Half Smiles: A Piece of Short Fiction for Friday

Short fiction for this gloomy Friday…

Half Smiles

Mona kissed her husband and three-year-old daughter Marla goodbye that gloomy Monday morning as the rain christened her new Honda Accord. She was usually a morning person, excited to put her two feet on the carpet every morning as she got out of bed. Today, however, her hands were shaking and her heart was pounding. She couldn’t touch her breakfast.

“Don’t you want your toast?” her husband asked her as she buttoned her raincoat and took one last look at herself in the hallway mirror.

She studied her face and thought that something looked unfamiliar.

“I can’t eat a thing,” she said, opening the door. “Maybe later. I’ll call you when I know something.”

As she drove down her street and onto Route 29, she thought about what the report had said. “Findings: There is a focal asymmetric density present in the posterior medial left breast.” She left a message for her doctor late on Friday afternoon when she got the letter in the mail asking her to return for more tests. “Additional views needed,” the radiologist had indicated on her report, and Mona was not one to wait a second longer than needed for further investigation. She had never cared for her breasts all that much, until now. Her husband called the radiology center early in the morning and insisted that she be seen today; he explained that her anxiety level since Friday was all consuming, and that she couldn’t possibly wait until later in the week to come back.

Mona appreciated her husband’s willingness to be assertive and stubborn today with the center. She wanted to know if there was something growing in her breast. And she wanted to know now.

***

Sara was awake at four. She feared this day. It was the second time she had been summoned back for more testing. Her mother phoned last night worried about her and her mother’s fear had accelerated her own. She tossed and turned all night, so when dawn broke, she was already showered and making her rye toast and the first of three cups of coffee.

At seven-thirty, her ex-husband called.

“Good luck on the test today,” he said. “Do you want me to come with you?”

Sara rubbed her tired eyes and sipped her Hazelnut java in a mug that read It’s the Simple Things.

“Thanks,” she said, “but I’ll be alright.”

She caught a glimpse of herself in the reflection of the microwave and quickly looked away.

“Remind me again why we’re not together anymore,” she said boldly.

“You didn’t love me enough.”

“I love you now,” Sara said. “Isn’t that enough?”

“Maybe,” he said. “And maybe it always was. Call me later. Sushi?”

***

Mona arrived promptly at nine-thirty, fifteen minutes prior to her appointment. The radiology center was packed, and they called Mona to the front desk for check-in. She presented her driver’s license and insurance card, and began to walk back to her seat, when she kicked something on the floor. She bent to pick it up and realized it belonged to someone else. She returned to the check-in desk and a woman wearing happy face scrubs took it from her.

“Sara Tripplehorn,” she shouted.

Mona saw Sara Tripplehorn get up from her chair where she was perusing In Style magazine.

Sara took her insurance card back from the woman in the scrubs, thanked her, and sat back down in the waiting room across from Mona. Mona smiled one of those half smiles one usually smiles when nervous, uncomfortable, or out of polite obligation. Sara gave her one back.

Two minutes later, a nurse opened the door, clipboard in hand.

“Mona Gordon,” the nurse called.

Mona collected her purse and headed for the door. Seconds later, another nurse called, “Sara Tripplehorn,” and the two women, walking at a slower pace than normal, followed their respective nurses down the hall to the imaging rooms, both women wearing understandable half smiles on their faces.

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