Her eyes wandered, examining her surroundings as she waited impatiently for Loretta to come back. ‘This is really irritating and pointless anyway’ she thought, carressing her hidden swollen belly as she only did when alone, unaware that she was humming softly as she rubbed. The office was dull and boring. Desk with nothing on it but a phone, papers and a pen, two chairs, hers and the empty one, filing cabinet, loud, ticking electric clock showing 3pm and brown crucifix on the two-toned hospital wall of yellow and cream in front of her and all around her. Even the scene outside was dull. A typical grey Dublin winter morning. Cars parked below, buildings everywhere, surrounding her.

The clinical smell was suffocating her and she needed a distraction quick before she gave way to the nausea. Her eyes settled on the only interesting thing in the room, the battered cardboard box on top of the filing cabinet that Loretta had put there when she had arrived. She had glimpsed colour in that box. She stood up, thinking she might sneak a look when she heard the brisk, quick, clickety click of high heels coming down the corridor so she sat down smartly, hands to her sides, like the good little girl she was.

“Sorry about that, busy, busy.” said Loretta as she slid in behind the desk, adjusting her glasses and settling herself. She smoothed her navy shiny skirt and played with her blue glass beaded necklace peeping out of her crisply-ironed, probably Dunnes bought, white cotton blouse.

“So, how have you been? All ok?”

“As it can be” she replied.

“Yes, of course, You look well. No change of mind?”

“No. Why should there be? It’s for the best. For everyone.”

“Right. So. Well, you know these sessions are for you, to talk it through, questions you might have. Plenty of time.”

“Yeah, we did that. You told me everything I need to know already. It’s all pretty clear cut and makes sense.” She looked out the window. They didn’t speak and she didn’t take her gaze away from the window. She listened to the tick tocking of the clock, counting the seconds and minutes.

Loretta sighed and stretched back taking the box down from the filing cabinet.

She turned back, a flicker of interest in her eyes as she leaned over and looked in the box. It was full of all sorts of objects. A teddy, a rattler, a snow globe, a tiny rocking horse which was probably a decoration for a Christmas tree and more bits and pieces that didn’t grab her attention.

“So, pick one up.”

“Why?”

“Just.”

She looked at Loretta. ‘This is stupid. Why is she even doing this? What one does she want me to pick up? God, they all think they are so clever.’

Loretta said nothing and waited.

She stared at Loretta for a while and then gave in, picked up the horse and fondled it in her hands as Loretta put the box down on the ground saying. “Why that?”

‘Here we go, with the clever crap.’ she thought. “Oh, I don’t know. I like the colours.”

It was white and red.

“And?”

“I had a rocking horse.”

Silence. Tick, tock, tick, tock.

“Mine was brown with red and white harness and saddle and black hooves and a red rocker.” She stopped.

Silence. Tick, tock, tick, tock.

‘This is stupid. What more does this woman want?’

“It was my favourite toy even though I kept falling off it. Must have been a bit thick.”

“What did you do when you fell off?”

“I got up again because I liked it. Each time. Definitely a lot thick.” She grinned.

Loretta smiled back at her. She put her head down and sighed.

“Where is it now?”

“Oh, it’s in the attic. I thought it was gone, with everything else. Mam is always throwing out stuff, but I found it in the attic. Mam kept it………. because, because I loved it.” She stifled a sob. Loretta pretended not to notice. They quietly sat in the compatible,tick-tocking, silence together.
The phone rang.

“I have to get this. Our time is up now anyway. Same time next week. Take care of yourself.”

“Yes, ok, bye” she said as she stood up quickly and walked out closing the door behind her.

The sun shone in the window opposite, lighting up the corridor. She absent-mindedly fondled her belly humming, unaware of the other people in the corridor bustling around in their busy hurried lives. She dared to begin thinking of a different future with a little girl on a rocking horse. If she fell off, she would be there to pick her up.

Published in ‘Ring around the Moon’ A collection of writing from Longford 2014, Heartland Press. (Out of Print)

“It’s subtle and nuanced and delicately handled,” Editor’s review.

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