“Rosie love. Fertility. 800 words. I want it straight after you’ve finished that eye strain feature.” Sam dropped a briefing paper on her desk on top of her half-eaten banana.Rose, who believed children should be served lightly grilled with a green salad, did not feel fertility was her natural territory.
“Please Sam, can’t someone else write it? Someone who…”
“Someone who can empathise…”
”… with their pain at being childless.”
“You’re a journalist Rosa, aren’t you? Your job is to empathise when necessary, and disassociate yourself when necessary. Get your arse in gear, be an instant expert.” He prodded a sticky finger at the briefing paper. “Male fertility. There’s a new report that says infertility is more the bloke’s problem than the woman’s now.”
Rose shut her mouth, unable to object to writing a story about male fertility.
“… lead is a problem so plumbers and painters need to be careful. Generally the theme is that as the biological clock ticks, sperm motility drops.”
Frank, the features writer who sat at the next desk, winked at her over the top of the dividing screen.
“…then a list of the obvious, you know, boxers versus y-fronts, smoking, drugs.”
“Right,” said Rose. “Boxer shorts. Plumbers and painters.” She tried to make her eyes twinkle too, she couldn’t tell if it worked but the corners of his mouth twitched.
She logged back on and considered fertility. Early crocuses peeping through grass. The call of the first cuckoo quickly followed by the thud of tiny chicks being tossed out of their nest. Tins of baked beans on the altar at Harvest Festival. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, leaves on the line.
The telephone rang.
“Oh Rose.” It was her younger sister Lily.
“I’ve just eaten a piece of toast with marmalade and Marmite. It was horrible.”
“Of course it was.”
“I’m never going to get pregnant.” Lily sighed.
The day she married William, Lily announced she was going to have a baby. After that she phoned their mother on the first day of every period in tears as her dream of seeing the smudge of her foetus on a scan drifted further out of reach. This was Lily’s sixth call to Rose since their mother died of breast cancer. Rose was still at a loss how to help, she was good at practical support, action, doing things, but hopeless at heart-on-the-sleeve stuff.
“And I started an hour after the toast.” Lily paused. “Marmite really is disgusting. I was sure I’d love it because William does.”
Rose smiled, despite herself. Lily had never known what she liked or wanted except that every day it was something different. Rose remembered clearly the day at primary school when Lily declared she was French. She insisted on being called Marie-Claire until a boy in her class made her cry at playtime by shouting “wee wee” at her. Rose, fifth recorder in the school band and good at football, kicked the boy’s ankle then played ‘Sur La Pont d’Avignon’ on their way home from school in an effort to cheer her up. Lily sung along in what she thought was a French accent, getting every other word wrong. She infuriated Rose so much that in the end she dared Lily to prove she really was French. Lily went to the fridge, took out the jar of Dijon mustard which their father liked on a ham sandwich, and swallowed a whole tablespoon of the thick yellow goo. She was sick three times and Rose howled with laughter before being smacked on the backside by her mother and sent to bed without supper.
“Just relax and let it happen, Lil. There’s loads of time. I’m older than you and my biological clock hasn’t started ticking yet.”
“That’s because your battery’s flat.”
Five minutes later, Rose put the phone down.
She’s wrong. My battery’s not flat, it’s disconnected.
© Sandra Danby
…in IGNORING GRAVITY #9: Lily on pregnancy, IVF, and adopting a Vietnamese baby.
This is the 8th instalment of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ about identity detective Rose Haldane. To start reading from the beginning, please click on the category ‘My Novel: Ignoring Gravity’ in the right hand menu.