Starting off the week with an excerpt just to tease you.
When successful business-owner Kate Shaw realises she is pregnant, after a fling with a previous lover, she has life-changing decisions to make. She needs to be in control of her life. Pregnancy in her fifties was never part of the plan. It becomes her secret.
The risks of having a baby at her age are clear but she struggles with the idea of an abortion. No-one understands her increasingly erratic behaviour as the preoccupation takes over her life.
Her marriage is precarious; the relationship with her former lover uncertain.
Is this the way to madness?
This is a gripping story about dark choices, gnawing discontent and the uncertainties of love.
Kate, pharmacist and businesswoman, is unexpectedly pregnant at 51 and unsure what to do. She decides to seek advice from an old university friend, Pauline, with whom she’s recently re-made contact. Pauline invites her round, unaware of the reason Kate wants to talk to her…
Pauline was welcoming as only Pauline could be. She threw her arms around Kate and talked non-stop.
‘I knew you wouldn’t mind. Ginny’s here. She’s my eldest daughter. And Sarah, my daughter-in-law, is coming soon with her boys.’
An explosion of noise pulled everyone into the sitting room at speed. Kate followed slowly, unable to take in the blur of colour and movement flashing before her.
‘Alright, Martha, you can bring the pram in but be careful. Don’t bash the furniture. Emily, you have the buggy. Go and show your dolls to Kate – or should they call you Auntie Kate?’
Kate shook her head. She had no wish to be their aunt.
She was surrounded by toys and given precious objects to hold. The girls vied for her attention, bringing more and more offerings – a bottle for feeding, a dummy, some blankets. Kate sank under the weight of the childish desire to please.
‘Kate, you’re incredibly good with them!’ Ginny enthused. ‘You must have grandchildren of your own.’
The pause was slightly longer than Kate intended.
‘No, I don’t have children. So, obviously, no grandchildren.’
‘Sorry. I didn’t mean to say the wrong thing. Martha, be quiet for a moment. Mummy’s talking. But you must have lots of contact with little ones. I can see that. Did you hear what I said, Martha? Well, do as you’re told, then.’
‘Of course, parents bring their children into all of the pharmacies but I’m more familiar with children’s illnesses than their toys.’
‘Mummy, somebody’s ringing the bell!’
Ginny laughed and covered her unease by answering the front door. A stampede of feet rushed through the hall.
‘Hello, Granny. Look what I’ve got! It’s a new fire-engine and the ladder goes up and down. Me and Thomas got presents.’
‘Wow! That’s super, Josh. Have you got one, too, Thomas?’
‘No, he’s got an aeroplane.’
‘Let Thomas answer for himself, Josh. We all know you’re the chatterbox.’
Not another one, thought Kate. Temporarily, the new invasion went quiet when they saw the stranger on the sofa. Pauline did the necessary introductions and took her flock of followers into the kitchen for drinks and biscuits.
‘Pauline, just plain biscuits,’ Sarah called.
‘Sorry. Too late.’
The children emerged, each with a chocolate finger biscuit. Emily was carrying two. She went up to Kate and gave her one.
‘I gived one to the lady, Mummy.’
‘I don’t usually eat biscuits.’
Pauline, Ginny and Sarah all looked at her. To be given a chocolate biscuit by one of the twins was an honour not to be rejected.
‘But as you’ve brought it especially for me, I’ll have it. Thank you…Martha.’
She handed it over and clambered on to Kate’s lap. Both her hands, podgy and warm, were smeared with chocolate and there was a brown dribble from her lips.
‘Be careful, Emily. Don’t get chocolate on Kate. I always wear clothes that don’t matter and can go in the washing machine.’
Kate saw a brown smudge on her new, cream trousers.
‘Don’t worry. I’m having these dry-cleaned next week,’ she lied.
‘Run off and play hide and seek,’ Ginny said, giving her girls a push towards the door. ‘Josh, you be seeker and the rest of you find good hiding places.’
There was the clatter of toys being dropped as they all rushed out. Doors slammed and there were screams of delight. Thomas came back complaining he didn’t know where to hide. Pauline pulled him behind one of the sitting room curtains which he grabbed eagerly. But the hiding place was too good so he left it after a few minutes as nobody came near. Gradually they all returned and conversation became impossible again.
The wine bottle was on the table and the women were drinking.
‘Watch out now the hooligans are back!’
Kate had appreciated the civilised break; it wasn’t long enough. She got up and asked where the toilet was. Apart from needing to go, it was a few precious minutes away from the chaos.
‘I need a poo!’
‘And I do! Lemme go first!’
‘No. I can’t wait. You can’t go on your own, anyway. Go and get Mummy.’
Joshua and Thomas lunged at the toilet door and almost landed on Kate’s lap. The lack of a lock, a minor inconvenience, had now become embarrassing. The boys stopped dead and looked at Kate.
‘Boys, go away and find your Mummy. I won’t be long.’
Kate hastily sorted herself out, as both boys shouted at the same time about their need for the toilet that was occupied by “the lady”.
‘Sorry, Kate. Should have warned you and suggested you went upstairs. We don’t have bolts on the loos or bathrooms anymore. Josh locked himself in last year and we had to remove a window to get him out. Kids!’
‘Finished! Mummy, finished!’
Toilet visits completed – the twins also need to go – the two families began to gather their belongings and prepare to leave. Kate marvelled at how long it took. Finding the toys, putting on the coats, losing the gloves, getting shoes on the wrong feet, giving everyone a hug and a kiss.
‘So pleased to meet you all.’ The words climbed unwilling out of Kate’s mouth.
As she drove off soon afterwards, Kate breathed in the air of freedom.
It was a failure. No time to talk to Pauline on her own. No advice. No discussion. But an insight into the world of children. She hated the mess. Could not tolerate the noise. Did not relish getting her expensive furniture bashed by a toy pram. Disliked sticky fingers and the need to wear clothes that “don’t matter”. Did not want her silk curtains used as a hiding place. And she needed, absolutely needed, to have a lock on her toilet door. Perhaps it was a worthwhile trip after all.
Linda Fawke is an arts person who studied science but always wanted to write. Now retired, she indulges this passion, writing fiction and non-fiction, even occasional poetry, preferably late at night. She has now written two novels, ‘A Taste of his own Medicine’ and its sequel, ‘A Prescription for Madness’ using her background in pharmacy as the setting of both. These are easy books to read, suitable for Book Club discussions. ‘ A Prescription for Madness’ is more serious than the first book, dealing with such issues as pregnancy in later life and Down’s Syndrome.
She has been a winner of the Daily Telegraph ‘Just Back’ travel-writing competition and has published in various magazines including ‘Mslexia’, ‘Litro’ online, ‘Scribble’, ‘The Oldie’, ‘Berkshire Life’ and ‘Living France’. She was a finalist in the ‘Hysteria’ short story competition.
Linda blogs at http://www.linimeant.wordpress.com where her ‘Random Writings’ include a range of topics from travel to ‘Things that pop into my head’.