YOU ALWAYS SAY THAT • by L.A.Craig

Now I’ve made the appointment, I’m expecting the worst. Well, you do, don’t you? It’s a protection thing.

If, and I know it’s still a big if, if it is what I think, then Cara will go to Phil. If it’s the worst case scenario and I’m dead within a year or two, then she’ll naturally go to him. It terrifies me to think of his wife, Skinny Ginny, getting her claws into my daughter. Turning her head from the things I want for her. Hopefully I’ve influenced her enough to resist. But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s probably not cancer.

I lather my hair, there’s an ache deep inside my left armpit. Everything would be neater, tidier if I did go, I suppose. No more alternate weekends and Wednesday nights once a month. No more trading Christmas morning for a birthday or Halloween. Cara loves Halloween. Carving elaborate faces into pumpkins, setting them on the porch windowsill, tea-lights inside for the full effect. Four of them she made me buy last year, she transformed them into a she-devil, a skull, a silhouette of ET she traced from a pattern, and some macabre creation with my bread knife through its brain. She gets her sense of humour from me.

I shave the area for inspection. Another hour before my appointment. How many more if the worst is true?

Beginning to sweat in my towel turban and matching robe, I lie on the bed to cool off. I pick up my mobile from the African Djembe drum I use as a night stand, a souvenir from my honeymoon. There’s a text from Cara, Pizza 4 T 2nite, pleeeeeeese!! I reply with the standard mother’s response of We’ll see and then scroll through the photographs I’ve saved. Such a difference in Cara from those taken last year. The latest is from Saturday, at the Mela in Beacon’s Wood Park. Her hair is down and she’s wearing a beaded headband bought from one of the stalls. She’s holding a tray of rice and curried chick peas and waving a wooden fork; at thirteen I can already see the woman. I roll onto my side, take a picture of myself, then delete it.

If the prognosis is bad I’ll write Cara a letter, to open on her sixteenth. I’ll warn her about STDs and kids before she’s thirty, tell her there’s no hurry to make up her mind about a career and that she can change it as much as she wants. If she doesn’t fancy university, that’s fine, no matter what her dad says. And travel, I’ll tell her to travel while she’s young. I could spout on about always being optimistic, trying to see the good in people, but I think she knows me well enough to smell a rat when she reads one. But enough with the moroseness, it’s probably just a cyst.

I choose a white bra, black feels too sexed-up for a doctor’s appointment. Jeans and a T-shirt, so I can just remove the top half, maybe I’ll get away with one arm out. A sweep of blusher and then I stop with the mascara wand. What if I cry? What if I just break down into a blubbing, black-streaked mess?

I sit back down on the bed, practise some square breathing and think it through. I won’t find anything out today. The doctor can’t tell just by looking. It will be weeks before I get a diagnosis. I compromise and only coat the top lashes.

Then I’m back to the what ifs. What if Phil dies right after I die, would Cara automatically stay with Ginny? What if I write a letter and nobody gives it to Cara? What if I don’t die, get through to remission, but without my left breast? I glance down at my functional white underwear and imagine flesh-coloured silicone rounding out the left cup.

My phone buzzes again. It’s Cara.

U always say that 🙂

I can’t help but focus on the always.


L.A.Craig writes in the U.K.


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Every Day Fiction