by Sandra Anlin
cola“My heart’s pounding…” As Jean tapped her chest. “’be still my beating heart’… where did I hear that? Or read it? I dunno… my heart’s still beating so fast…where’s Mindfulness Meditation when you need it! Deep breaths…” She did some theatrical deep breathing… in and out… in and out “I’m over-breathing now!.....”
She started tapping her forehead, in-between her eyebrows, side of each eye, under the eyes, under her armpits…“I’ve forgotten the Paul McKenna tapping routine…do you know it?”… she tapped randomly and furiously staring at her sister Lou… “I’m breathing a bit better now…slowing it down…” With calmer in and out breaths, she massaged her throat with both hands alternatively, applying a healing technique she’d learnt.
“Honestly Jean, you are such a drama queen! Get a grip! I know the outcome of today has big implications for the immediate and longer-term future for you… well, for all of us that care about you, too…but, let’s take things down a notch or two and think of the outcome in manageable chunks. Think of what Simon would say…”
“It’s okay for you to be reasonable… you’re not the one facing fantastic news or the end of the road…”
Lou rolled her eyes, but away from Jean, not to upset her even more, and turning to her said, “One of us has got to keep a clear head! And… that’s not you right now!” Ooh…don’t look now!” she hissed. “I said, don’t look noooow! Don’t we know her from the Yogalates?”
Jean pretended to touch her shoulder, shake her hair and looked over, as she thought… surreptitiously… to the woman in question…at the same time the woman looked at
Jean…that thing where you sense someone looking at you and it makes you look…they both looked, nodded simultaneously and exchanged nervous smiles. She rushed over to Jean and Lou and rather bluntly asked, “So which one of you’se guys is here to hear their fate?” She didn’t wait for the response…”I’m pretty nervous and I need the loo for the third time since I’ve been waiting… laters!… and… oh… good luck! Hope you get the result you want…”
“You too!” The two women said in unison.
“Jean!!! That’s not very nice! She didn’t deserve that!”
“Well! She might get the good news and I might get the bad news!”
They sat in silence, Jean calmer, until Lou grabbed her arm, pulled her up to standing. “Okay! She’s come out of the loo now so let’s go in… you’ve still got ages yet before you get called to the next waiting area…come on…”
They passed and acknowledged the Yogalates woman and found the loo was empty.
“La La Laaaa! La La Laaaa!...” Jean sang full into the space and spinning around in a sarcastic sing-song sort of voice… “I may never sing again in this life!”
“Jean! There you go again being a drama queen!”
By the basins, in front of the mirrors, she faced Jean square on. She grabbed her T-shirt as if she was grabbing the lapels of a suit. In truth, a bit awkwardly, but she needed to stop Jean in this downward spiral of thinking that the outcome could only be a fantastic one or a death-inducing one.
“Jean! Look at me!” She moved her hands firmly onto Jean’s shoulders and started stroking them in a gentle downward motion. Now she had her attention…
”Whether the outcome today is positive or negative…the next six months will be life-changing… NOT life-threatening! So, please, no further talk of dying a death or the end of the road. We take the next steps, whatever the outcome, in manageable chunks, together, as a family. Yes, the next few months will be a rollercoaster, but, you know the score, you saw what happened to your cousin Olly and the journey he’s made. Must be in the family genes…” She paused and despite Jean’s nods she was not convinced she had got through to her, so going in for the kill she continued, “They say it helps if you think of the person with power on the toilet, making all sorts of graphic noises…”
Jean pulled away from her sister…“Oh that’s really helpful, so when he says, “I’m sorry, it’s not good news!” …. I crack out laughing imagining him on the loo… that’s really going to be appropriate…Thanks…”
Just at that moment, the door opened. ”Jean Brooks? Are you Jean Brooks?...Follow me…”
-----------------“Oh yes… Jean Brooks… I remember you… Well…. Jean…” He paused, for what seemed like an age to her… he took a deep breath… she couldn’t as her chest felt so tight… “I’m sorry… it’s not good news…I have to tell you…that, on this occasion, from what we’ve seen today… it’s going to be a challenging six months for you… and you will need the support of your family… because…”
He was shaking his head and she was shaking….
”it’s not good news…”
Jean, just as she had feared, cracked out laughing and so she didn’t hear the presenter.
“… but it is GREAT NEWS!!! You are through to the next round! … Congratulations!”…
About the author
We met Sandra at the Waterloo Festival in our Business of Writing workshop. This is the first time she has submitted a short story to any site or publication for a while though she did have a story published in an anthology of working class women's writing called Common Thread back in the 1980's.
This short story was written a couple of years ago whilst she was attending a Creative Writing Group at a centre for the over 50s. She is 67 and now, in retirement, ambitious to develop her writing.