What To Expect by Mandy Huggins


Simon took Nina’s hand as they climbed the steep cobbled streets to Beyoglu, to their favourite backstreet cafe where men hunched over hookah pipes and glasses of apple tea. The owner greeted them with a smile of recognition, bringing a pipe to the table at Simon’s nod, blowing gently on the coals.

Nina watched the passers-by in silence. She knew she’d have to tell Simon her news before they went home, but she had no idea what response to expect from him, and she was scared.

He put his hand over hers. ‘You’re very quiet?’

She wondered if this was a good time, but as she started to speak, Aslan came back up the steps to take their order. He shouted it across to the kitchen, then sat down with a cigarette, staying to talk until another customer arrived.

In those few minutes, Nina changed her mind. Telling Simon would spoil their entire day. Their last day in Istanbul; a city they had waited so long to visit. And for these precious stolen days Simon’s wife had ceased to exist; even his phone had remained silent because she’d made him leave it behind.

She suddenly realised that she need never tell him. In fact, it would be foolish to tell him. She could just go to the clinic and get some tablets, and it would all be over. If he never found out, then everything would just carry on as normal: no nappies, no tears.

Nina was sure Simon wouldn’t blame her if she made that decision - after all, it was a reasonable one in the circumstances. But he would blame her for making him feel bad.

So she smiled and chatted and ate her lunch, and suggested they walk back down the hillside to visit a museum she had seen in the guide book.

As they walked down the road they passed a heavily pregnant girl. Beads of sweat glistened on her forehead as she climbed the steep cobbled street in the midday sun. Nina's hand went instinctively to her stomach, and she watched the girl as she paused for a moment in the shade of a doorway.

She turned to Simon, feeling suddenly light-headed. She couldn’t keep this to herself; what had she been thinking? She had to tell him. She couldn’t gauge his reaction, but she knew she was prepared to take the risk. Would it be so wrong of her to force him to make a choice?

But before she could speak, he waved his hand towards the passing girl. 'That’s reminded me - did you know Karen was pregnant? John won't leave his wife. But to be fair she knew what to expect when she started seeing him.’

Simon saw her face, and reached for her hand. ‘Are you ok?’ She looked into his eyes, but what she wanted to see wasn’t there.

She watched the girl disappear into the crowd; it was almost as though she was taking Nina’s baby with her.



Comments

  1. That delicate observance of social mores, the essential niceness of Nina waiting to take her turn at intimacy, deciding not to say anything. The roller-coaster joy and awful sadness of 'taking Nina’s baby with her' Great last line Mandy. Packs an awful lot into a little space.

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