In Reflection

by Joy Mosenfelder

My wife is looking east into the pre-dawn light of a sometimes meadow turned eerie and strange under a soft blanket of mist.  I can just see the arch of her fingers folding around the bulge peeking out between the white wings of her cotton robe.  Her forehead, cheeks, lips and chin are outlined by the white light of the rising sun.  It sets fire to the few wild strands of hair that refuse to be held back by clip or comb.  She shifts her weight from one foot to the other, leans her cheek against the cool glass and lifts her face to the light, tilting her head just so.

Suddenly, I am reminded of another room before my wife was my wife.  She is much younger in my mind, framed by filtered light.  She leans against different pane of glass.  The pose is the same, head tilted just so.  My memory of her shows that same curl of the arms, currently so languid as she stands in our bedroom window, back then tense and restless.

* * *

Why is it that rooms designed for waiting rarely seem well suited to the task?  They are often defined by dark drab walls and populated by squat chairs the wrong height and width for any human form.  In this room stunted tables hide their scars under offerings of last month’s issues of People Magazine, Good Housekeeping, or Time.  The room is not so full as to intrude upon the solitude of each expectant patient.  Even small clusters of two or three having entered together refrain from interacting once they have selected a seat.

Movement near the window catches my attention.  Shannon’s eyes have shifted from whatever she was watching beyond the glass to my reflection and I realize I’ve been gazing off at her.  Our eyes meet at the same focal point, each resting on the faded reflection of the other’s face.  After a moment, her arms unwind from around her abdomen and she pushes off from the window sill.  She drifts back across the room and docks herself against the back of the nearest chair.

“Thank you for coming with me.”  Her hands rest on the back of the chair.  She is leaning forward and her hair keeps falling into her eyes.  She doesn’t bother to reach up and push it back into place.  “I know it must seem weird.  Annie was going to drive me…”

“But she’s sick.”  I finish for her.  “It’s not a problem.”

At that she seems to relax.  She even steps around and slumps down into the chair.  I notice her skinny legs still wrapped in the track pants from this morning’s meet as she folds them up under her slender frame.  She tucks her hands into the front pocket of her team windbreaker.  I am struck by the fact that she doesn’t look any different from other high school girls.  If anything she is smaller.  She is very slender; with a delicate face emerging between restless waves of hair.  She keeps glancing at the inner door, at the reception desk, at her own lap. 

“Annie said you’d be ok.”  She looks up and I notice for the first time the rich golden brown of her eyes.  “I just…with Annie being sick.  I didn’t know who else to ask.”

“Really, it’s alright.”  I shrug.  “I didn’t have anything else to do after work today.”

“Shannon Dory?”  The questioning voice cuts through our conversation.  Already Shannon is on her feet reaching for her clipboard and paperwork as the nurse navigates a barrier of chairs towards us.  “Right this way dear.”  The nurse collects the paperwork with gentle hands and motions towards the inner door.  “Would your young man like come to?”  She gestures towards me with a nod of her head.  I do my best to shrink down into the chair.

“Oh,” Shannon starts, confused for a moment.  “He’s not… we’re not… I hadn’t…”  She is visibly uncomfortable.

“Perhaps it would be better if he waits out here?”  The nurse presents this revised option with unflappable grace.  She closes her charts, gives a quick smile and sets a course for the door with Shannon trailing in her wake. 

I sift through the dubious contents of the table next to me.  TIME Magazine seems safe enough so I settle in and lose myself in article about Cuban baseball players being recruited for the US Major League, following that with an editorial about how AT&T is changing the internet.

“She’s asking for you.”  The voice breaks through a mind numbing treatise about the back and forth divorce drama between Princess Di and the rest of the British Royals.  It takes me a moment to track the source of the voice.  A nurse I don’t recognize is standing by my chair looking slightly impatient.

“Wha..?”  I come back from my reading disoriented and confused, looking around brings me back to where I am.  I put the magazine down, still confused.  “She is?  Are you sure?”

“What’s your name?”  Asks the nurse in a tentative voice, she does not look sure.

“Ryan.” 

“Quite sure.”  She perks up. “Follow me, I’ll take you to her room.”

She leads me to a room that smells faintly of antiseptic, vomit and old blood.  Shannon is tucked up under a drab orange hospital blanket curled around a kidney shaped dish the same color as the blanket.  Her skin is gaunt, pale and papery in the harsh overhead light.  She looks uncomfortable, ill and bored.

“I can’t get up yet.”  She grumbles.  I notice her holding her stomach like my sister does when she is having really bad cramps.  “I want to get out of this room, and I can’t.”  She closes her eyes.  “Tell me something about yourself.  Where did you grow up?”

“Here, on the south side of town… near the docks.”  I wish for the magazine I left sitting on the waiting room table.  I could read her the article about Princess Di, she might enjoy it.

“Did you go to school with Annie?”  Her eyes are still closed tight, like she’s concentrating very hard on something.  “Ryan?”

“Yeah, I’ve known Annie since she moved to town in 3rd grade.  We grew up on the same block. 

“How did you become friends?”

“She used to baby sit my little sister.”

“What’s your sister’s name?”

“Clara.”

“That’s a nice name.”  She opened her eyes and relaxed a little.  “How old is she now?”

We continue talking like that while she waits for the nurse to come back.  I sink down to the floor, sitting against the wall and watching as she gradually relaxes and uncurls.  She talks about going away for school in the fall.  She received her first acceptance letter yesterday and she’s heard very good things about the History department she’s going to be enrolled in.  She is excited about the future.  The things she’ll be able to do and the places she wants to go in the next few years.  Next time the nurse checks in on her she tells us it should be alright to go.  She advises Shannon to take it easy for a few days and hands her some paperwork and self care instructions. Despite her obvious discomfort Shannon looks different as we leave the hospital.  She is buoyant, as though some weight I can’t see has been lifted from her body. 

* * *

 

My wife, Shannon, catches my eyes reflected in the glass of our bedroom window.  Her slow smile brings me back to the present and I can’t help but return it with one of my own.  She pulls herself up from where she has been leaning and stretches like a tree reaching for the sun; her arms lithe and slender in contrast to the swell of her abdomen.  She glides over to the bed and leans into me, tucking her head against my chin, her cheek to my shoulder.

“I’ve been thinking of names for the baby.”  She murmurs; her eyes still lidded with sleep give me their own secret serene smile.

“Oh?”  I tuck and arm around her, splaying my fingers over the taunt skin of her belly.  “What did you have in mind?”

“If it’s a girl,” her mouth has caught on to the smile now, “I think we should call her Hope, or Felicity.”

“And if it’s a boy?”  I ask.

“Well then we’ll name him after you of course!”  And she tilts her face up expectantly towards mine.

 

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Joy Mosenfelder graduated with a BFA in Creative Writing from Bowling State Green University in 2005. She lives in New England, where she works as a freelance writer and volunteers as a crisis advocate. She has two cats.

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