“They call it The Black Dog, don’t they?”

Her clothes were a little too bright and her smile remained uninterrupted. I watched her wedding ring twist in a constant circle.

She saw me looking. “Drank himself to death,” she said. “People do, don’t they?”

I nodded.

“Odd phrase, isn’t it,” the woman said, “one usually associates dogs with a degree of comfort.”

She stared at the notice about fire alarms.

“I don’t even know why I’m here. Doctors should be looking after ill people, not people like me.”

The letter from her GP sat between us.

“Oh I know what you’re going to say, that people were worried about me.” She brushed imaginary fluff from her coat. “Well, there’s really no need. It’s not a crime, is it? To have a sleep in the afternoon?”

I started to read the letter.

“And I don’t know why they’re so bothered that I stopped going to church. I just don’t see the point, it doesn’t achieve anything.” Her voice regained its strength. “And anyway, it’s none of their business.”

She sat perfectly still. Beyond the walls, I could hear the rest of the clinic turn around us.

“How do I see the future?” She answered without a beat of attention. “I’m expecting my first grandchild next year. End of January, I think. Or it might be the end of March. I’ll have to ask her again. There’s no husband, of course, but people make their own decisions, don’t they? We all have the right to make a choice.”

The twist of the wedding ring stopped, and she nodded at the letter. “So you can tell him that I’m fine. You can tell him that it was something I did in the heat of the moment. A silly episode. Best forgotten about. You can tell him that, can’t you?”

She looked into my eyes for the first time.

“And then you can get on with seeing people who really need you.”

I watched from the window, as she walked across the car park. The sun had broken through a slate grey sky, and I thought I saw a blackbird shift along the branches of a tree.

Or perhaps I just imagined I heard its song.


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