S T Vasectomy Clinic - 12
By Jane Hyphen
He turned around and glanced at her very briefly. ‘No darling. You could go home if you wanted, you look so tired these days. Are you sure you’re sleeping, all by yourself in that big bedroom?’
‘Yes, I do sleep but there is so much to do St John. We have to get ready for…’
Nina, one of the receptionists, was standing in the corridor, waiting to speak. ‘Erm, sorry to interrupt but Dr Harvey has finished with Mr West and the seven thirty appointment has arrived, he’s a bit late but he apologises.’
St John smiled and walked very slowly towards the door. ‘Cece is feeling tired,’ he said very slowly and calmly. ‘I think it’s best that she goes home. I can see the seven thirty and Dr Harvey will deal with the paperwork for the…other man.’
‘Mr West,’ said Nina, smiling.
St John smiled back and they both froze and stared at each other for a few seconds until Nina looked as if she might grin or even start laughing which would surely arouse some suspicion or anger from Cece. Nina visibly composed herself by swallowing hard, perhaps swallowing the awkward bubble which had formed in the air in front of her, and walked back to the reception desk.
Something’s not right, Cece thought to herself. She was a very sensitive woman and the very thought of something strange going on behind her back, whatever it happened to be, made her feel weak and out of control. The door frame provided some support, she leant on it and took a few deep breaths.
‘Are you alright darling?’
‘Yes St John. I’m fine, I’ll see you at home. I’ve got you a cottage pie and your eggs, I’ll have it ready for you.’
She left the clinic without saying goodbye to the two girls in reception. In the carpark she almost bumped into Faith, the cleaner who was twenty minutes late for work and blindly rushing. That girl, there’s something about that girl as well, thought Cece, something deeply disturbing but shrugged it off. She reminded herself that Faith was a very good cleaner and securing a reliable evening cleaner had always been a challenge.
Cece’s thoughts turned to Nina. She admired Nina, she was intelligent and smartly dressed, a perfect fit for the clinic but she appeared to have developed a worrying covert bond with St John. It was difficult to identify a specific incident and she hadn’t challenged her husband about it because when she attempted to formulate the words it in her head, she always sounded stupid. However there were subtle but undeniable cues in their body language; the way they looked at each other, micro facial expressions, lingering looks. St John seemed to light up when she was around, he became more energetic and his smile grew wider and more genuine, he looked younger even.
God, I am paranoid, she said to herself and shook her head as if shaking the suspicions away.
The Driffold was all lit up as she drove through the iron gates. The couple had recently invested in some carefully positioned lighting which illuminated the mature Cedar trees around the front of the property. At night time it was now a welcome sight to come home to although there were still some pockets of blackness.
Inside the property there was an empty stillness, a silence. Cece put her keys on the kitchen table and boiled the kettle. She went upstairs, across the landing to the door of the baby’s room and stood in front of it for a few seconds before opening it very slowly. It was a small room, everything inside it was white, even the carpet. The air inside smelled of new things, of paint, chemicals and new beginnings. She didn’t turn on the light, it was possible to see everything in the light from the landing via the open door.
Cece opened the window slightly and sat in a small armchair next to the space reserved for the cot. She watched the play of shadows on the wall, tree branches swaying and thought about how her baby’s eyes would see the very same visions. Images imprinted on its unformed mind forever. It was a far cry from the car headlights which crept across her bedroom ceiling as a small child living in a tiny suburban semi.
She allowed herself to smile a little but there was so much to worry about and the smile quickly faded. She changed into a lycra tracksuit and went downstairs to brew a pot of green tea and make a salad. As she peeled spring onions she caught sight of herself in the reflection of the French windows. How lonely I look, she thought and she walked right up to the glass and stared at her reflection. She held out her arms, bent them at the elbow as if she were carrying an invisible baby and she rocked from side to side on her hips. Suddenly gripped by the absurdity of her actions she exhaled heavily and let her arms drop down by her sides.
It occurred to her that there was a possibility that St John had been trying to get rid of her earlier when he’d said she looked tired and offered to take care of things so that she could go home. Was he faking his concern? She wasn’t sure. It was too early in the evening to stick pins in him. She decided to do some floor exercises instead; sit-ups, half press-ups, toe-touching, a few pilates moves.
The Driffold was a huge house, built around the turn of the century, it had been a large dwelling when the couple purchased it but over the years they had extended slightly and enhanced the interior. Cece took up so little space inside the house that she was rather like a grain of salt inside a giant mouth. Sometimes the empty rooms made her feel uneasy, there were a few which she hadn’t even entered for months, cold, stony pointless spaces with sharp teeth. It was the ever present threat of her own thoughts which threatened to swallow her up.
Cece had developed an ability to keep herself occupied, keep her mind full of sparks of light to allay the darkness. She lay on her back, lifted her legs and did the hundred, a classic pilates exercise which she had been doing every day for decades. Then she walked back to the kitchen to finish making the salad; grated carrot, peppers, walnuts, Cece was a great believer in the power of nuts to keep her young and supple. She added beetroot, olive oil, rocket and some sauerkraut, a feast of healthy vegetation.
Over the years she had spent many nights alone while St John was travelling for work. She had learned to ignore the various sounds of the building, occasional creaking and rattling, the odd mysterious groan. Now that she was planning to make a recording for her unborn baby she became acutely alert to every single noise and curious about their source. For the first time she had recently begun to wonder whether The Driffold was the right house for their baby. Perhaps it was haunted. Haunted by unfulfilled desires, by pretence, by shallow material trappings.
She ate the salad, slowly, being sure to chew everything thirty times or more. Cece was fat phobic and her evening salad simply had to fill her up since there would be no more eating before bedtime. Watching people eat repulsed her and hearing the sound of somebody chewing and slurping made every cell in her body cringe.
After dinner she found herself dwelling more and more on the unexplored possibility of moving home. It seemed to make perfect sense, new baby, new home, new start, away from all the tired indulgences of her previous life. She went back upstairs and counted the doors along the landing and corridors; eight doors, including the family bathroom and airing cupboard, then there was another small flight of stairs leading to two attic rooms. For a few seconds she stood at the bottom looking up, the air was much colder, she switched on the light and went up to visit these neglected rooms.
There was a sterile quality to the first, largest one, she vaguely remembered it being a cinema room many years ago, filled with VHS videos in ugly cases; now it looked so dated with its blue sofabed and yellow walls. Cece switched off the light and pulled back the curtain. There was a distant view of neighbouring houses with their horrible conservatories. She asked herself what could this room be, a play room? No way, she didn’t want her child hiding away all the way up here, so far from the lounge and kitchen and well out of earshot.
She crossed the landing to the other room which was more cluttered with redundant and forgotten belongings. A small cut-glass vase caught her eye and she remembered how it had been a fortieth birthday present from her mother. She held it up, blew off the dust, then she lifted it to her ear like a shell. She heard the echo of her mother’s voice. “You’re so lucky Cece, do you know how lucky you are, to live this life with that wonderful husband of yours. Oh how the other half live eh? What shall I get you for Christmas Cece? What do you buy the woman who has everything?”