Elaine stared at the handwritten piece of paper, the scrawls uncomfortably familiar after the eight years since being written. The paper – an old receipt – had faded, but she remembered what was on the front. It had read: baby formula, diapers, and dried apricots – dated July 15th 2005. Why didn’t she have the important side memorized by now? It had survived the move back with her, even though she didn’t want it to.
Elaine nodded to the receptionist who pulled her from the hard memories. She finished filling out the paper work for her daughter and gave it to the nurse.
“Does that say yes to diabetes?”
“Yes, on her father’s side,” Elaine replied all too quickly.
“No worries. There won’t be a quiz. Not for new patients.” The nurse raised an eyebrow, a pause for the usual nervous laugh. Elaine didn’t give, preoccupied with her memories. “We’ll call her name in a few minutes, Mrs. Dominique.”
Elaine gave a small smile and thanked the receptionist. It had been years since anyone called her that – and it felt strange. Yet she had to remind herself how small towns always assumed. She returned to the seat next to her daughter, she still held the paper and Asha was curious. “Is that the one my dad wrote?”
Elaine nodded and handed it to the eight-year-old. Asha had all her father’s exotic features and long eyelashes fluttering like a Moroccan butterfly. “It’s curly, the handwriting.”
“Like yours.” Elaine took the note back as Asha offered it. The child smiled before a throaty cough attacked. Elaine pulled her close, trying to vanish the cough with her will.
“Asha Dominique?” a nurse called.
A sheer coincidence that the name was pronounced correctly, Elaine had thought. The pair stood and went to the back to wait in the designated room to see the pediatrician.
Asha and Elaine sat quietly looking through an issue of Highlights – the occasional giggle or cough echoing through the room. The door opened in a rush before the knock even finished. Dr. Forbes came in – somewhere between sputtering Clark Kent and bachelor uncle. “Hey Asha, I hear that nasty cough all the way down the hall! How ya feeling?” He pulled up a chair as he took the stethoscope from his neck and listened to her chest.
Asha coughed again and Dr. Forbes nodded. “Yep a chest cold; I’ll write a prescription for some antibiotics. Anything else?” he looked over the chart.
“No…” Elaine smiled feebly still clutching the receipt.
Dr. Forbes nodded before he really saw her. A double take caught her by surprise. “You look familiar; have we met before?”
“I… just moved back to town, from New York.” Did that give it away? Elaine couldn’t tell. “My job relocated. I’ve been gone ten…”
“Oh! Elaine Barkley. From Park High! It’s me Tom.”
His interruption startled her; Elaine dropped the receipt on the floor. Dr. Forbes bent over to pick it up and he read the handwriting. “Oh, yes. I read these on your chart, Asha.”
“It’s my dad’s handwriting. I’ve never met him.”
Tom Forbes gave Elaine a quizzical look, and she couldn’t meet his eyes. Like he was there, along with all the other nay-sayers, when Asha’s father announced he was leaving her. As if her life had been reduced to a sitcom, and they all watched from the sidelines as the trio returned from the grocery store and the announcement was made. All Elaine could think to say or do was have him write a list of family illnesses for their nine-month-old for her doctor’s appointment the next day. Cue the audience. Elaine shouldn’t have been surprised; he was, after all, fifteen years older than her. No one said it would work. They were all right. Somehow, none of this needed explaining to Tom Forbes from chemistry class.
He cleared his throat. “We were wondering where you got to at the last reunion.”
“It’s a long story…”
“Well, I’ve got some time if you ever need an ear.” Tom was still obviously a bachelor by his wrinkled shirt and doctor’s coat, from which he produced his card and scribbled a number on the back. “Call me sometime just so you have another warrior in your corner.”
Elaine didn’t know what else to say. “Thank you.”
He smiled again. “It’s been a while, but it’s probably time for you to stop thinking about that receipt.”
Elaine took a breath, crumpled it up, and tossed it in the trash. “I don’t even like apricots.”
Romana Guillotte is an MFA Screenwriting Candidate at UNLV, though more importantly a terribly average cellist and a ginger that loves dragons. She’s also had pieces appear in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Slink Chunk Press, and Grievous Angel.
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