Lily put the jars of marmalade and Marmite back in the fridge, then swallowed her daily folic acid and zinc tablets with the last mouthful of lemon and ginger tea, rinsed the mug and set it to drain. It was her favourite mug, bone china with the Japanese kanji for ‘peace’ picked out in chains of daisies, lupins, bluebells and buttercups. Not as traditional Japanese as peonies or chrysanthemums, but she loved it all the same. William gave it to her soon after they met. The only way she knew what the kanji meant was because it was explained on the price ticket which William had forgotten to remove.

Kew Gardens [photo: David Austin Roses]

Kew Gardens [photo: David Austin Roses]

Wasn’t fate wonderful? They’d sat next to each other on the first night of ‘An Introduction to Japanese’ at the local adult education college. By the time Lily dropped her mug in the kitchen sink and chipped it, she’d decided Japanese wasn’t for her. The only reason she continued going to class was William. She’d originally enrolled because she’d seen Lost in Translation. William’s motivation for enrolment, he announced during student introductions at the first class, was promotion at work. William, tall and earnest, his neck a little turkey-like in the too-large collar of his neatly ironed white shirt; William with the kind eyes, who wrote the answer in her notepad when the tutor picked on her with an impossible grammar question; William, who did something she didn’t understand in the City; William, who nine months into the class had inexplicably asked her to marry him. She still couldn’t believe her luck.

She sat in the rocking chair by the tall kitchen window, hugging her favourite cushion to her tummy, wishing her mother was here to talk to. Rose was wrong, they were both running out of baby time.

Wednesday was her day off. For years she’d had a Wednesday shopping date with her Mum, they’d window shop and have tea and cake somewhere nice. Now Lily stayed home alone. She rocked back and forth and thought about seeing a doctor, then looked again at the well-thumbed cutting from Stars magazine about how Sylvie Watson from The Superiors was adopting because she had early menopause and IVF had failed.

But she’s years younger than me.

She pressed two paracetamol from their foil sleeve and swallowed them carefully with two gulps of sparkling mineral water. Then she popped the wheat pad into the microwave and waited for it to heat up. She propped the lily cushion, embroidered by her Mum for her 18th birthday, behind her head and leant back for a moment, rocking gently, her eyes closed. Aah, that was better. Perhaps there was something in what Rose said about relaxing. That was easier said than done, as was usually the case with the advice Rose dispensed without being asked.

The first time she read about Sylvie Watson inspired Lily see a naturopath. She didn’t like the idea of IVF. Ugh, all that prodding around and injections. The thought made her stomach ache even more. She’d come away from the naturopath with a bag full of vitamins and minerals and a dark brown glass bottle of liquid herbs. She kept them in the bottom drawer of her wardrobe, next to the Predictor box and the ovulation test kit. The herbs tasted so disgusting she couldn’t find the words to describe them, although Rose-the-walking-thesaurus would no doubt immediately think of five appropriate adjectives. Lily did tell Grandma Bizzie about the naturopath. Bizzie had been a nurse and was good at keeping secrets. Rose still didn’t know about Lily’s letter to the Prime Minister asking to dance ‘Swan Lake’ with the Royal Ballet.

She had swigged the naturopath’s herbs for a month and nothing changed except pictures in Stars of Sylvie Watson holding a Vietnamese baby. She looked so happy and so… needed.

Perhaps it was time to have a Chat. Show William her ovulation chart, make sure he really understood how important a baby was for their future. Directors, after all, always had a silver-framed photo of their wife and children on their desks, and William was almost a director. That was why he was working so hard, doing his Japanese exams, so he’d get promoted. She’d given him a silver-framed photo of herself for their first wedding anniversary but it was still in the in-tray on his desk upstairs, wrapped in gift paper.

She checked her diary again. William had a late meeting tonight, tomorrow night was his private Japanese lesson, and on Friday the new neighbours from number 43, the biggest house in the street, were coming to dinner. William always wanted her to cook something from Nigella or Nigel or Skye. The cookbooks were piled by his bedside because he liked to read them in bed, but it was always Lily who cooked. He’d requested wild sea bass and beetroot for Friday. Lily had only ever eaten beetroot pickled with cold cuts for Christmas Day tea at Grandma Bizzie’s. She ran her finger down the page of her diary and wondered idly if it improved fertility as well as turning your wee pink.

She looked at the diary again. Early on Saturday morning was her first opportunity to start the Chat Plan. She wrote a tiny W next to Saturday’s date.
© Sandra Danby

…in IGNORING GRAVITY #10: “Anytime.” Maddox leaves Rose a message.

This is the 9th 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.