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Extract from Novel

These paragraphs describe the family's reaction to the news that Mary has given birth, told by Peter who has been sent to phone the hospital.

 

The receiver is still cold in my hand as I place it back in the cradle. The smallness of the telephone box is suddenly stifling and I open the door with a violent push. I try to stay clam as the damp air catches my throat and sets off a bout of coughing which has me leaning against the wall. Jean from down the road passes and asks if I'm all right, if I'm having an attack, but I tell her I'll be fine.

I take the long cut back to the house, along by the river which flows fast today, its waters muddy and secretive. The swing we made is still there but the rope is frayed and no one would risk it now.

When I get to the house, my mother is in the kitchen with Emily, putting washing through the mangle. They work in unison, rhythmically, as if joined by some invisible cord.

“Well, how is she?” my mother asks. She doesn't look at me.

“She had a hard time, but the nurse says she'll be fine.”

My mother nods, but says nothing more.

Emily looks up. “And the baby?”

I think about what to say, how much my mother can withstand, how much she wants to know.

“Peter!” Emily's voice has an urgent note to it. “How is the baby? What did she have?”

“A boy...” I say, and then more slowly “and...a girl.”

I hear my mother say “Oh dear God!”  I look at Emily but she is looking beyond me through the door to where my father and Tom now stand. My father simply says “Well that's put the cat amongst the pigeons.” Tom looks at Emily but she gives a small shake of her head.

 

 

Gillian Hastons

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