She slugs the end of her coffee, cold and brittle settling like silt on her tongue.
She swallows unknowing. Around her there is white clinical walls extending from corner to corner. There is a blemish in their intersection, but she doesn’t notice.
There is a painting, smudged on a canvas. A blur. An insignificant stroke of a brush. No different to that of a couple trying out paint colours for their first shared bedroom. And yet he’s gone.
Her phone buzzes absently in the background, like tinnitus in her ears. So many people vying for her attention like it’s a commodity that can be attained and toyed with. Absent breaths emerge from her in sighs. She doesn’t notice.
His phone was always there. Always the antagonist that disrupted a shared meal, the intruder that demanded to be answered in the most intimate of moments, the contender who stole 20 years of marriage from her, with one text.
‘Harry will you collect the kids tomorrow? Thanks, A.’
White clinical walls surrounded her 20 years earlier too. Branding her as infertile, accusing her of being worthless. Silent car journeys. Unspoken conversations. A rushed marriage to prove he still loved her.
And yet here she sits, barren. Gaping like a wound that never quite heals. Wrapped in a flimsy tourniquet that never feels quite right. That falls off after 20 years leaving a scar exposed in plain sight, for all to see. For all to pry open with pity and ‘thinking of you cards’ and suggestions of single bachelors who never wanted kids anyway.
And ‘A’. Fruitful bearer of his kids. Every hidden notification, every hushed phone call, every text demanding attention.
Avoided conversations. Faked orgasms. Failed IVF.
20 years stolen by a single letter.