the clock, and the fragmented silhouettes behind the frosted glass window. Finally, his patience ran out. He got up quickly, so quickly that his white slip-on trainers squeaked against the floor. He was momentarily aware of all eyes in the room suddenly resting on him, this intrusive noise shattering their collective introspection like the firing of a starter’s gun, before slowly settling back into their own private reverie.
He crossed over to the reception desk and gently rapped on the glass pane. It slid back immediately, and a middle-aged woman – Brenda, judging by her nametag – greeted Luke with a plastic smile and eyebrows raised. “Erm, yeh hi. I was just wondering how long it would be? We’ve been here for over an hour now and loads of people have gone in before us.” Luke tried to remain calm, but could feel his rising impatience and fear choking his words, clipping off his sentences.
“Just a moment please,” she said, turning to her monitor. Her fingers clacked over the keys of her keyboard ferociously. Luke took a second to gawp at a huge wart that had seen fit to grow above her upper lip and below her nostril, like some oozing black bogey that had slipped unbidden from her nose. He grimaced involuntarily at his own thoughts. If she saw it, she didn’t let on. ‘Doctor Flowers is still with his patient I’m afraid, sir. He shouldn’t be too long. Would you like me to pop my head in and see how much longer he’ll be?”
“Please,” came Luke’s terse reply, punctuated for him by the window sliding shut again, with Brenda’s silhouette receding into a myriad of broken colours in the room beyond. He returned to his seat, sitting down noisily and with a too-loud sigh.
“What did she say?” asked Sheena, her magazine perched on her knee, the next page held between her fingers.
“That he’s still with his previous patient,” replied Luke. “This is becoming a fucking joke.” He cracked his knuckles – a sure sign that he was becoming frustrated. Sheena reached over the armrest and stroked his arm.
“Try to be patient, baby,” she coaxed. Her words made Luke feel a pang of shame. Here he was blowing his top and being soothed by his girlfriend, when it was he that should be the one offering comfort. He looked over at her. She smiled again at him in encouragment. The long wait had seemed to restore some of her resolve, even as it eroded his own. The enormity of their situation was beginning to creep over him again, breaking his skin out in gooseflesh and making him sick to his stomach. He made a conscious effort to pat her hand as it rested on his arm.
“She’s just asking now,” he explained. “I’m just going to pop out for some fresh air.”
Outside the front entrance, a line of taxis were queuing. Luke stood and stared at them for an age, and then finally gave in.
Photo credit: Amy Massey
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