‘I’ll never get that out of the carpet,’ said Mary, putting the mop and bucket up against the side of one of her units. ‘The whole place will stink of milk-forever-or maybe longer.’
She rolled her eyes and sat down on the bed beside wee Fiona.
‘Let's be adult about this,’ she said.
That was one thing wee Fiona was never treated as. She scanned her room taking everything in, as if she didn’t recognize it, then bolted across and pulled open her bag, where her packet of fags had been hiding and put one in her mouth.
Automatically, her other hand was out, and across, offering a fag to wee Fiona, but she pulled it back.
‘Should you be smoking?’ she said and then laughed. ‘Should you?’
Fiona took the cigarette out of her hand. Her fags and matches were perched beside her. She was first to light up, blowing the smoke up into the air and watching it drift down.
Mary, in response, felt it safe to light up. ‘A baby’s not such a bad thing,’ she said, testing the words in the smoky air. ‘Are you sure you’re pregnant? she asked, looking her up and down, as if pregnancy was a kind of sun tan that left white bits.
‘Yes,’ said Fiona.
She looked at her sandals and wiggled her toes that were painted Jezebel red. But her feet were crammed into her high heels so that on one could see them. That and having sex and getting pregnant were her big secrets
It went against her nature to whisper, and it was bad manners, but she couldn’t say his name out loud. ‘Does Finlay know?’ asked Mary.
‘Yes,’ said wee Fiona and started blubbing again.
When Mary came back with enough hankies and toilet roll to plug a Dutch dam, Fiona was twirling her hair around her finger, as if to curl it, which was the opposite of what Mary was trying to do with her hair. She saw it as some kind of sign and when Angel Baby played on the radio at the same time she knew what to do.
She had to check first. ‘What does Finlay want to do?’
The question pulled wee Fiona’s head and cheeks down like a giant hand and her lips trembled as she spoke, ‘He doesnae want it’.
That was it. Now Mary was sure what to do.
‘Don’t worry,’ she said, ‘we’ve always been best mates ever since that first day in primary school. And we’ll always be best mates. For ever.’
Wee Fiona nodded and bit her lip in recognition of that truth.
‘You can have the baby and we’ll bring it up together. The baby will have two mums. You can move in here,’ said Mary, jumping ahead of herself, but now that she had said it, it seemed to make it real and make more and better sense.
Wee Fiona started sniffling again. Mary sat on the bed beside her and took one of her hands and clasped it in her own. ‘I know it’s strange,’ she said, ‘me talking like this. And it’ll be strange for the baby too. I mean, for the first ten years of my life I thought my Ma, was my Ma, but my big sister was my Ma, and nobody ever told me. So although it sounds kinda strange we can do it. We can do it together. We just need to want it enough.’
Fiona didn’t look at her. When she finally looked up at Mary she was greeting again. ‘That’s the whole problem,’ she wailed, ‘I don’t want it either.’
Her body fell across the bed and her head leaned against Mary’s shoulder, like a dog, nudging its owner and waiting to be patted.
‘I think we need some fresh tea,’ said Mary.
She was away with the tray and clumping down the stairs before wee Fiona could answer. When she came back up the stairs she was ready for stage two of their baby’s life, its premature and tragic death. There was no point crying over spilt milk, or spilt seed.
‘Right,’ Mary said, ‘we’ll need to go down to the village and arrange an appointment with Dr Fleming. I know he’s an old bastard. But I’ll come with you and we’ll just tell him that we want an abortion and that’s it.’
‘No,’ squeaked wee Fiona.
She started crying again, so that Mary felt like smacking her on the back of the head and telling her to pull herself together. The way she was acting you’d have thought it was all about her.
‘Well what do you want to do?’ said Mary.
‘I don’t know,’ she snivelled.
‘Do you want an abortion or not?’ The words came out of Mary’s mouth more abrasive than she wanted them to.
‘You’re tea’s getting cold,’ Mary pointed out, lifting her own mug and helping herself to a 120 calorie Jammie Dodger.
The stress was making her old. She could feel the wrinkles running up her face like that new kind of Japanese knotweed, the kind of weed that couldn't be smoked that was choking waterways and taking over the world. She went to check in the side mirror of her bedroom unit for crow’s feet.
‘Yes, I want to get rid of it. Yes I want an abortion.’ Wee Fiona spoke clearly and concisely, with her head held erect, as if some God that approved of abortion had stepped in and cauterised her tear ducts, but not her Fallopian tubes, so that she no longer cried when she spoke, but was still pregnant.
‘Well, if you want an abortion you need to make an appointment down the village and see a Doctor.’
Mary felt the frown on her forehead grow and weather her face like the fissures on a dry-stone wall. She’d worked it out, at the present rate her face and forehead would be ten years older than the rest of her body. By the time she was twenty her face would be thirty and her forehead fifty-five. She resolved never to frown again.
‘No I don’t,’ said wee Fiona.
Mary felt the strain of a particularly virulent form of creeping frown. Her forehead tried to hold out, but like scratching an itch, couldn’t help itself.
‘Yes, you do!’ Unless you’re thinking of hot bathtubs, gin and knitting needles.’
It was a throwaway line. She was trying to be logical about it. But she examined wee Fiona’s face for signs that she was ready to risk her body and throw herself away. She had already been with Finlay, anything was possible. But she looked quite normal drinking her tea, apart from her intake of Digestives, although she did come from a big family were biscuits were like Christmas presents and she was eating for two.
‘No,’ said wee Fiona, explaining while she chewed. ‘I’m not going to have an abortion here. Then everybody would think that I’ve had sex with Finlay. But I haven’t. It was just the once.’
‘Honest,’ said wee Fiona, touching her chest, to counter Mary’s quizzical look.
‘Honest,’ she said again. ‘Cross my heart and hope to die.’
‘Here, have a ciggy, don’t go all-morbid on me,’ said Mary handing her one.
‘We’ll probably need to go up the town.’ Mary started pacing around the room. ‘I don’t know anyone up there.’ She looked at wee Fiona and shook her head; dismissing the idea. ‘I don’t know, I’ll need to take time off work. I don’t know what to do. Maybe we could just go up to Blysthwood Square and ask a prostitute what they did when they got pregnant.’
‘I don’t want to go to Glasgow either,’ said wee Fiona, ‘it’s too close. Maybe somebody there will know me.’
‘Jesus,’ Mary said, sitting down on the bed beside Fiona and flinging her arm around her. ‘What do you want to do then?’
‘I want to go to London,’ said wee Fiona, suddenly bright and breezy, as if she was talking about a day trip to Calderpark Zoo to see the animals lying about, rotting and dying in their cages.
‘We can’t go to London,’ said Mary. ‘We don’t know anybody there and we don’t have any money.’
‘No,’ said wee Fiona.
Mary waited for her to continue, but the only thing she continued was smoking.
‘So we do know somebody in London?’ Mary was waiting for wee Fiona to say yes I have an auntie in London, then she could guide her back to being realistic by suggesting that she also had a number of aunties in the village and an auntie in London and aunties in the village weren’t much different.
Wee Fiona picked up her shoulder bag and put it on the bed. It was a tatty old leather thing good for nothing, but the bin. She was smiling when she opened it.
‘Much is there?’ asked Mary.
‘£1212.04d,’ said wee Fiona.
‘Jesus,’ said Mary, ‘we could go to the moon and back with that!’