Fiction, Health and wellbeing, Melbourne, Relationship and marriage, Writing

Protector (short fiction)

Snuggling in close to his chest, Livvy sniffs. Robbie’s arm tightens around her shoulders. The embrace is warm, protective.

Livvy needs this.

In the stark waiting area they wait on hard, moulded-plastic chairs. Bright posters decorate the walls. Cervical cancer vaccines. Bowel cancer kits. Social worker. Maternal health. Livvy’s eyes dart around the space absorbing them all, memorising the Lifeline number. Just in case.

She is cold, hot, tingly and thick. The shock, Robbie keeps telling her. Still reeling from that phone call only an hour ago. Car accident. Mum’s in hospital. They drove straight there. Internal injuries…the surgeon’s mouth flapped, but Livvy only grasped snippets. Words like surgery, spleen, stable.

Only now she looks at the others. The waiting area of a hospital is a melting pot. A couple, who Livvy guesses to be in their late 20s but look twice that, slouch in the seats, legs dangling over the plastic arms. Livvy watches carefully; they both are missing their front teeth and dressed in Adidas tracks, thongs, and Van Halen T-shirts, hers black, his a grubby grey. Are they still a thing? The doors to emergency open and an immaculately dressed couple, the woman in staggering heels, rush in with a toddler in her arms. The man, handsome, tall in a perfect suit and a furrowed brow, goes straight to triage. His wife rustles behind him, tear-streaked face and child lolling over her shoulder. Next to the window that overlooks the ambulance bay area, a manky pram sits by itself. No-one even close. From her vantage spot, Livvy can see the pram is laden with juice cartons, Baker’s Delight bags, half-eaten apples and an assortment of other left-over bars and food crumbs. Livvy glances around; she sees an older woman, late 50s, with a child by the vending machine. She decides they match. Livvy is satisfied, like she solved a mystery.

Livvy hears her name. Looks up. The surgeon’s calling her. Robbie and she walk over, a brochure catches her eye. She takes it.

After the surgeon updates her mother’s prognosis, Livvy and Robbie find a new seat to wait. She reads the brochure. It has nothing to do with her mother’s injuries, but she’s interested. Lungs. Who knew they were so fascinating. The left one has a little flappy thing, she dips her head closer to the words—lingula, is its actual term—to protect the heart. It’s like a tongue. Tongue of the lung. Amazing.

She nestles back into Robbie’s chest and is comforted. He’s her protector. He keeps her heart safe.


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