Her breasts float in the bath, the left is as it was yesterday. The right is fragile. Between the three black lines it is red from the squishing of the white metal frame of the scanner. The faint indigo blush of a bruise spreads outwards like a bottle of ink spilt on a carpet, as if absorbed from the blue light which x-rayed her tissue. She watches as the black marks of the radiographer’s pen dissolve in the bubbles. She will not get of the bath until the lines have gone, she decides, until the experience is washed away.
They float in front of her in the bath, bobbing to the surface like corks, demanding to be noticed. Just as they did yesterday. They still look perfectly normal, feel perfectly normal. Left and right, slightly lob-sided as usual. And usual has been restored. Almost.
She takes the mug of tea her husband has made her, he closes the door behind him quietly as if she is mourning. Since walking out of the door of the assessment clinic with the ‘all clear’ ringing in their ears, they have lurched from tight hugs of euphoria, tighter than they have hugged since the letter arrived, and the cathartic release of worry, to silence, to ‘what-ifs’, to ‘thank Gods’. He continues to lurch from euphoria to silence as he sits at his laptop, his tea going cold, his hand lost on the mouse, forgetting what he’d meant to do. She continues to lurch from euphoria to silence, her tea untouched, waiting, waiting for the lines to disappear, as if the ‘all clear’ will not be real until the ink of the lines melt away in the water.
It is an odd feeling, she thinks. I am happy, not ill. We can do things again, it’s safe to plan. But am I really, insists a little voice. What if the white smudges on the ultrasound were not cysts but something more sinister? What if… what if… what if. She closes her eyes as she remembers her husband’s face blanching as he watched the monitor above her head, as the doctor waved the wand over her right breast, the monitor positioned carefully out of her sight, the monitor which made him believe he would have to hear what he feared the most.
The bathwater is cold now, the lines have dissolved. She gets out and dries herself, gently patting her breasts dry, dressing in comfortable sloppy clothes. Then she makes more tea and adds a dash of brandy. They watch something mindless on television at 4pm in the afternoon, their eyes closing, their hands locked together. The bruise will take days to fade, the memory longer. The fear remains, neither will admit the terrifying door they glanced through, the door which is left wedged open an inch.
© Sandra Danby
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After a breast cancer scare: REDBREAST/AFTER #flashfiction via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-D3