Story Contest 2018 #1 Results » Highly Commended - Junior Category

Bronwyn Lindsay

“When The Time Is Right” by Bronwyn Lindsay, Canada, is the Highly Commended story in the junior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2018.

When The Time Is Right

I was sitting in the waiting room on a hard, plastic chair. Gripping the arms of my seat, I glanced around the room. Apart from the receptionist and myself, it was deserted. It was around 5 a.m. when I rushed Phoebe to the hospital. I had been watching the sports highlights. (I’m an early riser.) Phoebe was asleep in the bedroom. I had just gotten up to go pour myself a cup of coffee, when I heard a scream coming from our room. What was wrong? The baby couldn’t be coming, could it?

Dropping my empty mug, I had raced into the room. Phoebe was sprawled across the bed, her body convulsing as she gasped for breath. I scooped her up in my arms, and she hung limp across my shoulder. I rushed her to the car, stopping only to grab a blanket off the armchair in the living room. Driving like a madman, I sped down the road. Five minutes later, I pulled into the parking lot of our local hospital. A little while later, well, here I am. Stuck in this room, with nothing to do but only worrying.

Fiddling with my fingers, I draw a small envelope from the pocket of my coat. A smile forms across my face as I remember opening it for the first time. Seven months, two weeks, and three days. Or was it four? It doesn’t matter anymore. I see a nurse coming in my direction. Thinking she is here for me, I stand up. At the last moment, she turns away. Hope vanishes, and I plunge back into my pool of solitary thought. Thought of what? Nothing, really. My back is stiff. How long have I been sitting here? An hour? Two hours? I need to stretch my legs, but I am scared. Too scared to leave the waiting room. What if a doctor comes rushing in, telling me, it is time to say goodbye? Goodbye to Phoebe, and to any hopes of becoming a father. I am tense with anticipation, but do I want to know? Do I want to hear? What if I am told the worst? What I fear, yet worst predicted will happen. Once again, I think of the envelope. I close my eyes, relishing that precious fragment of memory.

***

I cannot see or hear. I don’t know where I am, or how I got here. I know only pain. I feel myself crying out, as another spasm racks my body. Why am I here? Then I remember the baby. My baby. But it’s early. Too early! Will my baby be okay? I am scared. What if I never go home? What if I never see Jared again! Is Jared here now? Did he bring me here? I have a brief flashback of him rushing me to the car. Someone in a white mask bends over me. Pressing a foam cup of water to my lips, he asks how I am doing. “How am I doing?!” I want to yell at him. “How am I doing?” But I’m not strong enough. My mind is blank. I see only darkness. The world is fading.

***

The phone rings at the reception desk, jolting me awake. I am still clutching at the envelope. Careful not to tear it, I slip out the letter. As I read Phoebe’s note, it is as though, I hear her voice. Tear slides down my cheek, and I bury my face in my hands. I remember reading the letter on that cold, rainy day, and staring at Phoebe in astonishment. “Yes,” she said, “I’m pregnant.” All we could do was smile. But that excitement was in the past. Was I ever going to see Phoebe again? Would I ever be able to look into her beautiful brown eyes and tell her I love her? Or would that just be a joyful reminiscence, destined to become a distant memory. As I close my eyes, I know what Phoebe would say right now. “Jared, no matter where we are, how much distance between us, I will always be by your side. Always.”

***

So much pain. When will it stop? If only I could just, drift away… then, I think of Jared. I picture his face as I told him I was pregnant. How happy he was. How happy he would have been. No! He will be. I will see him again! I must be strong. For Jared, and for our baby. This is not the end! Tears pour down my cheeks. I cry for Jared. I cry for our child. I shed tears for everything that matters to me. I will get through this.

***

I see a doctor running towards me. I cannot read his facial expression because he is wearing a mask. He comes to a halt, right in front of me. “It’s,” he says, catching his breath, “it’s a boy!” He finishes, removing his mask and gloves. “Your Phoebe is lucky to have survived this.”

“Survived..? Is…? You mean she’s alive?”

“Yes, she is. There was a moment when we thought we had lost her, but she fought through it. She is a strong woman, My Dearest Phoebe. We should let her rest for a while, but she insisted on seeing you.”

Still in a daze, I follow the doctor down the hall. I can’t believe it. The baby must have been born a while ago, but I hadn’t felt a difference. Then it hits me. I’m a father! We returned into a small room. Not very spacious, but well furnished. There, in the bed, lies Phoebe, holding a small white bundle. Looking tired, but happy, she calls out to me.

“Come, look who’s here, Jared.” And the first thing I say when I see my son is, “Look, Phoebe, our own little bundle of joy!” I look at Phoebe’s face, with her delicate features, and her soft brown eyes, and tell her, “I love you, Phoebe.”

“I love you too, Jared.”

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