Merran Jones

Merran Jones is an Australian physiotherapist who has been writing since 2013. She spent last year writing the first draft of a book. Since the start of this year, she’s concentrated on short stories. Her work has appeared in: Alfie Dog Fiction; Writers’ Forum; Tincture Literary Journal; Seizure Online; Darker Times Collection Volume Two; and One Page Literary Magazine.

 

Two Stories (September, 2014. Issue 46.)

The Second Opinion

“Interesting,” Dr. Smith frowns at my CT and walks out.

I sit marooned in my patient gown and fear. Above me, a clock ticks. The hours of the past six months have stretched through my sleepless nights.

I’m sure two things are growing inside me.

I place a hand on my stomach, inhaling antiseptic and white sterility. My wedding band looks sick under the fluorescent light.

Dr. Smith returns. “Well ... Katherine,” he checks my name on the chart, “I’m afraid it is cancer. Quite advanced. But at this stage your baby is okay.”

The words land in the room with a heavy permanence. Next door, someone coughs. Dr. Smith passes me a tissue, trying to staunch the shock.

“The dilemma is, if we act on it now, you’ll likely lose your child. If we don’t ...”

My little girl moves within me. I tighten my shoulders. All I ever wanted was to be a mother. After years of infertility and the last round of IVF we can afford, this seems like a cruel joke.

“Katherine ...” Dr. Smith’s voice softens a shade. His words hover on unspoken air.

“I know what you’ll suggest,” I say. “But I couldn’t live with myself if I sacrificed my child’s life over mine.”

“By twenty-five weeks, we only abort under life-threatening circumstances. But given what you’re facing, no one would think less of you for choosing this road.”

“It’s only three more months.”

“Time is not on your side. There’s no guarantee either of you will cope.”

“What about an early delivery then?”

Dr. Smith hollows his cheeks. “The baby may not have cancer, but it isn’t strong—”

“She.”

“Pardon me?”

“We know she’s a girl, not an ‘it’.”

“Yes, well, she isn’t strong. She’s suffered along with you. She’s low on the growth percentile. Although we could deliver early, there’s still no guarantee.”

A sparrow flits along the window. Sunlight freckles its wings. I envy its simplicity.

“I need to talk to my husband.” My words barely graze the air.

“Yes, of course. Think it through. You know what we recommend.” His mottled eyes meet my wide, naked ones. “There can be other chances, Katherine.”

Not for me. I gather my pain and head home. The honeyed sun begins to set. Another sparrow calls the evening in. The air thins and cools.

That night, my husband and I simply hold each other and sway under the light of a solitary lamp. Our girl is a magnet, drawing us closer. The weight of reality hangs around us. But we continue to stand until all that remains is the quiet, and the dark, and the comfort of the moment.

The Art of Cleavage

In the hotel lobby, she arches her back, thrusting forward her chest. Her look is for every man.

Disgraceful! the wife tuts, glaring at the girl.

The husband glances up. He gazes at the breasts jellying over the bra. The girl catches his eye in her heavy, velvet ones. Her grin is loose and syrupy. The husband tightens up in a way he hasn’t for years. He draws his knees together. Beside him, the wife coughs, her shoulders tight; nothing but chronic silence between them.

Behind the desk, hang rows of keys, each gaining entry to a cocoon of infidelity. The husband’s mind wanders over to the girl. She introduces herself as ‘Sherry’. He can taste the name like a rich shadow on her breath. He orders a martini, for a martini is what he would drink. It breaks down his timid, drizzly shell. He likes this; this dipping into adultery, into a life that isn’t his.

Sherry hands him a note with a room number in loopy writing. First she, then he head upstairs, where they frantically undress in the detached intimacy of the dark ...

The husband’s mind returns to him. In the lobby, time is shunted on by the clock. He glances at the wife; the original deep-freeze; wearing a cushion for a face and a fox around her neck. The gin hasn’t thawed her at all.

He twists his wedding band and looks back up. Another man is offering the girl a drink.