The Waiting Room

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Platform Seven

“Paul, we love you Paul. Come back to us.” I hear it all. I hear Susan’s voice. I see my mother crying, being comforted by Susan’s mother. Susan isn’t crying she has Jessie on her lap.

Thomas is asleep on a chair in the corner. Susan strokes my hand. There is another woman in the room. One I don’t know but recognise. Her forehead holds a bandage tightly woven. She is stood at the end of the bed. She looks pale like a ghost.

I open my eyes.

White walls, the empty nothingness but white, the wall papered wall to my right. The desk chairs and table behind me.

I run.

I run fast, as fast as I can, this time with the wall on my right, running.

Running.

The yellow glow appears in front of me. Strange I think, as it was on the other side of the desk before.

I stop running. I can’t run anymore. I walk to the wall, breathing hard. The brown patch against the wall where I thought a dog may lay is on the wall. I sit down at one end of the patch.

I hate it here.

I hate Maud, I hate Timothy, and I hate the white walls, the emptiness. I’m a mistake. I shout it as loud as I can “I’m a mistake send me back.” I start to cry. My chest hurts I’m crying so much.

I lean over and curl up against the wall. The brown patch, I’ll never know fits me perfectly.

I cry some more.

Then a dog licks my face.

I’m ten years old.

My mother is crying. I’ve been sleeping on the floor of my room. The room I share with my brother, He is two years older than me. He has already started secondary school. I have started to feel like he is an adult already.

We still play together but I can see he is bored of our games. I don’t know his new friends. We still talk at night. He tells me of the big kids. How scared he is, and if I ever tell anyone he is scared he won’t give me his old clothes.

I don’t tell anyone. I get all his old clothes and shoes. Only on my birthday I get new clothes. And more likely than not they are too big for me so Thomas my brother swaps them for something of his he knows I like. Something that by now is too small for him, something that’s going to fit me in a week anyhow, then I’ll swap next year’s birthday present for these ones.

But next year I’ll want to swap. I’ll happily give all my presents away and want nothing in return. I won’t even open them. I’ll wait for Thomas to return and we’ll open them together.

But my dad gets angry. “No! Bloody well open them or I’ll throw them on the fire.”

He never had a favourite, we were both his boys, we all played as one, if one of us was naughty then we both suffered, making us into a reliant force. Thomas looked out for me and where I could I looked out for him.

My mother had held us together. God knows how. Thomas was smart. Clever. Thomas was good at everything his report cards would show excellence.

Mine never did. We were never competing for love or affection it came easily off our parents. I didn’t know then, I didn’t know it now but I should have listened. I should have heard what they were saying. Instead I used it as a weapon.

Thomas died.

And everything I did wrong was because of it. Everything I was told off for I couldn’t understand. I didn’t know they were trying to protect me, it felt as if they wanted to suffocate me.

I hated my parents, as a selfish under achieving spotty pathetic teenager does. As with all teenagers: they just don’t see it. They don’t understand. And when they start to at the age of twenty, like I did, they are so far removed from reality there’s no real way back.

So you live a life as a distant relation. Your parents ending up being the parents of your friend’s cousin you may or may not have kissed behind the bike sheds. In your mind, you’ve gone so far out of your way to make them strangers it’s hard to get them back.

But for me, as it was death that caused the pain, it was also a death that helped heal it.

With my father dying I saw my mother hitch hiking along a path I never travel. A route my heart had blocked. It was a dead end. My mother was walking towards a Cul-du-sac. I picked her up, reversed in the bay at the end where you’re not allowed to park and drove her home. She stayed a while with us in our home with Susan, Jessie and Thomas.

My Thomas. Not Our Thomas. Thomas named after my brother, after my mother’s first son, the middle name to my father, helped his grandmother recover.

He made her young again and let her grieve. Not just for her husband but for her Thomas too. She treated him as her own son. Even buying him clothes he could trade, but instead he hung them up, waiting to grow into them.

He told her stories of school and she listened. She told him stories of me and he laughed. He was a good listener. He learnt quickly and they became good friends.

The dog that had licked my face had died. Not long after my mother’s Thomas. He was old. He had lived his life well. Not like my mother’s Thomas.

I watched my son grow up quick, never giving him the time he needed. Never listening. Not like my mother or my Thomas.

This time I feel the breeze. Not like before. It’s a rushing wind one being driven by force. I wake up to the wind, to the first noise I’ve noticed beyond a voice. It’s a train.

The sound is coming from the yellow glow. I stand up leaning against the wall. I cover the glow of the lamp with my right hand and slowly study the carriage behind.

It’s white and it’s a steam train. I see a driver, a coal boy and an empty carriage of seats. Rows upon rows of seats made from hardwood. It’s not a train ‘train’ carriage, more like a sight-seeing carriage for a resort town. It stops in front of me.

“All aboard,” the man shouts.

“All aboard,” the boy echoes and they laugh.

There is no-one else around. I stumble forward.

“Come on Paul,” says the man in a gentle encouraging voice. I don’t ask how he knows my name. I walk over and climb onto the carriage. The engine roars and we set off into the tundra.

I sit at the back. The benches are made for children and I find it hard to rest my knees against the back of the seat in front of me.

I sit like this for a long time. Hearing the laughter from the engine room and ignoring it. Wanting to be part of it, wanting to be off the train and wanting to be home. It’s too uncomfortable.

I move to the front where I can stretch my legs. I can see the driver, the coal boy. I can smell the smoke. I can feel the breeze in my hair.

I’m smiling, I laugh, I shout out woo-woo, the engine is roaring and puffing. The coal boy appears at my side and shakes my hand.

“Hello Paul,” he says in a familiar tone extending his hand, his face covered in soot. His eyes are shining an excited smile.

I look at the eyes. They don’t falter, we are still shaking hands when I realise I’m 8 years old.

I’m staring at my brother. He is wearing my new birthday clothes and they are covered in soot. I am wearing his favourite Denis the menace tee shirt and I’m holding his waste. He is holding onto our dads trousers. We are going round the house as a train.

Our mother is an obstacle we have to negotiate in every room. Sometimes a bridge we climb over sometimes a tunnel we must crawl under her legs.

In the kitchen she is the station master and we unhook for juice and cake. Our dad would be smiling and laughing with me on one knee and his Thomas on the other.

Cake and cream would be all over our faces. Sticky fingers we would wipe on his shirt. After that we would all go and watch a film. Sunday afternoons were always like that. A James Bond re-run or a black and white classic we wouldn’t understand before having a bath and then story time.

My favourite book was Wind in the Willows. I liked the idea that animals could talk. I often dreamt about Bruce our dog, having conversations with other dogs in the street. The barking was just a language humans didn’t understand.

Thomas liked action books and comics, Spiderman, Batman and his beloved Superman. That was the only tee shirt he had that I would never get. It didn’t matter that it no longer fitted him. He wore it every day under his school shirt. He went through a stage of only answering to the name of Clark Kent.

We would carry on talking after our parents had kissed us good night. Discussing which Mr. Man we would be and why. When one of us came up with an anecdote better than we had thought of before we would be silent, trying to think harder than the other, falling asleep with images of Mr. Tickle in our heads, one hand tickling our mother to distraction whilst the other hand would take the fresh cakes from the kitchen table.

The wind at my face revives me.

I’m still on the train. The coal boy is back in the engine room. My right hand is covered in soot. My left hand is covered in cream. I lick it to taste it. It tastes the same as it did back then. There is jam underneath the cream. I eat it all.

It’s all over my face, as we turn a corner I reach out for balance with my left hand, rubbing cream all down the driver’s shirt. He is stood beside me, too covered in soot. He now has jam and cream down his overalls.

He laughs. His eyes are the same as the coal boy. A deep brown, with a hint of green when they moist over.

I’m suddenly aware that I don’t know what colour my children’s eyes are. Or my wife’s Susan. I wasn’t at either of my child’s births. Perhaps that when people notice, when everybody is paying attention and saying, how lovely his eyes are. “What small hands she has.”

Thomas may even have six toes. Jessie may have been a boy. I don’t know if I’ve ever changed her. I can’t recall a time.

Thomas was different. The first, the favourite ‘I’ll do anything dear, you just rest, no I’ll clean up.’ I’ll get up in the middle of the night, I’ll change him, feed him love him. All of these promise broken. I’m stuck thinking of Jessie’s middle name.

The breeze again.

Both the sooty people are back in the engine room. I’m left alone to stare at the empty space. The whistle is blown and I hear a shout. A shouted reply comes back. I look out, but see nothing. No one is standing at their garden gate, watching the train, waiting for its daily whistle.

It all of a sudden goes black. The roaring flames of the engine room, bright red against the darkness the only colour.

A white circle appears ahead as I look through the flames. It grows with the fire slowly at first and then engulfing the whole engine and suddenly the whole train. I look back to see the entrance of the tunnel through which we came, all I see is white. No tracks, no sleepers just white.

I get up and gingerly walk towards the cabin. As I get to the cup link I hesitate, both sets of eyes turn to face me. First the boy, as he spins round to reload his shovel. He grins, his black face broken by a perfect white smile. The man notices and follows the boys gaze. A wide smile creeps onto his face and engulfs his whole head. His eyes, his mouth, his ears, even his greying hair seems to be pleased to see me.

I step forward into the cabin itself. The man steps back, gesturing at the controls. I take another step, and another.

“Go on son,” he says, encouragingly.

I go, I do I go on. I’m at the helm. I’m sooty, I’m captain Kirk, I’m the station master, the Fat Controller, I’m everyone!

My head is out of the window, my hair drawn back and I’m Woo Wooing. The man reaches for the chain as I do. Our hands touch, his sooty hand over mine. There’s a pause then we blow the whistle together. The boy looks up and shouts “Woo Woo!” My hand is now covered in soot.

We all laugh. I reach my head out the window once more. I blow the whistle. I let the wind take me. I close my eyes. My smile wide open, I’m still smiling as I open my eyes. The wind is in my hair, but I’m running. My head is cocked to one side. I’m still smiling, my arms pumping.

I slow down. I can see the green lamp in the distance. Its glow is shimmering. The wall is on my left. I walk to it. I touch it. I’m still smiling. I run my hands through my hair.

I start walking, running, walking then running again towards the glow. I close my eyes and I’m at the desk. Paul isn’t there. He is sat with Maud and Timothy. They are talking, laughing.

My smile goes when I realise they are having fun without me.

I walk over. They don’t look up, but rather down at the magazine. They are laughing at a picture. I tilt my head to look at it.

“It’s all I had on me. I don’t really like having my picture taken,” Timothy is talking. The photo shows a teenager, dyed orange hair and a grumpy plump face. He has a nose ring in each nostril and five lip piercings.

“Did they hurt?” Paul asks, back on his throne, leaning forward to study the picture.

“Like an injection in the bum,” he replies.

Paul’s knees are up round his chest, he is in hysterics, slapping his thighs. He straightens his legs and realigns his robes. I wonder if he has ever had an injection in his bum.

Maud is laughing, wiping at joyful tears that have appeared at her eyes. Timothy drinks from his beer. I count about a dozen empties by his feet. He doesn’t sound drunk.

“I had them all out when I met Clare.” He starts: “She had ten lip rings, made me look like the Olympic flag.”

I smile at this. Timothy looks up. He smiles at me, standing he reaches out to shake my hand. “Paul, Paul told me about you being a mistake and all, probably why none of this fits eh?”

“Probably,” I manage with a cough. Our hands separate and I’m surprised how soft his are.

I sit down in my chair and Maud smiles at me. She is still knitting, a different colour this time.

Paul is adjusting his robe. It looks like it is caught on the arm of his chair, but I don’t say anything. I’ve never been the one to help, to spot the obvious. I’ve been the one to get angry when someone tells me my mistake. To over react with the heated words ‘I know,’ when really I don’t have an answer. To take everything personally straight to heart, not thinking that someone is trying to help or advise me. I’ve always been a one man team.

“Do you have any children Paul?” Timothy asks.

“Yes two, a boy and a girl.” I reply.

“Do you?” I ask politely. Not really interested in talking but glad of the distraction from feeling sorry for myself.

“No, Clare couldn’t have kids.” He looks down as he answers. Then joyfully, “we have plenty of nephews and nieces to keep us happy though. Must be hard for them you up here and all?”

I look at him. I don’t reply. I hadn’t thought of it. The whole time I’ve been up here, was all about me, wanting to go back. Not thinking of how my family would be feeling. Of how my little boy, my son, Thomas would be coping. Was he even alive? Why hadn’t I thought these thoughts before? Was my son on his way up to meet me here? Here in this white hall, this devilish place that is driving me crazy.

I want out I want to go back. I look at Timothy.

I’m annoyed it’s him that bought this subject up. I notice Maud has finished knitting, it’s something out of red wool. It’s not Arthur’s jumper.

Paul, white robed, high throne Paul reaches into his robe and passes me a small brown paper bag.

“You asked for these,” he says, leaning forward to give me the parcel. Timothy is talking again but I don’t listen, I look inside the bag. There are four Kit Kats.

“Good isn’t he?” whispers Maud.

I don’t reply. I place one each in front of my guests. Paul mouths a thank you and a genuine smile of realisation spreads across his face. Realisation of what I don’t understand.

Timothy breaks into his straight away rudely I think, without even stopping from telling his story.

“I can’t eat that Paul I’ll save it for my Arthur. He’ll enjoy it all the same. I’ll tell him about you. Arthur would have liked to meet you. We never had a son, two girls. Leigh and Lucy, twins grown up now, got their own little ones. I told them not to worry about me, to look after their own. You know, they never did worry about me. The last time I saw Leigh was what, oh, about five years ago. And Lucy, she only comes by on her way to work. I never wanted them to run their lives like me, but I wanted some respect you know? We had hard times I’ll tell you with those two but children will be children.”

I could see she was crying. I looked at my Kit Kat in my hand. I saw her open basket between our chairs. I dropped my Kit Kat upon her balls of wool. She turned at me and smiled. Eyes were glistening with tears. I was sure she hadn’t seen me drop the chocolate.

“Tell me about your own children Paul.” She demanded. “Thomas and Jessie,” she continued and I was surprised she knew their names. I stretch my legs out and my hands, resting them on my lap.

“Well,” I start, “Thomas is five. Jessie has just turned two. She can’t say her D’s. She says mumma of course, but for me it’s a-a-ay. And she calls Thomas ‘Ermos’.” I try to picture her in my mind. I can’t. I can’t remember the last time I actually held her. I continue with Thomas. He was first I should know something. “Thomas goes to play school he’ll be starting proper school in September. He likes football.” Have I ever played football with him? “He has lots of energy he’s a handful for Susan.” I smile at this, and then see the error of my last sentence. Why only Susan? Is it because I’m never there to help out? Or when I am there I don’t let him play. I demand he’s quiet I get him to tidy up. I tell him to help his sister. Is it he is scared of me? As I think these thoughts, it’s as though Maureen can hear my brain. She looks pensive as I try to continue. “He’s a good boy,” I say lamely. Then I remember his transformer pyjamas. “He likes transformers.” I add. “He has all the toys.” This I know because I always have to climb over them on the stairs.

“Andrew my grandson likes transformers. He wants to see the movie but he’s too young. He says he wants to be the big one, the one in charge of the good machines. I forget his name.” Maureen interrupts me but I’ve finished. I’m glad of the interruption, the release of pressure. I felt like a spot light was on me.

I was being given my last rights because I couldn’t describe my son in more detail. Shame on me I think.

I can’t even describe my own kids in a dozen sentences. I know I’m proud, proud perhaps of my own ability to have children.

Maureen is talking. I haven’t been listening. She has the attention of Paul and Timothy. I’m suddenly aware that all eyes are on me.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” laughs Timothy and places a can of beer in front of me.

He carries on talking to Maud who has a tall glass in her hand. Not waiting for a thank-you, like I had, he doesn’t deal in pleasantries. Timothy knows the same about my children as I do. I think to myself I’m sat here, with a guy I know nothing about, who I’m told is a hero and he knows as much about my 5 year old as I can remember.

“Tell me about yourself Timothy.” I ask rather more angrily than I expected, interrupting his conversation with Maud.

He coughs, “Well you can call me Toy for starters,” he smiles at me. I don’t want to call anyone Toy, especially some big greasy biker whom I don’t know.

I return his smile but look at his knee caps. I can’t return his stare.

He continues, turning to face white robed Paul. “Paul tells me it wasn’t my time, pretty much like you.” He now holds my stare. I don’t want to be in the same category as this guy. “Although I can’t go back,” he adds with a sharp look away and a sad smile.

“Clare my girlfriend of oh, 12 years doesn’t believe in marriage so we never did get hitched. Means she won’t get what was mine. Not that I had a lot. Probably by law it will go to my nephew, he’s my God son. We couldn’t have kids, we wanted them, and Lord knows Clare ached for them. She would have been a great mother, so caring. Treated me like a child most the time. ‘Take a coat with you’, she’d shout after me, ‘don’t drive so fast’, and ‘be home by nine’.” He stops to take a drink from his can. He is smiling at the recollection but you can see tears are in his eyes.

Continuing softly as a bubble of gas rises from his stomach “She would have done what I did.”

A normal laugh now and more confident brushing off the sign of his weakness “Hell anybody would have done what I did.”

He stops there looking at white robed Paul. ”I’m sorry to use the word ‘hell’ Paul.”

“You can say as you please Toy,” Paul replies, smiling at the use of Timothy’s nickname.

“What did you do?” I ask more menacingly than intended.

He coughs again. “I don’t see the need to go into detail.”

“Now come on Timothy,” says Maud. Not being suckered into calling this slob Toy. “It’s a brave thing you did. We need more men in the world like you.” Maureen casts a look in my general direction but not at me. I take the hint.

“I gave a kidney to my brother,” he states rather matter of factually. “My drinking got the better of me, so here I am.” He cheers me his can and I pick up the one he offered me. I open it and with a fizz and spill some on the floor as I return his gesture.

“Brothers got three kids you see, he has more to live for.” He finishes and takes a long drink.

I do too. It tastes odd: strongly sweet. I study the can.

Full flavoured Non Alcoholic Beer. I let a smile creep across my face.

I had always jumped to conclusions and judged people for their failures before getting to know them or their situation.

I had always been angry that other people had better lives than me even though I worked hard. At the other end of the scale I would be angry if people were too laid back. Not a care in the world jealous of their too easy lives, of their happy hippy world philosophy.

Sceptical of those who rose to fame from an early age. With perfect teeth, spotless skin and houses all over the world. And now I’ve done it again. Timothy continues and I try not to judge.

“Me and Nick my brother, we grew real close, best friends, when he was diagnosed with a kidney failure, he rang me. He was crying. It was past midnight. I looked at Clare she was asleep in bed, curled up tight against me. We had been to a party that night. I was still a little drunk.” He looks sheepishly at Paul, as if he was going to get reprimanded for driving drunk. He continues happily, “I knew what I was doing. I drove straight to his place, picked him up over my shoulder and threw him on my bike. I didn’t have a helmet for him, but thought what the hell, he’s almost dead.” He allows a laugh, a big laugh we all are caught up in it. Maud wipes happy tears from her eyes.

“Lying in the bed next to him at the hospital, I was told we had to wait for the alcohol to pass through my system. We had to wait some time.” Another laugh. “A cute little nurse comes up to me and says ‘you’ll have to stop drinking as much as what’s in your gut from now on Mr. Mclalin’ she tells me with no expressions on her face. I tell her to call me Toy and I smile at her. She just turns and walks away. We went straight out and celebrated day we got out.” Timothy’s face shows signs of regret, a smile creases the corners of his lips but his eyes show sorrow.

Tearful, he looks up, straight into my eyes. I’ve never seen eyes like his deep and joyful, dancing and playfully swimming.

He blinks and two equally sized pearls run from each duct. He catches them on his lap and they’re gone. As if to mark the end of his sadness, Timothy Mclalin smiles the full width of his face. “Get to see me old pa soon and me mother.” Mother said with less affection.

I smile and return his acknowledgement and understanding of why he did what he did. I try to take it in.

What he has just told me. Confided in me the secrets of his life, the purpose of his being here, and I can’t help but wonder why he was here.

Timothy hadn’t done anything wrong. Only the opposite, he had saved a life, his brother’s life, and now he paid the price of his lifestyle. I try to look at this as his reason. Try to give myself hope. If he had only listened to that cute little nurse’s advice, I think of Susan. Is she a cute little nurse?

Is she watched and dreamed over as she goes about her daily job. Is she the last image people have as they leave earth? Is she having an affair?

This is the last thought that comes to my mind as the sound of an opening can pierces my ears. Timothy drinks from his new four pack as a breeze hits his face. It ripples Paul’s robe and tangles the threads of Maud’s knitting.

It is a strong wind. Nothing like this has happened today. The magazine amongst the glasses and cans on the table is blown open to a next page with the next photograph. White robed Paul looks up to acknowledge something and, just as it crept upon us, the wind is suddenly gone.

Maureen straightens her threads as Timothy adjusts his waist coat and I straighten my hair.

We all lean in to have a look at the open page. The page is upside down to me. She is facing Timothy. As he notices how beautiful the woman looks he smiles and nods. I allow him this last pleasure without casting any negative thoughts.

“She looks so young,” Maureen remarked without taking her eyes of her knitting. Paul sits there contemplating.

I can’t make out the picture. The hair is blonde, falling either side of an attractive face away from me.

Paul looks to Maureen. “Not too long then Maureen,” leaning forward to close the pages and pick up the magazine. As he stands I see the last name written on the cover. Diana Clarke. It means nothing to me.

He walks off toward his desk and as I look back to the table. Everything has been cleaned away, and once where stood Paul’s tall white throne with red cushion, is now an armchair, the colour of chocolate brown with an orange pattern cris-crossing its way along the back cushion like a graph.

I can’t help but imagine the person who would be joining us. A young lady, I sarcastically wonder what great deed she did.

If the chair is to represent the life, I jump to the conclusion of a single mum. The stains on the arms look like food. There is dog hair on the seat. I imagine the chair to be like the mother, comfortable and inviting, but hard and in charge at the same time.

Timothy and Maureen are in conversation. I’m not interested.

I feel bored.

I let a yawn pass through me. I lean my head back and close my eyes.

I think of my arm chair at home. How no one else is allowed to sit in it. How Susan always sits on the sofa with our kids instead of with me in our arm chairs.

Talking over the television I turn it up. They talk louder. I turn it up and they are quiet. I never turn it down. It’s at the level that’s too loud to actually hear properly. Knowing I’d have to back down at some point I tell Thomas to go to bed. Susan doesn’t argue with me in front of the kids.

I know at this point I’ll be having a conversation when I go to bed. If I go to bed. To avoid confrontation I’ll sleep in my chair. Waking in the morning with a blanket over me and a glass of water on the little side table.

I could never accept any wrong doing. That I was in the wrong. I would continue on as if nothing happened.

Making small talk as if Thomas was not afraid of me, trying to gain some respect from my wife.

*****

Walking with two full cups of coffee I’m glad to be focusing on not spilling them, on something else.

I’ve been to the bathroom to clean myself up. I didn’t have any make up on but apply some now. I’m looking at myself in the mirror, but I don’t see me.

I don’t see anything.

My hands work automatically. I tie my hair up and wash my hands.

My mother has taken the kids off to eat. I now walk past two more accident and emergency rooms on the way to my husband’s. One has an elderly lady lying on the bed. Fully clothed, no guests crowd her bedside. The glass screen alongside her has been turned off. I have to step aside as a team of men dressed in black suits walk in. The blinds are drawn on the door and window that lead to the corridor by one of the men. No emotion on his face, it’s a job.

I stand outside watching the grey static lines of the glass covering.

The miserable last images a dying person would see.

The second room has a young lady lying beside a man. His naked chest is exposed from below the bed sheets. Flowers adorn his room. Cards are placed everywhere. The woman drives a model of a motorbike over the chest of her lover.

I don’t see the monitor, I don’t know of his condition. As I step past the door our eyes meet through the safety glass that separates the room from the corridor. She too can’t cry anymore. I don’t stop to ask her name.

The next room is where my husband waits, Thomas’s father, Jessie’s dad and Katherine’s second son. I walk in.

Paul’s mother is sat by the bed on the far side. I walk round and hand her a coffee. She looks up and smiles. I return to my chair and feel the weight lift from my legs and tired feet.

A doctor had been in and written notes on the chart that hangs from the foot of the bed. I wasn’t interested in what the prognosis was. I didn’t want to be told the damage. I would have to deal with the outcome, I was happy to have a last cup of coffee before finding out that my Husband was going to need constant medical care.

I think about Mrs. Clarke. She was on the floor above us. I was too weak to go and see for myself. I hadn’t heard any alarm bells being rung. The Janitors don’t work in the morning. Only on call after a long night shift. I wondered why that door was unlocked. Perhaps it was fate, destiny or karma.

I couldn’t think about it. I blocked all from my mind.

I closed my eyes and thought of Paul. I held my hand to my stomach.

When I opened my eyes Katherine was smiling at me. She nodded her question.

I smiled my answer.

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