In the morning they fight again. Peter is running late for work and is shorter with her than usual, and her tolerance, worn down by the tension of yesterday, is even thinner now. He leaves with the fight unresolved, and when she gets to work she feels sick from the conflict. It is only by the time of her morning break that she wonders if the sick feeling is more than frustration at their argument. When the smell of her colleagues’ coffee sends her running to the toilet, she catches herself thinking, half hopeful, of what this might mean.
Nothing comes, but the nausea she continues to feel is bad enough to send her home. Her boss agrees that she looks pale, and so she drives home, getting back just before lunchtime. Not feeling very hungry, she makes herself a cup of soup and toast, and then wonders what to do with her afternoon.
The thought to ring her sister comes to her a little unexpectedly. She seldom rings her siblings, except for birthdays or other special events, and they ring her still more rarely. But, once she has thought it, the thought clings, until she finds herself dialling Sarah’s number and waiting for her to answer.
When Sarah answers and Alana starts speaking, she can hear, in the silence between replies, that Sarah does not understand why she has called, and inside each pause Alana wrestles with the conflicting urges on one hand to hang up and cry and on the other to tell Sarah what is really on her mind – that which she has only partially begun to admit to herself.
“Who is it?” asks a child’s voice in the background.
“It’s Aunty Lani,” says Sarah. “Do you want to say hello?”
“Yes,” says the girl. There is a rustling as the phone is handed over. “Hi Aunty Lani,” says the girl.
“Hello Annabelle!” says Alana. “How are you?”
A pause. “That’s good. Have you done anything special today?”
“And what was that?”
“Um…well, we looked at…Mummy and I opened the Advent calendar.”
“And what did you get today?”
“Um…there was a chocolate and…um…a picture of a fairy.”
She still can’t quite pronounce her r’s. She says the word, fair-we. Alana smiles.
“Was there? That sounds lovely, Annabelle.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing you at Christmas,” says Alana.
“Yes,” says Annabelle. “Did you know I’m getting a bike for Christmas?”
“No, I didn’t. How exciting.”
“Annabelle,” says Sarah’s voice in the background, “we need to go soon, sweetie.”
“I’ve got to go now, Aunty Lani,” says Annabelle.
“Okay Annabelle. Can I talk…”
“Bye Alana,” Sarah calls from the background.
The phone clicks.
Alana stares at the kitchen clock as it flickers and flashes in silence.
Go to Day Eighteen