Horace Dancing by Helen Victoria Anderson

Horace is twisting again, under my skin. I cup my hand on my pelvis under the candy-striped sheet in the saggy double bed in my parents’ best spare room. My nearly-new husband’s hand joins mine.

“Anything to report?”

Only the ache. It is hard to recall yesterday’s ache in enough detail to compare it to today’s. My nearly-new husband has an important day at his brand-new job. His briefcase is so heavy, he is supposed to transport it on an embarrassing trolley or the bank won’t be held responsible. Today’s ache is not a ripping pain that needs to be clutched at, like the women do in films, while the husbands panic and can’t find the towels.

“Just Horace having a knees-up.”  At least, I think so. Horace will not be called Horace when he is born, even when he turns out to be a boy.

My mother peeps in, discreetly, as my husband opens the bedroom door to slip out to his important day. The double bed feels as indecent as my bump, even though she is no longer against either, now that we are married.

“Anything happening?”  She has been making casual enquiries all week, in between checking that the nursery in the other spare room is perfect. Horace is two days late. He/she is refusing to engage.

“No, nothing.” I don’t know.  I don’t know, yet: I am new, too.

“Hurry up, Horace!” All of my mother’s children were punctual, straightforward, and quick. My mother laughs to show that she is joking. She nearly sploshes her Teasmade cuppa on the landing carpet as she edges away. She has not shut the door. It is kind of my parents to let us stay while we save up for somewhere of our own.

A weak Spring sun makes pinprick patterns with the net curtains on the bedspread over the sheet over my skin over Horace. Horace shimmies from left to right and back again. I stretch to make space for his moves. I am not my mother, and Horace will take his own time to dance into the world.

Helen Victoria Anderson writes in the North East of England. Author of ‘Piece by Piece: Remembering Georgina: A Mother’s Memoir’ (Slipway, 2015), Helen’s work has been published in several literary magazines, including Ellipsis. She is a bereaved parent, a widow, and a firm believer in the therapeutic power of writing. Facebook: facebook.com/helenvictoriaanderson | Twitter: @HelenVAnderson | Instagram @helenvicanderson

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