“Girl” by Maureen Bowden
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The girl was a problem, and she hadn’t even been born yet.
Please enjoy our Feature Story: “Girl” by Maureen Bowden
My favourite nurse, Wai Yen, is an Abba fan. I can hear her, further down the ward, warbling ‘Fernando’ in her Taiwanese accent. I smile when her ‘liberty’ comes out as ‘riberty.’ Hearing the melody of one of my favorite songs reminds me of when I went to London to see ‘Mamma Mia’, during the Christmas holidays, two years ago.
Liam won the tickets in a darts tournament; overnight stay in a cheap hotel included. Three days before we were due to go, I dumped him. After our final bout of bellowing, screeching and general melodrama, he flung the tickets on my sofa.
“Go and see Mamma flaming Mia, on your own, then.” He flounced out the door and I was shut of him.
“Oh great,” said the transparent, disembodied entity sitting cross-legged on my Ikea coffee table. “If you go on dumping men at this rate, I’ll never get born.”
“Wind your neck in, Girl,” I said. “I wasn’t put on this earth just to get you born.”
“That’s debatable,” she said.
“Well, we’re not debating it. Anyway, you wouldn’t want a prat like that for a father.”
“He may be a prat but he’s got a nice little butt on ’im.”
“When did you see…? Oh, no. You’ve not been peeping?” She grinned and winked. I felt my cheeks grow hot. “Come on, Girl,” I said, “play fair. I can’t stop you manifesting all over the place but I’d appreciate it if you’d keep out of my bedroom, and the bathroom. It’s off-putting waxing my legs while you’re perched on the loo.”
She shrugged. “Okay, okay, but I don’t know what you’re getting so shirty about. We’re all girls together.”
She’d been hanging around me since I was fourteen. I made the mistake of telling my mother that I was being haunted by the spirit of my unborn daughter, and she hauled me off to the doctor. “Just an adolescent thing,” he said. “A bit of attention seeking. Get her to join a youth club, or something. She’ll grow out of it.” I never did. I tried telling her that she was a figment of my imagination but she wouldn’t listen. In time I became used to her presence. She was company when I was between boyfriends.
I flopped onto the couch, picking up the theatre tickets and the hotel reservation. “I suppose I could ask Gemma to come with me,” I said.
Girl raised her eyes to the heavens, shook her head and tutted. “You don’t wanna do that. Get your hair done and go on your own. You could pull. Men can’t resist a lonely woman with nice hair.”
“I’m in charge of my life,” I said, “not you. Keep your nose out.”
“Right. Take charge, but get a move on. You won’t see twenty-four again.”
“Don’t speak to me like that. I’m your mother, remember? Show some respect.”
She stretched out her arm, palm upwards. “Talk to the hand.”
I couldn’t deny that she was right. I spent my days behind the counter in Waterstones. I arranged other peoples’ lives and dreams along the bookshelves as I pondered on my own life, and my own dream. I wanted a family, but my mother had always said, “Choose carefully,” and she was right, too.
I made a hairdressing appointment with Heidi, the top stylist. She did a great job. The blonde highlights looked the business. As I was leaving to catch the London train, Girl called after me, “Have a good time. Your hair’s awesome.” I ignored her.
The hotel foyer was heaving with a party of flab-fighting tourists who were losing the fight. “Pass my purse, Duane, honey,” called the owner of an ample, fake-fur adorned bosom. Duane bent down to rifle through their bags, and over the top of his head I glimpsed one harassed receptionist, who clearly had her work cut out for some time to come. Realising that there was no chance of my checking in within the immediate future, I dragged my suitcase into a quiet corner and sat on it. A few feet away, a young man, also sitting on his suitcase, caught my eye. He grinned, and raising his eyebrows in a question, he gave me the time-honoured signal of an invisible upturned glass. I nodded and we fled to the bar.
His name was Patrick. He was an architect, in London on business. He was good company and very good-looking. We spent most of our time together and he accompanied me to the theatre. I’m sure Liam wouldn’t have wanted me to waste his ticket. I couldn’t remember ever being happier.
I returned home, skipping into my flat, singing ‘Take A Chance On Me.’ “Girl,” I called. No answer. Throwing a strop, I thought. I had no time to bother with her, anyway. I’d invited Patrick for Christmas and the flat needed what my mother used to call ‘a good bottoming.’
Wai Yen stops crucifying ‘Fernando’ as she approaches my bed. Patrick sits with his arm around my shoulders. A finger of his other hand is clasped in the fist of the infant lying against my breast. “Conglaturations, you two,” Wai Yen says. “Wha you caw her?”
I raise my eyes from the tiny girl’s face. “Vivienne,” I say. “It means ‘Alive.'”
Maureen Bowden is an ex-patriate Liverpudlian, living with her musician husband on the Island of Anglesey, trying to avoid the onslaught of two grown-up children, nine grandchildren and a former foster-daughter. She retired from the Inland Revenue after forty-two years and she now indulges in writing for fun. She has had several poems and short stories accepted for publication. She loves her family and friends, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Shakespeare and cats.
Tags: fiction, maureen bowden, metro fiction, short stories